Nov
18
2010

How Much Does Our Thanksgiving Dinner Cost?

The American Farm Bureau’s annual report is depressing: the cost for turkey dinner keeps going up. Jaws often drop when we tell people how much (or, rather, how little) our Thanksgiving dinner costs. It’s quite a difference!

So, we took the American Farm Bureau’s report seriously and did some price comparisons ourselves. The AFB claims the cost for a 10-person standard Thanksgiving dinner runs $43.47. Our cost analysis shows $20.17, roughly a 55% savings! Below is a chart with the differences, plus explanations that follow.

Item AFB Cost JEUB COST Savings
16-pound turkey $17.66 $4.99 $12.67
Cube stuffing, 14 oz. $2.64 $1.00 est. $1.64
Pumpkin pie mix, 30-oz. $2.62 $1.33 $1.29
Pie shells (2) $2.46 $.50 est. $1.96
Sweet potatoes, 3 lbs. $3.19 $2.49 $.70
Rolls, 12 $2.12 $1.50 $.62
Green peas, 1 lb. $1.44 $.50 $.94
1-pound relish tray (carrots and celery) $.77 Nothing $.77
Milk, 1 gallon whole $3.24 $2.47 $.77
Fresh cranberries, 12 oz. $2.41 $1.50 $.91
Cream, ½ pint $1.70 $1.20 $.50
Misc. ingredients $3.22 $2.69 $.53
TOTALS $43.47 $20.17 $23.30

16-pound turkey. This was the biggest savings, and it is a savings that every family should participate in. Really, we have no idea why anyone would spend nearly $20 for a 16 lb. turkey. Most stores will blow out their turkeys at far below cost and make up for the difference with all the other fixings surrounding a Thanksgiving dinner. We priced 16 lb turkeys at Safeway for only $4.99. Turkeys over 16 lbs were priced at $6.99. Truth be known, we purchase as many turkeys our freezers can hold, for they make great eating year-round. At approximately $.30/pound, the turkeys freeze well and are delicious.

Cube stuffing. Mrs. Stovetop got a really brilliant idea years ago: take simple and inexpensive recipe ingredients, throw it in a bag, and charge three times its cost. We do Stovetop Stuffing the way it used to be done: we dry bread, mix it with elk sausage and spices, and stuff it in the turkey. It comes out tasting better for a fraction of the cost. We estimated the comparison at about a dollar.

Pumpkin pie mix. The grocery store we compared prices with came out lower than AFB’s cost estimate ($1.33 compared to $2.62) because of a 2 for $3 sale. However, we stocked up on pumpkin when Wendy took the kids to a pumpkin patch field trip last month. She came home with 10 pumpkins for $30, or $3/each. The price probably comes out about the same with an estimated two pies per pumpkin, though Wendy argues that we get up to four with the biggest pumpkins. For the sake of the chart, we estimated three pies per pumpkin at a price of $1.33 each pie. Once again, going homemade saves money and tastes better. Plus, the pumpkin seeds properly baked are to die for!

Pie shells. Which are you going for: taste or convenience? For taste, go homemade, and you’ll save a bundle. Cynthia loves to mix the ingredients and roll out her own pie crusts. The ingredients are incredibly inexpensive: flour, shortening, water and salt. Maybe $.10-$.15 for one pie shell. If you want convenience, buy the shells, but you’ll be spending at least $1.50, and they’ll be crumbly and won’t taste as good. (Again, you have to hand it to Mrs. Stovetop for her shrewd business sense.) For the chart, we estimated two pie shells at $.50. Cynthia has several pastry recipes in our cookbooks.

Sweet potatoes. Cans of sweet potatoes priced a little lower than AFB’s pricing ($3.19 per can), and that is the way we priced it on the chart. However, we almost always make these from scratch, too. Real sweet potatoes go a lot further than the canned kind, and you are able to spice it up to your liking. We probably could cut the cost of canned yams in half, but once you figure in the marshmellow topping (a must!), I suppose it would cost the same.

Rolls. Like pie shells, these are better homemade than store-bought, for cost savings and taste. We’re very blessed to have Cynthia; she loves to bake more than anything else. Wendy’s cookbooks Love in the Kitchen Vol. 1 and 2 is co-authored by Cynthia and many of her favorite baking recipes are in it. If you don’t own this cookbook, order it. We’re having a 2 for 1 Thanksgiving Special right now. Anyway, Cynthia estimated the cost for flour, yeast and butter to be about $1.50.

Green peas. Who is putting Thanksgiving dinner together at the AFB? Green peas are so un-Thanksgiving. Corn, at least, is more on track. Corn prices at $.50 a can, the same as green peas. We typically stock up on canned goods when they go on sale for 3-4 cans for a dollar, but we priced this conservatively for sake of the chart. In the real world, we cook my grandma’s Sweet & Sour Green Beans (pg. 119 in the cookbook) as a Thanksgiving side, and that has become a Jeub tradition.

1-lb relish tray. Again, who’s putting this Thanksgiving dinner together? Celery and carrot sticks are way, way too healthy for this once-a-year meal. We took it entirely off the menu. Maybe later in the week we’d add it to our turkey sandwich lunches, but not for Thanksgiving. If it crunches at the Jeub Thanksgiving dinner table, it is undercooked!

Milk, 1 gallon whole. Milk was on sale this week at Safeway, so that’s how we priced it. Personally, we enjoy drinking water at our meals. Milk is reserved for recipes, fruit drinks or cereal. Reducing milk from your diet will greatly reduce your weekly grocery bill. We’re not convinced that milk vitamins are as necessary as the milk companies want us all to believe. Water is fine for us, but we put the sale milk on the chart anyway.

Fresh cranberries. Most stores will have several of the most popular items on sale, and Safeway had cranberry sauce on sale 2 cans for $3. These studies probably don’t take regular supply-and-demand into account. The supply is great this time of year for cranberries, so prices naturally go down. While exact prices will vary, sales like these should be available for anyone in the country.

Cream. I’m not sure what this is for, but I’ll take the AFB for their word. A whole pint priced at $2.39 at Safeway, and we cut it in half for the chart. Safeway did not have any 1/2 pints.

Misc. ingredients. Again, we’ll take the AFB’s word for it that we need these ingredients. Much of Wendy’s cookbook is written for ingredients that are common in most family’s kitchens, and we can assume we’ll have a lot of these things on hand. We likely save quite a bit here simply by buying in bulk. For the sake of the chart and because we didn’t want to spend the time dicing up the chart, we kept this price the same.

So the bottom line is a 55% savings in our Thanksgiving dinner. Of course, we double everything for our family, but we still come below the AFB average by a long shot. We even beat the 1986 cost ($28.74), the first year the AFB started tracking the average cost for a Thanksgiving dinner.

Let this post close with a quote from Wendy from Love in the Kitchen: Affordable and delicious recipes for growing families. She’s got the right perspective:

Dear friends, I can’t begin to tell you how fruitful and loving the Jeub kitchen is! In my 24 years of parenting, my kids have never gone hungry. Every evening our meals consist of loving conversation and full tummies. We love to have guests over for meals and the complements often are over the quantity and quality of our food. We seldom eat out (can you imagine the cost?) because we’re very content to eat at home. We’ve found that meals made in our kitchen taste better, fill our appetites, and contribute to the heritage of our home. I love my kitchen, and you can love yours, too!

Don’t forget: Now through Thanksgiving you get BOTH of Wendy’s Cookbooks for the price of ONE. That’s a $20 savings, plus we’re shipping them for free! This makes a great gift for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Wendy’s money-saving ideas and wholesome recipes will be the talk of your home over the holidays. Take advantage of this 1-month deal to give great gifts at twice the savings! CLICK HERE.

(This article was adjusted accordingly from a similar blog post from 2008.)

About Chris & Wendy Jeub

The Jeub Family live in Monument, Colorado, with 14 of their 16 children. They encourage couples to love God and love one another, building an atmosphere of love in their homes.

  • http://yes-theyre-all-ours.blogspot.com Elizabeth

    Great post! I agree with everything but the price of the turkey! I don’t see how you came off so good on that! After scanning all of our sale ads, the best price is 69 cents a pound and we always buy the Biggest Turkey we can find to feed our crowd of 12 plus guests. So, we’re going to spend at least $15-$18 on our turkey. And we probably overdo it on the sides and desserts — but I rarely cook again for a day or two as we enjoy all of the leftovers!!! ;)

    • http://www.jeubfamily.com Chris & Wendy

      Click through the ad to our local Safeway. Seriously…they’re $4.99 each! This might be a regional sale.

  • KelliSue

    Walmart has turkeys at .39/lb. You can call your local Walmart, find out what their price is and ask them to match the price at .39/lb and you’ll likely get it even if they’re pricing at .69/lb locally.

    Stocking up on turkeys works for a small family with only six kids too.

  • http://www.littlehomesteadinthecity.blogspot.com Sara

    Colorado Albertson’s have turkey’s for $.39/lb right now…and I know you can get them for 5 bucks..I am disappointed this year as last year there were turkey coupons in the Sunday paper and I have not seen any this year. Good job guys!!

  • Vicki

    We also stock up of turkeys this time of year for our family of 9. Turkey can be used in pretty much any recipe that calls for chicken without changing the taste. City Market/King Soopers has a pretty good deal on turkeys this week too. My family would feel pretty deprived if our dinner came from a store. Going all out and doing it all from scratch is a tradition that goes way back in my family. I’m blessed to come from a long line of women who enjoyed cooking and canning for their families.

  • http://www.jeubfamily.com Chris & Wendy

    Best line: KelliSue’s “only six kids”…that’s great!

  • Brandi

    I bought your cookbooks almost a year ago and it is still the first ones I grab for on my shelf. I have peace of mind this year finally knowing how to make most of the thanksgiving items myself and I won’t be putting a bunch of processed junk in my family. I hope your family has a great Thanksgiving!

  • Abby

    We’ve never found turkey that cheap either….maybe it is regional :) oh well, but agree with everything else. We homebake most things and don’t normally do canned vegetables. We bake most things from scratch including pies, stuffing and cookies and cakes. Some how I have managed to create 2 children (and find a husband) who dislike the taste of pumpkins (where did I go wrong??????) – so that tradition kinda flies out the window, so me and the rest of my “pumpkin loving children” join up with the neighbors to buy those, again saving dollars.

  • http://www.kendavis.com Joy Groblebe

    Love this post! We actually took advantage of the $4.99 turkey deal at Safeway to buy some for the Denver Rescue Mission. They need 6,000 turkeys for their annual Thanksgiving Dinner. Great way to help out those less fortunate for the holidays and good lesson for our kids as well.

    • http://www.jeubfamily.com Chris & Wendy

      Looks like Safeway/KingSoopers are the big winners with turkeys. I’m not surprised that Albertsons is a bit overpriced, and we never buy our turkeys from Walmart.
      Great idea, Joy! Donating those turkeys is very good.

  • http://medicationoptional.blogspot.com/ Melissa McKimmey

    I’m in Utah and at our King Sooper/City Market we picked up a freezer full of 15lb turkeys for $6 each. Well worth the freezer space.

    And homemade rolls are a must for Thanksgiving. Spending the day before and the day of making pies and rolls is the best part. (Last year we made 7 kinds of pie. We like pie. A lot.)

    By the way, I suspect the heavy cream is for whipping with the mixer to add to the pumpkin pie.

  • Sally

    I don’t understand your math. None of the numbers add up.

  • http://www.jeubfamily.com Chris & Wendy

    You’re right! Thanks for pointing that out, Sally. I had some numbers wrong in the chart. It is corrected now.

  • TJ

    The price of the turkey is regional, depends where you live, they don’t have them for $4.99 a pound at the Safeway where I live. Also the ad says with a minimum $10 purchase, so unless you are purchasing $10 worth of other stuff at Safeway that you will be using for this meal, I don’t think it’s correct to price the turkey at $4.99 a pound as your cost, just my opinion. I do agree though that the homemade is cheaper, healthier and tastes much better.

  • TJ

    I correct my last post, $4.99 for the turkey not $4.99 a pound, but my reasoning is still the same.

  • T.Gates

    Our local Wal-Mart has fresh sweet potatos for $.25 per pound and our local Dollar General has Libby’s canned vegetable 3/$1. Pretty amazing deals in my book! Sweet potatos can be stocked up on, cooked, and frozen for later use!

  • Janine

    You are confused. The AFB is computing the *average* cost of the Thanksgiving based on where you live.

    So their figures include city families in NY and San Francisco. That’s why their figures are higher than yours. You live in the country, in a state with a relatively low cost of living.

    You are incorrect in assuming that “other” families are spendthrifts. It’s just your assumptions are off.

  • Janine

    How great that Cynthia “loves” to make piecrusts and save a dollar.

    My daughter does not spend her time making piecrusts. She spends her time studying, and will enter a profession that will allow her a choice: buy piecrusts or make them.

    it is always better for people to have choices.

    And are you sure she “loves” making piecrusts, or that she has been told (and taught) to love it, because she has no other choice in her life? Check. Make sure.

  • Tammie

    Ok, so after reading the whole article and the comments, I think we can all agree that homemade is cheaper and healthier in the long run .. being frugal is something you have to learn to do and something I am not good at. I have learned alot from Chris and Wendy !

    Now I think we can all also agree that anything priced is regional.. it is obvious that something in New York City will cost more then something in the middle of Wisconsin, or than that of something the exact same anywhere. Markets price thier good according to sale and what people are willing to spend in that area and no one shouod assume that one price is set in stone.. it is just a given suggestion that that share to try to help you to understand that you too can learn wherever you are at.

    Finally JA-NEEEEENE .. I want to ask you why you find it so hard to believe that someone would LIKE to actually bake a pie ??? I cant .. but I am so glad that others can … they have the right to like whatever they like – just as you do ! You shouldnt say or give off the assumption that you are saying that she has been forced to like baking pies.

    Maybe that is what is wrong with the world today .. we have all become accustomed to the thought that we cant think for ourselves, that everything has to be okay with someone else before we can be happy.. when this simply is just not true. Trust me, I am THE worst cook on the face of this earth .. if it can be called in, eaten out or fits in the microwave.. that is me … but that is because I was not lucky enough to have someone teach me what a girl should know while I was growing up and thus my laziness took over .. however I would never say someone else couldn’t like cooking or doing anything else they like to do .. maybe it is YOU, Janine, that is wishing you also knew how, or that you too had choices. Whether it was working on a car or baking a pie, Cynthia has the right to like to do whatever she likes, without judgement from others just because it doesnt fit today’s “mold” of what a girl “should” be doing. One should make thier OWN mold and create thier niche and be happy .. who cares what others think !!!

  • mollie

    Janine~ I agree it is always better to have choices,but what gives you the impression that the Jeub children do not have choices???

  • Janine

    Cynthia can make all the pies she likes, but she should be getting an education as well.

    She needs an education so she can provide for herself if:

    a. she never marries
    b. her husband dies
    c. her husband becomes disabled, etc

  • Janet Kiessling

    Hey guys – great post!!! :) Love all of the recipes – Wendy & Cynthia!!! We have Winco out here – $.39/lb for the turkeys as long as you purchase $50. worth of groceries. Which for our growing family – that is fine. But at the time – I was running out of time – and could only pickup 1!!! UGH! Hubbie is going to go back and see if they still have the offer there! Space in the freezer for a couple more ! :) Have a Blessed Thanksgiving!

  • http://blessingblankets.org Paula Hands

    I think we can sum this whole Thanksgiving dinner blog by saying we can feed our family in a nutritionally sound way without spending a fortune! As with anything, you have to take look at the cost versus what you get for your money. Buying fresh food can be a double bonus! You can spend less money and get a better food by purchasing fresh sweet potatoes instead of canned. We do not have health insurance and still have eight of our ten children at home. We cannot run to the doctor everytime someone sneezes. We actually went to an ear, nose and throat doctor for severe nose bleeds and were told we weren’t eating enough oranges which provide the bioflavonoids which prevent nosebleeds. So there you go, food was our remedy and I wasn’t buying them because they were out of season. Fine, so we spent $100 on a doctor and our cure was in the produce section! I think we could buy quite a few oranges for $100!!!

  • Laurie

    Wow Praise the LORD for a Momma who is teaching her daughter the art of cooking at home. As a mother I appreciate the old fashioned ways of the past that still have proven to work today. Cynthia has been blessed with the talent of making “pie crusts” , simple but yet so important as it feeds the family. Its certainly schooling without a doubt. She gets to read a recipe, she is learning to follow directions and time management! All skills that will certainly bless her in the future. Amazing life skills that I think are slipping through the cracks in the general up bringing of children. Its too easy for them to order fast food and have no knowledge in what they are cramming in their mouths.

    I love homemade cooking from scratch, its so filling and healthier for you. I am a mommy to 7 children and we practice that here. I learned this great talent of gardening, canning and baking from the females in my life growing up. An now I get the pleasure of passing it onto my girls. Its a great homeschool hands on for them. Even the boys like to join in.

    Without a doubt its much more entertaining as a family to be in the kitchen preparing something the whole family will enjoy than sit in front of a tv. Wendy your doing a great job ! I know your children are your pride and joy, just like mine. Cynthia is very lucky to have her Momma teaching her life skills. Keep up the great work.

    ps…I believe its a blessing we got so many more blessings coming for what we are teaching our girls and boys !

  • Nuala

    In response to Janine -

    I’m guessing that you’re making the assumption that Cynthia is in a “piecrust OR education” situation, and I suspect that’s not true in her case. I am a homeschooling advocate, and I’d like to answer to what I think you’re saying.

    Most homeschooling families think that teaching children to cook is an essential life skill. I happen to agree. Actually, I think it borders on child abuse to neglect that aspect of education. We have a lot of food allergies in our family, and if I didn’t teach my kids to make their own baked goods, they’d have a very expensive culinary future in front of them. Even people with relatively well-paying jobs watch their grocery bills. Most of our married lives we were a one-income family (thank goodness for the union!) and even though my husband makes a fairly good living, we still have to watch what we spend in order to be able to choose this lifestyle.

    I think the more skills you have – manual, domestic, and academic – the more choices you have in life.

    Also, I would argue that your daughter (or son, for that matter… in our house, my 13 yr. old son is the prime bread-maker) has time in between study sessions to make pie if she wanted to. Not that anyone HAS to. But you presented it as a choice between baking OR studies, and I think that’s not a representation of real life. Most students have ample time to FB; some of that time could go to food prep for themselves and the people they live with, without impacting their grades.

    I would also argue (and I’m a person who could easily lose myself in my academic world) that doing things with our hands, and meeting our own physical needs, is beneficial to our development as human beings, both in terms of character and in terms of the need to indulge our tactile, sensual nature. The sensuality of fabric and foodstuffs isn’t something we should shun because it’s below us. It IS us.

    Finally, even if Cynthia had been wholly sequestered in the kitchen all her young life, she seems to have the cerebral raw materials to figure out something more eclectic for her future. I think it’s a mistake to assume that what we’re exposed to in our first 20 years necessarily dictates the next 70 or 80. I’m a high school drop-out from a fairly messed up home of origin. I currently run my own massage therapy business, am studying at the university level, and I homeschool/unschool my kids. AND I make a mean vat of homemade soup. ;-) What’s bred in the bone will out in the flesh.

    Cheers!

  • Deanna

    I have a Safeway to shop at too. I got 6 turkeys for our freezer this year for 29 cents a pound.

    Janine, Does your daughter really not have a spare thirty minutes that is not spent studying? Surely she does. You can make a couple pies from scratch in a half an hour. I think there is a reason the saying goes, “easy as pie”. I’m sure with choice being so important to you that you let her use her spare time as she please. Just be sure you are.

  • Hannah

    Janine,
    Maybe Cynthia wants to attend culinary school? I personally love baking pies and I have a bachelor’s degree in political science.

  • Amy Pederson

    Jeubs,

    Thank you for taking the time to calculate out your budget for Thanksgiving. We also stock up on turkeys at this time of year, buying as many as we can fit into our freezers, usually around 24. Our Safeway and City Market(King Soopers) stores sell them at a flat rate ranging between $4.99-$13 depending on the weight. It is the cheapest meat out there.

    As far as side dishes, we make all of ours from scratch, too. There is something precious about time spent in the kitchen talking, baking, cooking, serving others. I would take that any day over a meal purchased from the grocery store to save time.

    We have your cookbooks and we love them, but we cannot figure out how Cynthia melts the cheese in her Mac & Cheese. :) Help!

  • Melissa

    I’m not clear if you were just comparing the AFB prices for a meal which would be for a much smaller family, but a 16 lb. turkey, only 14 oz. of stuffing, a few cans (bleah) of vegetables, etc. is not enough food for a large family of your size, especially full of growing children. I also noticed this on the TV program where you talked about spending only a certain amount of money for a birthday party that many, many people attended – your guests had come all that way to celebrate your children, and probably left hungry. I know obesity is a concern, but this is the other extreme. I would also hope you’d grow most of your food since you have so many helpers and a lot of land. The calcium in dairy is very important yet you don’t serve much milk – do your children eat huge daily servings of dark greens or something to replace those vitamins?