How Much Will Americans Spend on Thanksgiving This Year?

By: Michelle Konstantinovsky  | 

Thanksgiving meal
The American Farm Bureau Federation says the average cost of a Thanksgiving meal for 10 is just $48.90 total, in 2018. Think you can pull off turkey day for that cheap? YinYang/Getty Images

For most Americans, Thanksgiving is a time for friends, family, gratitude and an abnormally high grocery bill. But according to a new report, the average cost of turkey day isn't quite as high as you'd think, and it's actually the lowest it's been in six years.

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation's (AFBF) 33rd annual price survey of Thanksgiving Day classics, the average cost of a 10-person meal is $48.90, 22 cents cheaper than last year's price of $49.12.


If you're scratching your head wondering how anyone manages to feed 10 hungry mouths at Thanksgiving with less than $50, it's important to note the survey's list of dishes covers just the very basics: a turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, a pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk. The quantities priced are supposedly enough to serve all 10 diners and allow for leftovers. Unsurprisingly, the bird — a 16-pound (7-kilogram) turkey — is the biggest ticket item, costing a total of $21.71, or $1.36 per pound (.045 kilogram).

"Since 2015, the average cost of Thanksgiving dinner has declined steadily and is now at the lowest level since 2010,” said AFBF chief economist Dr. John Newton in a press release.

What the AFBF survey doesn't account for is the labor required to turn all those raw ingredients into a delicious dinner suitable for picky eaters, snooty foodies, random third cousins who show up at the last second and anyone else who may be at your table. For the host or hostess who can't deal with the thought of all that stressful prep, there is, of course, the beauty of the ready-made meal, rivaled only by the ease of the restaurant reservation.

But when it comes to Thanksgiving dine-out or take-away, the prices aren't quite so wallet-friendly (but think of all those hours you'll get back!) We checked out a few places across the country and here's what we found:

  • Boston Market will let you put together a comprehensive meal for $119.99 for 12 people, or around $10 per person, featuring a turkey, two servings of gravy, mashed potatoes, vegetable stuffing, cranberry walnut relish, 12 dinner rolls, an appetizer and two pies.
  • And if you're lucky enough to live in one of the company's markets, home meal delivery service FreshDirect will bring you a 10-12 person meal for $219, or $18.25 per person. Included is a turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, two kinds of stuffing, cranberry sauce and green beans (dessert not included).

And if you just can't handle the thought of all those people in your house? Here's what you can expect to spend if you pick up a complete meal at a restaurant, depending on your location:

  • One Market Restaurant in San Francisco offers a four-course prix-fixe menu including holiday fare for $79 per person ($39 per child 10 and under).
  • New York City's famous Tavern on the Green also has a four-course prix-fixe dinner for $125 per person ($65 for children 12 years and younger).
  • In Dallas diners can pay $49 per person for Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House's pretty extensive prix fixe offering.
  • And Atlanta's The Palm has a hearty three-course meal for $55 per person ($24 for children 12 years and younger).

Hardly a 10-person Thanksgiving meal for less than $50.