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Nov 11, 2011 05:28 AM

How much is your Thanksgiving Dinner?

I just read an article on a new website about the average cost of a Thanksgiving meal.

Quoted from article:

The American Farm Bureau Federation reported Thursday that a meal with turkey and all the trimmings will cost about 13 percent more this year.

The trade group estimates a classic meal for 10 will cost $49.20 on average. That is $5.73 more than last year's $43.47 average.

The meal will cost less than $5 a person, but it's still much more expensive than in years past. The jump results from food makers and grocers raising their prices to cover higher commodity costs.

I read that an though - no #@!$ing way. I don't think I've EVER done a "classic" (whatever that means - I'm assuming turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, pumpkin pie) for 10 people - yes 10 people for $49.20.

I'll be having 10-12 people this year and my BASIC grocery bill will well over $200 I'm sure - not including wine. And that isn't including the cost of spices/etc that I already have in my pantry that I will be using.

Does everyone else do Thanksgiving for 10 under $50?????

Edit: My BASIC bill will be closer to $400 I'm sure, heck my turkey alone is going to be almost $80. I know I'm getting an expensive bird but still . . . . $50.

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  1. That's probably with canned gravy, boxed stuffing, instant potatoes, and the revolting canned green beans.

    18 Replies
    1. re: Njchicaa

      Actually, if you bought all the prepared or pre-processed stuff, that would make it more expensive. Home made gravy and stuffing are, essentially, free, because they are traditionally made with stuff you already have in the house. Fresh potatoes are about 10 cents a pound this time of year.

      And believe it or not, most of my friends have asked me to make the green bean casserole with the canned because that's what they grew up with and love, so now I do. Don't be a snob. Diff'rent strokes. Thanksgiving is about memories, not Haute Cuisine.

      1. re: acgold7

        I wish I could buy potatoes for 10 cents a pound. In the supermarkets, a bag of 5 pounds is no less than 4 bucks, and if you buy them loose, they are at least 1.49 pound. We will get all of our produce at a farm stand next weekend, and I am curious to see how much they are- we need 15 pounds!

        1. re: macca

          Wow, that's surprising... I guess it varies by region. Here in the Northwest, nearly every market is advertising potatoes at $1.99 for a ten pound bag, and even less if you shop around.

          1. re: acgold7

            Wish it were like that here in the Northeast! I did get a bargain a few weeks ago- 10 pounds for 4 dollars, but noghint like that since.

            1. re: macca

              Yeah, but at least when we lived in the NE we could get Ronzoni on sale for 10 boxes for $4! Now the only place I can get pasta for under $1 a pound is at my local restaurant supply store, and I have to buy it in ten pound boxes.

              1. re: acgold7

                Funny- Pasta is something I stock up on when on sale. If I don't buy it at BJ's, I wait until barilla goes on sale- 10 for 10 dollars.

            2. re: acgold7


              Your right, you can get a 10# bag of russets for that loss-leader sale price right now in the NW, but alot of us make mashed pot's with yukon golds, and those are much more in the 1.49 lb. range - on a good day:)

              1. re: gingershelley

                Sure, of course, it's all personal taste. You could also use Purple Peruvians or put Caviar in your potatoes if you wanted to spend even more. Most people who like Yukon Golds like them because they taste buttery. So you can spend ten times as much for them, or add a nickel's worth of actual butter per serving. Your choice, I guess.

                1. re: acgold7

                  don't get me started, my wife is insisting on purple mashed potatoes served en croute. The purple potatoes are only sold in 24oz bags for $3.99 and we need 10 bags for 18 guests.

                  1. re: bagelman01

                    sounds wonderful. and yes, its only twice the price for organic russets, plus of course the cost of the 'en croute' crust..... maybe if you count the crust you can get away with 9 bags. No, that's not a ditch worth dying in.

                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                      actually, wife is making a figure 8 shaped croute and piping purple mashed potatoes in one hole and mashed sweet potatoes in the other.

                      So, I've dug through the basement and found my mother's purple crystal (1944) and we'll be using those for our beverages.

                      1. re: bagelman01

                        Wow, I really like that combo of purple and sweet potatoes. Purple veggies are always a problem in terms of presentation because the are so jarring. I bet this would look really nice ... and matching crystal ... nice touch.

                        1. re: rworange

                          I've alresy started polishing the silver. Holidays are a great time to use all those great, fancy inherited serving pieces. And a chance to teach the young ones proper dining ettiquette.

                          Coordinating the colors make the foods more appetizing

                2. re: gingershelley

                  My yukons were $4.99 for a 5# bag yesterday. Even the cheap potatoes here (NE) are $3.00 for 5#.

                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                    Yesterday I checked out the prices of potatoes in one local supermarket (Johnnies fdoodmaster). The cheapest were 10 pounds for 5 dollars- they were small Maine potatoes, complete with lots and lots of dirt. The loose potatoes were 1.49 lb., and the individually wrapped russets, for baking, were 89 cents each. Nothing remotely near 10 cents a pound. This week, Market Basket has 5 pounds of white potatoes for $1.99- seems to be the cheapest around.

              2. re: macca

                We spend at least twice that 'average', even with some good sales and everything made from scratch (except for E's must-haves of Pillsbury crescent rolls and canned cranberry sauce).

                Here in Phoenix, russets always go on sale around the holidays. I prefer Yukon Gold for Thanksgiving, but there was no way I could pass up the 5-pound bag of russets at Fry's for 59 cents. I used to spend a lot on a turkey, but one year I tried the pre-brined fresh turkeys at Trader Joe's on sale at 99 cents a pound and it was a hit, so that's my turkey of choice ($1.99/lb so this year about $35). I put an herb butter under the skin to make it easy, so no brining, basting, turning, etc.

              3. re: acgold7

                +1 on the price of pototoes. Where do you live if you can purchase them at 10 cents a pound? My supermarkets here in Texas charge between 89 cents and $1.29 per pound for russets, and not the organic kind. I usually buy a 20 pound bag in Costco for about 50 cents a pound and believe that I am getting a bargain.,

                Look, you can sometimes get a frozen turkey for free. If not, they can be on sale for 59 to 69 cents per pound. Stuffing is made of mostly bread, onions, apples, butter and chicken broth, so that is cheap. Sweet potatoes and regular potatoes are not expensive (but not 10 cents per pound). You can make gravy with pan drippings, flour and a stock you have created from the giblets, and you can add seasonal green veggies like brussel sprouts. It can be done, especially if you do things like make your own cranberry sauce and gravy, and avoid expensive items. Pies are often on sale, especially at the warehouse clubs. My dinner will probably cost about $50, but I am cooking for four, not ten.

                1. re: RGC1982

                  True that. I live on Long Island, home of cheap potatoes, and I am happy to get 5 lbs for $1.99 lately. The cost of fertalizer and tractor fuel adds up real quick. You can get a 50# sack for around $5 but if you're not going to use it all.....

            3. I certainly can feed ten people for $5 each. I have done it that way, for less, for decades.

              I buy side dish ingredients on sale (now- two weeks ahead; they won't be on sale next week because they don't have to be on sale then).
              Yukon gold potatoes are $3 for 5 lbs. People do not eat a pound of potatoes each.
              Asparagus is $1.49/lb as are grapes. Pineapples are $2.50 each.
              Broccoli and cauliflower is 88ยข, as are apples, spinach, lettuces.
              Yams and sweet potatoes are 3 lbs/$1

              One turkey should not cost $80. That is stupid.

              10 Replies
              1. re: Cathy

                Yes what I'm spending on my turkey is . . .stupid. It is a heritage turkey and I'm very much looking forward to it but it is a splurge.

                And I'm not saying I COULDN"T feed 10 people for $5 each.

                I'm just curious if $50 for 10 people is REALLY the AVERAGE of what people spend for Thanksgiving in "the real world". Not IF people could do it.

                1. re: thimes

                  The average "real world" turkey is a frozen Jennie-O or Butterball, purchased for less than a dollar/pound. Very few people buy organic or heritage turkeys in the grand scheme of things.

                  1. re: mpjmph

                    I understand that - I don't live in a bubble.

                    i was curious how much the people on CH spend on Thanksgiving dinner and how far out of the $50 for 10 people range that was.

                    I guess that question is complicated and causes people anxiety which compels them to explain the "common person" . . . . I wouldn't have thought that it would but it does.

                    1. re: thimes

                      Even just doing and appetizer, turkey, dressing, gravy, 2 fresh vegetables, and the typical casseroles most everyone loves, along with 2deserts, there is no way I could do that for $50. More like $150

                      1. re: thimes

                        With wine, etc. ours will probably be in the $400-$500 range. Our turkey is $4.89/pd and will be in the 20-25 pound range.

                        I don't think the $50 is an average amount.

                        1. re: Janet from Richmond

                          I don't think it would be average for Chowhounds.

                          But again the price was based on specific items from grocery stores in general.

                          It doesn't include beverages such as coffee, soda, milk or alcoholic beverages.

                          I'm actually living in Richmond currently, and though it has it's ritzy sections like Oakland ... a true surprise to me ... seems like you have to live on the right side of San Pablo Avenue or Cutter ... there are mostly households that are going to be spending way less that $50 if they are not getting dinner courtesy of the local food bank.

                        2. re: thimes

                          I've been buying local, heritage, pastured turkey for years, and $80 is about what I pay. It's out of this world, and I wouldn't dream of serving anything else on Thanksgiving. This is not a meal that I would try to do on the cheap.

                      2. re: thimes

                        I once did this too, and my guests, (family, mostly DH's), hated the bird. They said it was dark and gamey. There are two sayings that come to mind: 1) You can't pick your relatives, and ,2) Give the people what they want. While I loved the flavor of the heritage bird, it made no sense for me to try it again. Frozen Butterballs on sale are the preferred bird around here. And no, I resist the frying operation most years because of the waste involved with all that oil. I also happen to think that a properly roasted bird is actually more tender than a fried turkey. Perhaps the fry fans have eaten overcooked birds all their lives, but I don't get it. It is good, but not better than a slow roasted bird that is not overcooked. Good luck with your heritage bird. I'm a little jealous.

                        1. re: RGC1982

                          I think that it's actually much harder to not overcook a bird in the fryer and, consequently, a lot of folks who fry really do wind up eating foul fowl. It took me more than 4 or 5 birds to realize the standard turkey frying advice (much like that for roasting) was going to result in a bird that had breast meat at 180 degrees when the "cooking time" was complete. The techniques I have developed to avoid this, however, are very messy and not for the average fryer. Regardless, you point out something many don't realize.

                      3. re: Cathy

                        Re: potatoes, my husband's family, and now we, plan for at least 1 lb. person -- 10 lb.s 6-7 people. Ensures plenty of leftovers and take-home plates.

                      4. I am buying a fresh heritage turkey, which costs more than $5 a pound, so that alone will be close to the $50 the article talks about. Yes, that is a lot for a turkey but we had one before and it bore little resemblance to the ones put on most tables and feel it's worth the price for people to know what real turkey tastes like. I'm sure we could do it on the cheap for $50.....but that doesn't include the cost of wine does it?

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: escondido123

                          Escondido: I'm also in SD N. County; where are you buying your heritage bird? Thanks in advance...

                          1. re: pine time

                            I bought it at Jimbo's; you had to order it ahead. (Sorry I didn't see your post sooner, but by the 19th the deadline had passed anyway.)

                        2. We are feeding 25, and there is no way it will cost $98.00- we started shopping last week, and have already spent at least 50 dollars- chicken stock, butter, pickles, olives. have not even ordered the two turkeys. We will make a run nto Trader Joes next week to gluten free stuff for our 4 celiacs, and a trip to the farm stand for all the produce. The produce alone will be close to $100.00. Will have to keep track of my bills for the next week or so, but I could not do our annual feast for the stated cost!

                          1. But then again there are many many families in the US who wish they had $50 to spend on Thanksgiving, so that should put it in persepctive for the rest of us. When I pass the man or woman ringing the bell outside the grocery store this year, maybe I should deposit a few dollars into the "bucket" and consider it my tithe for a great Thanksgiving Day dinner.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: escondido123

                              Yeah, that's what I was thinking.

                              It is a bad question for a board of people who are preocupied with food.

                              Chow put together a "cheap" dinner for eight for a little over $100 bucks.


                              At first I thought "yow" ... cheap ...$100. But then the last line was "We've calculated our costs based on the highest nonsale prices we could find at Safeway in San Francisco, so if you're a bargain shopper, you might even come in under $100 for your whole meal"

                              Well, yeah then. Safeway is pricy ... well, it is no FoodsCo or FoodMax or bargain grocery of your choice. And going with non sale prices ... sure. But as you get near Thanksgiving you could easily get that meal for half the price working with sales and bargain markets. Even Safeway would be at a minimum $25 bucks cheaper.

                              This article commenting on the survey has some good tips for decreasing the cost of dinner and writes "bargain shoppers and penny pinchers say you can save even more on one of the biggest meals of the year"


                              Basically, start early on some items. One woman freezes leftover bread and milk for use during the holidays.

                              I'll buy shelf stable items like olives or pickles during the year when they are on sale often combined with coupons. Well, I do when I'm trying to save money.

                              This year I'll probably spend $200 for a minimum of six. The expensive stuff will be the turkey ($3.99 lb), bakery pumpkin pie ($20), bakery cake ($30). Other than those, this is NOT a group interested in food so I'm not going to kill myself for gourmet dishes because they would not be appreciated. So Oceanspray works, as do ordinary bread and butter pickles and black olives. Add classic mashed potatoes, and some sort of veggie and a few snacks along with beverages like sparkling wine, beer, coffee and soda.

                              The most expensive turkey in this area this year was $12 lb for a heritage bird. I'm a lousy cook so it would kill me to screw up a bird that could run around $200.

                              But back to your original thought, given the economy, there will probably be people who don't have $12 for the whole dinner. So it might be a good thought to add a few bucks to the Thanksgiving shopping to buy some food to donate to local charities.

                              1. re: escondido123

                                Thank you Escondido123 - That was my thot as well. I've spent big bucks for the feast w/ no thot of what was coming out of my wallet and cried when a neighbor dropped off a plate of leftovers.

                                1. re: JerryMe

                                  I dropped $20 in the Salvation Army bucket last week, not a lot but every bits helps.