Thanksgiving Dinner Costs Rise; Many To Spend Less

Thanksgiving costAh, the day before Thanksgiving. Families are starting to gather, pies are baking and soups are a-stirring. What could possibly spoil the mood?

IBISWorld will play Scrooge McTurkey, as the business research firm reports that Thanksgiving spending has dropped 3.4% this year--to $28.5 billion. The really big holiday spending, of course, starts the next day, with IBISWorld estimating a slightly lower drop in total Christmas expenditures--down 3.3%, to $460 billion.

Most of the Thanksgiving spending--90% total--goes to food, IBISWorld said. That means a lot of turkey--275 million of the birds were raised in the U.S. this year, representing a 1.1% increase over 2007. But here's a feel-good factoid--more than half of those were certified organic, according to IBISWorld.

The price of those domestic turkeys rose about 8% this year--from $1.10 to $1.19 a pound, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFFB), making the total cost of a 16-pound turkey $19.09, up from $17.63.

Turkeys, in turn, are the biggest reason why the cost of an average Thanksgiving dinner for 10 rose some 5.6%, according to the AFFB's 23rd annual informal price survey of classic items on the holiday dinner table. AFFB said the average cost of a dinner for 10 this year is $44.61, up from last year's average of $42.26. In addition to turkey, the menu includes bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, coffee and milk.

While prices rose this year for brown-n-serve rolls, fresh cranberries, pumpkin pie mix, pie shells, cubed bread stuffing, the relish tray, whipping cream, green peas, and sweet potatoes, AFFB noted lower prices for coffee, milk and the ingredients needed to prepare the meal (onions, eggs, sugar, flour, evaporated milk and butter).

IBISWorld gives the raw numbers for this year's increased feasting, when Thanksgiving dinners eaten at home vs. in restaurants will rise for the second year after a quarter-century trend in the other direction: in addition to the 275 million turkeys, American farmers grew 700 million pounds of cranberries (up 1.5%); 1.65 billion pounds of sweet potatoes (up 3%); 1.1 billion pounds of pumpkins (up 10%); 1.9 bushels of wheat (up 5.5%); and 850,000 tons of snap green beans (up 1%).

With the price of Thanksgiving dinner rising, many consumers this year are tightening their belts, and a recent Corporate Research International study found 33% of them planning to spend less on their Thanksgiving meals this year than last year.

As for Christmas spending, IBISWorld said price will be the determining factor, whether someone is buying food, gifts or decorations. Gifts are expected to be limited to immediate family, children and close friends, and "cards may be sent in lieu of presents." The firm said 20 billion mail items will be delivered by the U.S. postal service between Friday and Christmas Day.

And the Greeting Card Association estimated that 25 million Thanksgiving cards are being exchanged this year, 80% of them through the mail.

Tags: food
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