Though as another reporter found, you’ll have to shop around to get that kind of value.
For 33 years, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) has been tracking the price of preparing a standard Thanksgiving dinner for ten people – and for the third straight year, the cost of that meal is actually cheaper than it was the year before.
Using data from 166 volunteer shoppers across 37 states looking for the best price (without using special promotions) on a list that includes enough turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk for a family of ten with “plenty of leftovers,” the AFBF determined that this year’s average price tag would be $48.90 (or less than $5 per person). That’s down from last year’s $49.12 – part of a pretty significant downward trend this decade. “Since 2015, the average cost of Thanksgiving dinner has declined steadily and is now at the lowest level since 2010,” explained AFBF Chief Economist John Newton. Keep in mind, though AFBF also keeps track of these prices adjusted for inflation, this current decline is in real dollars.
Digging a bit deeper into individual items, the AFBF said the decrease was driven by lower prices on turkey, milk, sweet potatoes, green peas, and rolls. Meanwhile, cranberries, pumpkin pie mix, and stuffing all saw modest price increases.
Of course, real people don’t shop in averages: We shop in stores. So CNBC offered an interesting twist on the longstanding AFBF report by having reporter Megan Leonhardt do her own standardized shop at five different grocery chains. She compiled a 22 item list consisting of “turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce and crescent rolls, as well as apple pie and coffee for dessert,” and then went to New York City area outposts of Acme, Aldi, Trader Joe's, Walmart and Whole Foods to see what she would end up spending. (To account for NYC’s high prices, Leonhardt decided to only buy enough for eight people.)
Unsurprisingly, Whole Foods was the priciest option with the total bill running $99.85. Trader Joe’s was significantly cheaper, but still way above the AFBF average, coming out to $78.66. The Mid-Atlantic grocery chain Acme inched closer to the AFBF prediction will a bill of $67.68. But if you really want to get to that under $50 number, Aldi and Walmart were the way to go. The final prices there came out to $48.26 and $45.18 respectively. “Overall, I think Walmart offers a great bargain for anyone on a tight budget,” Leonhardt concluded. That certainly sounds like Walmart.