2020 Thanksgiving Dinner Cost Down 4%

Average cost of annual feast lowest since 2010, American Farm Bureau Federation says
table setting
Photograph: Shutterstock

WASHINGTON — Although Thanksgiving celebrations will look different for many Americans this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with gatherings likely to be smaller and with social distancing and even remote family get-togethers, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) has still published its annual cost survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table. The bureau’s 35th annual survey indicates the average cost of this year’s Thanksgiving feast for 10 remains affordable at $46.90, or less than $5 per person, a $2.01 decrease from last year’s average of $48.91.

Thanksgiving Graphic Survey

“The average cost of this year’s Thanksgiving dinner is the lowest since 2010,” said AFBF Chief Economist John Newton. “Pricing whole turkeys as ‘loss leaders’ to entice shoppers and move product is a strategy we’re seeing retailers use that’s increasingly common the closer we get to the holiday.”

The centerpiece on most Thanksgiving tables—the turkey—costs less than last year, at $19.39 for a 16-lb. bird. That’s roughly $1.21 per pound, down 7% from last year. The survey results show that retail turkey prices are the lowest since 2010.

The shopping list for AFBF's informal survey includes turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream and coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10 with leftovers.

In addition to turkey, foods that showed slight price declines include whipping cream and sweet potatoes. Foods showing modest increases this year included dinner rolls, cubed bread stuffing and pumpkin pie mix. After adjusting for inflation, the cost of this year’s Thanksgiving dinner is $18.01, down slightly from last year.

In recognition of changes in Thanksgiving dinner traditions, the AFBF price survey also includes ham, potatoes and frozen green beans. Adding these foods to the classic Thanksgiving menu increased the overall cost by $13.21, to $60.11. This updated basket of foods also declined slightly in price (4%) compared to 2019.

Although it’s difficult to predict if panic purchasing will again become a concern due to the pandemic, “turkeys and other staples of the traditional Thanksgiving meal are currently in ample supply at grocery stores in most areas of the country,” Newton said.

This year’s national average cost was calculated using more than 230 surveys completed with pricing data from all 50 states. AFBF volunteer shoppers are encouraged to check prices online using grocery store apps and websites due to the pandemic. They looked for the best possible prices without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals.

Washington-based AFBF conducted the first Thanksgiving dinner survey in 1986. The informal survey provides a record of comparative holiday meal costs over the years. The classic survey menu has remained unchanged since 1986 to allow for consistent price comparisons.

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