Thanksgiving dinner costs down this year, according to annual report

The cost of making Thanksgiving dinner will be a little cheaper in 2016.

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation's (AFBF) annual informal price survey, the average meal for 10 people will be $49.87--  a 24-cent drop from last year’s average of $50.11.

The survey’s shopping list includes enough turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls (with butter, of course), peas, cranberries, a vegetable tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, coffee and milk for 10 eaters. The AFBF has been commissioning this study for 31 years.


Foods showing the largest reductions this year were pumpkin pie mix, milk and a veggie tray comprised of celery and carrots. A 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix was $3.13, a gallon of milk was $3.17 and a one-pound veggie tray of celery and carrots was just 73-cents.

A group of miscellaneous items including coffee and ingredients need to prepare the meal (butter, evaporated milk, onions, eggs, sugar and flour) came in at $2.81.

The headliner – a 16-pound turkey – averaged a total of $22.74 (about $1.42 per pound). That’s a decrease of 2 cents per pound, or an overall 30 cents per whole turkey, compared to last year.


Meal kits may be all the rage but when it comes to traditional holidays like Thanksgiving, most consumers are still doing most of the meal from scratch.

“The meal kit market is still very small relative to the traditional grocery channel,” Erik Thoresen, a principal at food industry research and consulting firm Technomic, told “As such, meal kit sourced Thanksgiving meals will have a minimal impact overall.”

 (National Turkey Federation/American Farm Bureau Federation)

But that trend could change as more meal kit users (who tend to be younger customers) start hosting dinners. In a recent Technomic survey, regular meal kit users were three times more likely to say they would consider using a meal kit at Thanksgiving than those who've never given the likes of Blue Apron a shot.

According to David Portalatin, Vice President, Industry Analyst - Food Consumption at NPD, Thanksgiving is still a really big day for homecooking. Forty-eight percent of consumers will eat Thanksgiving dinner in their own homes, while 44 percent will go elsewhere. Just 3 percent of consumers go to a restaurant for the biggest meal of the day but, says Portalatin, almost 20 percent of consumers will grab breakfast outside the home.

And though most people are cooking at home on Thanksgiving, Portalatin says the rise of take-out culture has proliferated holiday meal prep.

“As a general trend, consumers are having more meals in their home and we are witnessing the surge of a blended meal where one or more dishes was fully or partially prepared by restaurant or food service purveyor,” Portalatin says.


This “blended” meal could be anything from a pumpkin pie using a pre-made pie crust to a full entrée from HoneyBaked Ham.

And while few of us could conceive of a Thanksgiving without a turkey, data from NPD points to a different star on this big food holiday—the potato. Says Portalatin, “It’s the most commonly served item at Thanksgiving feasts across the country.”

The stable average price reported this year by the Farm Bureau for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner tracks with the government's Consumer Price Index for food eaten at home.  The most recent CPI report for food at home showed a little more than a 2-percent drop during the past year.

The AFBF has compiled the survey with the same basic list of ingredients since the mid 1980s. In 2015, the cost of Thanksgiving hit a record high at $50.11.