Two surveys break down the average cost of hosting the holiday meal.

By Jelisa Castrodale
November 21, 2019

There are a few unofficial traditions that repeat themselves every single Thanksgiving—things like pretending that you're not into the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and then giggling like an eight-year-old when you see the Pikachu balloon, watching your uncle nonchalantly unbuttoning his pants while he's still at the dinner table, and bracing yourself for a ridiculous grocery bill when you're stocking up for Thursday's big meal.

Two reports about the average cost of Thanksgiving have recently been published, giving would-be hosts an idea of what to expect when they reach the supermarket cash register—but there's a big difference between the two numbers.

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The American Farm Bureau Federation has completed its 34th annual survey into the price of a Thanksgiving meal for 10 people, and the cost has only increased by a penny since it crunched these same numbers last November. The shopping list included a 16-pound turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls and butter, green peas, fresh cranberries, a vegetable tray, a homemade pumpkin pie, whipped cream, and coffee with milk—and all of that added up to $48.91, or just under $5 bucks per person.

"The average cost of this year's Thanksgiving dinner is essentially unchanged from last year, after three years of decline since 2015," AFBF Chief Economist Dr. John Newton said.

Of those 12 items, half of them cost within a nickel of what they did last year. The average cost of a turkey has dropped $0.91 cents, while the price of a dozen rolls has increased by $0.25 cents, and three pounds of sweet potatoes are $0.36 cents more. (But, as we wrote last year, you might have to shop around to ensure that you're getting that kind of value.)

By contrast, Lending Tree conducted its own survey into how much the average Thanksgiving host expects to spend and, holy cow, it came to a completely different conclusion. After surveying 1,000 Americans, it said that the average cost of a meal for 10 would be a jaw-dropping $310.17. BUT—and this is a big but—the Lending Tree's average includes the amount that might be spent on "housewares like dishes, furniture, linens and décor," which added $82.75 to the total.

According to Lending Tree's calculations, the meal itself would cost $227.42, but that includes the cost of drinks as well, which isn't something that the Farm Bureau took into consideration. (We'll assume omitting a nice bottle of wine or cider is either just an oversight or, at best, putting a lot of faith in your grateful guests to supply the booze.)

Regardless of what number is printed at the bottom of your receipt, the meal and the friends and family members who will be sitting at the table sharing it with you are the things you'll remember. That, and watching your uncle fumbling with the button on his pants. Nobody can forget that.

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