Like Everything Else, Thanksgiving Will Cost a Lot More This Year

By: Michelle Konstantinovsky  | 

Thanksgiving meal
The American Farm Bureau Federation says the average cost of a Thanksgiving meal for 10 in 2021 will cost Americans about 14 percent more than it did in 2020. YinYang/Getty Images

For most Americans, Thanksgiving is a time for friends, family, gratitude and an abnormally high grocery bill. And according to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), the average cost of turkey day could be the highest in years.

The American Farm Bureau Federation's (AFBF) 36th annual survey, the average cost of a 10-person meal is $53.31, or less than $6 per person. This is up $6.41 — or 14 percent increase — from last year's average of $46.90. The price of the turkey alone increased 24 percent from last year and averages $23.99 for a 16-pound (7.2-kilogram) bird. That's about $1.50 per pound.

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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.

"Several factors contributed to the increase in average cost of this year's Thanksgiving dinner," AFBF senior economist Veronica Nigh said in a press statement. "These include dramatic disruptions to the U.S. economy and supply chains over the last 20 months; inflationary pressure throughout the economy; difficulty in predicting demand during the COVID-19 pandemic and high global demand for food, particularly meat. The trend of consumers cooking and eating at home more often due to the pandemic led to increased supermarket demand and higher retail food prices in 2020 and 2021, compared to pre-pandemic prices in 2019."

This year's survey also includes ham, Russet potatoes and frozen green beans, in an expanded holiday menu. Adding these foods increased costs by $15.41, to $68.72. The AFBF calculates its cost using pricing data from all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Farm Bureau shoppers check prices in person and online using grocery store apps and websites. They look for the best possible prices without using special promotions or coupons.

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 either (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 $15.49 per person (10 person minimum), featuring a turkey, chicken or ham; three sides; cranberry walnut relish; dinner rolls; and an assortment of pie slices.
  • And if you're lucky enough to live in one of the company's markets, home meal delivery service FreshDirect offers several Thanksgiving dinner options it will bring you right to your house starting at $99.
  • Whole Foods also has a full Thanksgiving spread that serves 12 for $299.99. It includes turkey, ham, five sides, gravy, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls, and apple and pumpkin pie.

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 or dine in, 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 $55 per person for Del Frisco's pretty extensive prix fixe offering.
  • And Atlanta's Atlas at The St. Regis has a pre-fixe three-course meal for $210 per person.

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

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Originally Published: Nov 21, 2018

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