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|
|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|
|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|
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.)