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Thanksgiving Dinner Is Getting Cheaper, As Grocery Prices Fall Again

The average cost of Thanksgiving dinner for 10 is $49.87 this year, down from last year's $50.11. One big change: a drop in the price of turkey.
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The average cost of Thanksgiving dinner for 10 is $49.87 this year, down from last year's $50.11. One big change: a drop in the price of turkey.

Meals cooked at home keep getting cheaper, and Thanksgiving dinner will be a real bargain this year.

That's what two separate measures of food prices showed on Thursday.

One gauge, the Consumer Price Index done in October by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, showed that the cost of food at the supermarket — known as "food-at-home" prices — fell for the sixth straight month. Such prices are now down 2.3 percent from the same time last year.


And in its annual survey of Thanksgiving dinner prices, the American Farm Bureau Federation reports that the cost of a Thanksgiving Day meal for 10 has fallen from last year, reflecting lower turkey and milk prices.

Cheaper food in October helped offset a 7 percent leap in gasoline prices. Overall, the CPI rose 0.4 percent in October, the BLS says.

"The fall in grocery prices is likely to help out many middle- and lower-income households deal with rising energy prices," IHS Global Insight economist Chris Christopher wrote in his analysis of the CPI data.

In part because food prices have been so restrained, the CPI has risen just 1.6 percent over the past 12 months. The BLS said October marked the 14th consecutive month of decline for eggs, meats, poultry and fish indexes.

And then there's turkey specifically. The Farm Bureau says the average cost of Thanksgiving dinner for 10 is $49.87 this year, down from last year's $50.11. The group bases its estimate on an informal survey carried out by volunteer shoppers.


The surveyors check grocery store prices for classic Thanksgiving items: turkey, bread, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie and coffee and milk. They search for the lowest prices, excluding coupons and promotional offers.

The most significant change this year was a 30-cent drop in the price of a 16-pound turkey. Additionally, the bureau reported the price of milk has fallen to its lowest level since 2009. The October CPI confirmed such drops, showing a 2.8 percent and 1.8 percent decline this year in the cost of poultry and milk respectively.

"We have seen farm prices for many foods — including turkeys — fall from the higher levels of recent years," Farm Bureau director of market intelligence John Newton said in a statement.

The Farm Bureau notes that its menu — which has not changed since 1986 — is "considered modest by some" and acknowledges that many Americans enhance their holiday meals with additional dishes.

But environmentalists are hoping Americans don't get too carried away with those extra dishes. One group, the Natural Resources Defense Council, estimates 204 million pounds of turkey will get thrown away over this Thanksgiving holiday period. The group notes that those scrapped leftovers use up many resources, from water to energy.

The group offers this recommendation: "Buy less than you think. If you're hosting anything like the average Thanksgiving dinner for 10, almost a third of that dinner will go to waste this year."

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