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Thanksgiving meal costs up 15 percent

News Release Distributed 11/20/14

BATON ROUGE, La. – Louisiana consumers may need to pay close attention to sales and promotions on food items needed for Thanksgiving dinner this year.

For the third year in a row, costs for a meal for 10 people have increased on traditional items such as turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberries and pumpkin pie mix, according to a supermarket survey of Baton Rouge retailers conducted by LSU AgCenter area nutrition agent Quincy Cheek. Cheek conducted her survey on Nov. 11-14.

“This year we can expect to pay as much as $55.77, or about 15 percent more than last year,” Cheek said. In 2013, the average cost for Thanksgiving dinner in Baton Rouge was $48.50.

The price of turkey and turkey products is up about 15 percent due to increased demand and less supply despite a decrease in energy and fuel prices, said LSU AgCenter economist Kurt Guidry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, grocers in the United States are now paying the highest wholesale turkey prices ever, which are ultimately passed on to the consumer.

Guidry also noted that while lower grain prices have spurred a reduction in the cost of feeding turkeys, it will not be passed down to the consumer.

Last year a 16-pound turkey cost $22.19, about $1.38 per pound, while this year the same size turkey will cost consumers $24.80, or $1.55 per pound.

The National Turkey Federation reports that 68 million turkeys are eaten in the United States during the holidays.

Milk is up 5 cents per gallon over last year, and a 12-ounce package of cranberries is up 10 cents. The cost of a three-pound bag of sweet potatoes is up more than $1 over last year. Today, the bag will cost $3.87, while last year it was $2.76.

The American Farm Bureau Federation released its own numbers and estimates the cost of the meal to be $49.41.

The Farm Bureau began surveying the average cost of a Thanksgiving meal for 10 in 1986. The cost then was $28.74.

The LSU AgCenter and Farm Bureau evaluations took into account the lowest possible prices without consideration of special promotional coupons or purchase deals that many retail grocers offer at this time of year.

“This doesn’t mean you can’t get a great deal on the Thanksgiving meal this year,” Cheek said. “All of the area retail grocers surveyed were running Thanksgiving specials on turkeys.”

She said to reap the benefits for some of them, you may need to read the fine print.

For example, according to her search, one retailer offered a premium brand whole frozen turkey at only 59 cents per pound – but with an additional $20 purchase. Another store had the same premium brand frozen turkey on sale for 96 cents per pound with no additional purchase requirement, but had a limit of one turkey per customer.

“Consumers should note sale prices on items they require for their Thanksgiving feasts and determine if the grocer’s turkey special is worth their while,” Cheek said. “If you are going to purchase $20 in additional items for the meal anyway, then go ahead and take advantage of the special.”

Other tips for savvy shopping this Thanksgiving include:

– Design your menu around a set budget and know exactly how much you can afford to spend. Look for seasonal items on sale.

– Always use a list. Develop your grocery list based on the layout of the retail store to save time and money.

– Minimize the number of trips you make to the grocery store.

– Don’t shop on an empty stomach.

– Shop alone to avoid distractions; focus on your list.

– Generic and store brands can be much more economical than name-brand products.

– Only use coupons for products and quantities of products you usually buy and use.

– Take note that items placed at eye level are often higher-priced items and brands.

– Check unit pricing to determine cost per serving.

– Take advantage of in-store promotions and specials. Be sure to scan the sales papers and fliers before making your grocery list so you know which items are being offered at a reduced price.

Tobie Blanchard
Last Updated: 11/20/2014 4:23:48 PM

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