Average Thanksgiving dinner costs down nationally, even lower in La.

BATON ROUGE, La. – For the first time in four years, consumers can expect to pay a little less for their Thanksgiving meal.

The American Farm Bureau Federation has conducted an informal price survey for the past 31 years on grocery items used to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving meal for 10 people. This year the price came in at $49.87, 20 cents less than the average cost in 2015.

LSU AgCenter nutrition agent Quincy Cheek conducted her own survey in the Baton Rouge area between Nov. 14 and 17. She found that items could be purchased here for even less. Her estimate puts the dinner’s price tag at $43.03.

Cheek said the items surveyed included a 16-pound turkey, pumpkin pie mix, pie shells, milk, relish tray, rolls, green peas, cranberries, whipping cream and miscellaneous items such as butter, sugar and coffee.

“In Louisiana, we will most likely make some additions to this traditional meal based on foods that are considered standards when it comes to Louisiana cuisine,” Cheek said, adding that many cooks in Louisiana make a rice dressing and pecan pie.

Adding those two menu choices, the overall meal cost goes up to $61.42. She also said frying a turkey rather than baking it will add another $29 to the total cost because of the oil.

Cheek found the average price of sweet potatoes in Baton Rouge came in at $2.13 less than the national average.

“This is quite an impressive savings, considering this past year our sweet potato crop took a big hit due to flooding,” she said.

AgCenter economist Kurt Guidry said prices for many commodities are down, some significantly. But this hasn’t yet led to a sharp decrease in food prices

“This can happen for several reasons,” Guidry said. “First, commodity prices make up only a small percentage of the total consumer price for many products. Second, there can be a significant lag between price movement at the commodity level and the consumer product level for those items.”

Turkey production has been up this year, nearly 10 percent higher in September than the previous year. The amount of turkey in cold storage is also up, he said.

“Higher production and supplies are projected to force turkey prices down by nearly 8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016 when compared to the previous year,” Guidry said.

The totals represented in both local and national surveys were based on non-sale prices before any promotions or incentives. Cheek said Baton Rouge shoppers can bring the cost of their meal even lower by taking advantages of sales and promotional offers. But, she warned, consumers should also read the fine print.

“Local grocers are offering turkey prices as low as 57 cents a pound, provided you spend a minimum of $20 on other items. If you take advantage of this offer, it would cut the price of your Thanksgiving turkey down to a meager $9.12,” she said.

Cheek found the price of the average store brand turkey in Baton Rouge is $18.72 before price reductions or promotions.

Cheek offered these smart shopping tips for Thanksgiving in 2016.

  • Check the sales at your local grocers.
  • Don’t run from store to store trying to save a few cents here and there. Even with the cost of fuel down this year, you may not come out ahead.
  • Shop with a list.
  • Avoid impulse items that are strategically placed to grab your attention.
  • Compare prices of the store brands with national brands.

“You will find that at this time of year, many of the popular national brands may cost even less than the store brands,” Cheek said.