WASHINGTON -- The American Farm Bureau Federation’s survey on the price of items found on the classic Thanksgiving Day dinner table shows that the average cost of the holiday meal for 2018 is down for the third straight year and is at its lowest point in eight years. And a separate survey indicates that more people are shopping online for Thanksgiving dinner ingredients.
Also, this Thanksgiving holiday will see the highest level of automobile travel since 2005 and higher gas prices than last year, according to AAA.
Here’s a look at this year’s prices and holiday shopping plans …
2018 price tag
The American Farm Bureau Federation’s 33rd annual survey determined that the average cost of this year’s Thanksgiving feast for 10 people is $48.90, or less than $5 per person, a 22-cent decrease from last year’s average of $49.12.
“Since 2015, the average cost of Thanksgiving dinner has declined steadily and is now at the lowest level since 2010,” said AFBF Chief Economist John Newton.
The featured food on most Thanksgiving tables—the turkey—costs slightly less than last year, coming in at $21.71 for a 16-pound bird. That’s about $1.36 per pound, down 3% from last year. The survey results show that retail turkey prices are the lowest since 2014.
“Thanks to an ample supply, turkey remains affordable for consumers, which helps keep the overall cost of the dinner reasonably priced as well,” Newton said.
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, including leftovers.
Foods showing the largest decreases this year, in addition to turkey, were a gallon of milk, $2.92; a 3-pound bag of sweet potatoes, $3.39; a 1-pound bag of green peas, $1.47; and a dozen rolls, $2.25.
Several items saw modest price increases this year, including cranberries, pumpkin pie mix and stuffing. A 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries was $2.65; a 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix was $3.33; a 14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing was $2.87; two 9-inch pie shells came in at $2.47; and a 1-pound veggie tray was 75 cents. A group of miscellaneous items, including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (butter, evaporated milk, onions, eggs, sugar and flour), was also up slightly to $3.01.
There was no change in price for a half-pint of whipping cream at $2.08.
New this year, to capture the diversity in Thanksgiving meals, AFBF also checked prices on a 4-pound bone-in ham, 5-pound bag of Russet potatoes and a 1-pound bag of frozen green beans. “Adding these foods to the classic Thanksgiving menu increased the overall cost slightly to $61.72, or about $6 per person,” said Newton.
AFBF also surveyed the price of a traditional Thanksgiving meal available from popular food delivery services. This revealed that the convenience of food delivery does have a larger price tag. A 16-pound turkey was nearly 50% more expensive at nearly $2 per pound when purchased from a food delivery service. Nearly every individual item was more expensive compared to the Farm Bureau average, and the total cost of the dinner was about 60% higher at about $8 per person.
A total of 166 volunteer shoppers checked prices at grocery stores in 37 states for this year’s survey. AFBF volunteer shoppers are asked to look for the best possible prices, without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals, such as spending $50 and receiving a free turkey.
The AFBF conducted its first Thanksgiving dinner survey in 1986. The survey menu has remained unchanged since 1986 to allow for consistent price comparisons. While the bureau does not make any scientific claims about the data, it is an informal gauge of price trends around the nation.
Shoppers giving thanks for online
More than 4 in 10 Americans (44%) plan to shop online for some or all of the groceries they need for their Thanksgiving or holiday meal this year, according to a separate survey conducted by research firm RichRelevance, San Francisco. This is more than twice as many people who shopped online for Thanksgiving groceries in 2017.
Amazon dominates as the top online grocery destination for shoppers (57%), followed by Walmart and Target (48%). Traditional supermarkets such as Safeway and Kroger will attract a significant, but quite smaller, number of online shoppers (30%) this holiday, the survey said.
The top Thanksgiving items people plan to purchase online are bundled ingredients for side dishes (56%); canned items such as cranberry sauce (51%); and beverages including alcohol (44%). Turkey (33%) and frozen or premade desserts (31%) are the least likely to be purchased online.
When online orders are ready, more shoppers plan to pick up their groceries (47%) than have them delivered to their home (43%).
Americans overwhelmingly turn online for grocery shopping to save time (73%), and 1 in 4 (26%) choose to shop online because it allows them to shop for groceries during work hours. The top factors keeping people from shopping online for groceries are a lack of trust that others will pick the best or freshest items (50%) followed by a reluctance to spend extra money (37%).
The survey of 1,565 U.S. consumers was completed online in November 2018.
Holiday travel plans
This Thanksgiving holiday will see the highest level of automobile travel since 2005, according to AAA. Travel by car will increase 4.9% for Thanksgiving 2018 vs. a year ago to reach 48.5 million travelers, or 2.3 million more than in 2017, despite the fact that gasoline prices are significantly higher than they were at the same time last year. The national retail average for gasoline hit $2.79 on Nov. 1, 31 cents per gallon higher than a year ago (click here for more details).
Shoppers holiday plans
An estimated 164 million people are planning to go shopping Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday this year, according to the annual survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.
The survey found that of those planning to shop during the long holiday weekend, 21% (34 million) plan to shop on Thanksgiving Day, but Black Friday will remain the busiest day with 71% (116 million) planning to shop. Forty-one percent (67 million) are expected to shop on Small Business Saturday, and 78% of those say they will do so specifically to support small businesses. On Sunday, 20% (32 million) are expected to shop. The shopping weekend will wrap up on Cyber Monday when 46% (75 million) are expected to take advantage of online bargains.
Of those shopping this year, 65% said they are doing so to take advantage of deals and promotions retailers will offer, while 26% cited the tradition of shopping over Thanksgiving weekend and 23% said it is something to do over the holiday weekend and the same number said it is when they start their holiday shopping.