The True Cost of Your Thanksgiving Meal

Studies
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Each year, the American Farm Bureau Federation audits grocery stores across the country to determine the average cost of a Thanksgiving meal — which includes spot-checking prices on a 16-pound turkey, plenty of sides and, of course, dessert and coffee.

The just-released 2014 survey pegs the cost of a classic harvest feast for 10 people at $49.41, a 37-cent increase from last year’s average of $49.04.

The Farm Bureau’s full shopping list includes the turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and finished with coffee and milk.

But are all Thanksgiving meals really created equal?

The cost of living varies dramatically depending on where you live in the U.S. — and that includes how much you spend on groceries. To find the true cost of your Thanksgiving meal, NerdWallet crunched the numbers in cities across the nation.

The most expensive place to host a Thanksgiving meal this year is on the Big Island, in Hilo, Hawaii. There, a typical Thanksgiving meal might cost $79.11, or nearly $30 more than the national average in the Farm Bureau’s survey. Following closely behind were two other places that are notoriously pricey: Honolulu, Hawaii, and Kodiak, Alaska. The most expensive place for your holiday meal in the 48 contiguous states is Truckee, California, near Lake Tahoe.

Another key factor: What you choose to make and serve. The Farm Bureau covers the basics — and they say their survey is informal — but most people treat the holiday as the perfect excuse to go all out. Your grocery bill will naturally climb as you add wine, more side dishes and desserts, buy rarely used spices and, of course, splurge on other extras.

Trends and takeaways

  • Texas-sized savings. The least expensive place to prepare and host a Thanksgiving meal is Waco, Texas. There, a Thanksgiving spread for 10 costs just $39.82.
  • Turkey time. It pays to shop around when it comes to turkeys. The price for a turkey in the survey, $1.35 a pound, doesn’t include promotions, which are plentiful as stores often treat the big bird as a loss leader. We are seeing stores offer frozen turkeys for $0.69 to $0.99 a pound — or even free with the purchase of other items within a specific time.
  • Not so sweet. The largest price increases this year are sweet potatoes, dairy products and pumpkin pie mix, according to the Farm Bureau.
  • Holding steady. The average cost of the dinner has remained about $49 since 2011. (Although, chances are good that you will manage to spend much, much more!)

Methodology

We took the $49.41 number compiled by the American Farm Bureau Federation and adjusted it for the cost of groceries in each city using the grocery cost index from the Council for Community and Economic Research.

Most expensive places for Thanksgiving dinner

Rank Urban area and state Grocery cost index Cost of Thanksgiving dinner
1 Hilo HI 160.1 $79.11
2 Honolulu HI 155.3 $76.73
3 Kodiak AK 136.2 $67.30
4 Truckee-Nevada County CA 131.8 $65.12
5 Juneau AK 131.7 $65.07
6 New York (Brooklyn) NY 130.5 $64.48
7 Oakland CA 130.1 $64.28
8 Tracy CA 126.1 $62.31
9 New York (Manhattan) NY 123.6 $61.07
10 San Francisco CA 123.5 $61.02
11 Fairbanks AK 123.3 $60.92
12 Anchorage AK 120.8 $59.69
13 Stamford CT 120.0 $59.29
14 Reno-Sparks NV 117.4 $58.01
15 Flagstaff AZ 116.6 $57.61
16 Stockton CA 116.4 $57.51
17 Seattle WA 116.1 $57.37
18 Providence RI 113.1 $55.88
19 Philadelphia PA 113.0 $55.83
20 Valdosta GA 112.3 $55.49

 

Least expensive places for Thanksgiving dinner

Rank Urban area and state Grocery cost index Cost of Thanksgiving dinner
1 Waco TX 80.6 $39.82
2 Corpus Christi TX 80.7 $39.87
3 San Marcos TX 82.5 $40.76
4 Brazoria County TX 82.7 $40.86
5 Kalamazoo MI 82.8 $40.91
6 McAllen TX 83.3 $41.16
7 Houston TX 84.2 $41.60
8 Norman OK 84.3 $41.65
10 Jackson MS 85.4 $42.20
10 Austin TX 85.4 $42.20
11 Richmond IN 85.7 $42.34
13 Round Rock TX 86.3 $42.64
13 San Antonio TX 86.3 $42.64
15 Edmond OK 86.9 $42.94
15 Temple TX 86.9 $42.94
16 Decatur IL 87.7 $43.33
17 Amarillo TX 88.3 $43.63
18 Cookeville TN 88.5 $43.73
19 Seguin TX 88.6 $43.78
20 Cedar Rapids IA 88.9 $43.93

Farm Bureau

Infographic by the American Farm Bureau Federation

Full list of the true cost of Thanksgiving dinner

Rank Urban area and state Grocery cost index Cost of Thanksgiving dinner
1 Hilo HI 160.1 $79.11
2 Honolulu HI 155.3 $76.73
3 Kodiak AK 136.2 $67.30
4 Truckee-Nevada County CA 131.8 $65.12
5 Juneau AK 131.7 $65.07
6 New York (Brooklyn) NY 130.5 $64.48
7 Oakland CA 130.1 $64.28
8 Tracy CA 126.1 $62.31
9 New York (Manhattan) NY 123.6 $61.07
10 San Francisco CA 123.5 $61.02
11 Fairbanks AK 123.3 $60.92
12 Anchorage AK 120.8 $59.69
13 Stamford CT 120.0 $59.29
14 Reno-Sparks NV 117.4 $58.01
15 Flagstaff AZ 116.6 $57.61
16 Stockton CA 116.4 $57.51
17 Seattle WA 116.1 $57.37
18 Providence RI 113.1 $55.88
19 Philadelphia PA 113.0 $55.83
20 Valdosta GA 112.3 $55.49
21 Pierre SD 112.1 $55.39
22 Burlington-Chittenden County VT 111.9 $55.29
23 Portland OR 111.6 $55.14
24 Hilton Head Island SC 111.4 $55.04
25 Fort Lauderdale FL 111.0 $54.85
26 Bergen-Passaic NJ 110.5 $54.60
27 St. Cloud MN 110.3 $54.50
28 Las Vegas NV 110.2 $54.45
29 Middlesex-Monmouth NJ 110.0 $54.35
30 Mount Vernon-Skagit County WA 110.0 $54.35
31 Charleston-N Charleston SC 109.7 $54.20
32 Bakersfield CA 109.5 $54.10
33 Dover DE 109.5 $54.10
34 Akron OH 109.4 $54.05
35 Newark-Elizabeth NJ 109.3 $54.01
36 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA 109.2 $53.96
37 Yuma AZ 108.9 $53.81
38 Miami-Dade County FL 108.8 $53.76
39 Bethesda-Gaithersburg-Frederick MD 108.7 $53.71
40 Wilmington DE 108.6 $53.66
41 Baltimore MD 107.8 $53.26
42 Auburn-Opelika AL 107.5 $53.12
43 Wilmington NC 107.5 $53.12
44 Orange County CA 107.2 $52.97
45 Vero Beach-Indian River FL 107.1 $52.92
46 Boston MA 107.1 $52.92
47 Cleveland OH 107.1 $52.92
48 Marietta GA 106.7 $52.72
49 Dare County NC 106.7 $52.72
50 Anderson SC 106.7 $52.72
51 Erie PA 106.5 $52.62
52 Huntsville AL 106.1 $52.42
53 Palm Coast-Flagler County FL 105.6 $52.18
54 Madison WI 105.5 $52.13
55 Bozeman MT 105.4 $52.08
56 Asheville NC 105.2 $51.98
57 Muskogee OK 105.2 $51.98
58 San Diego CA 105.0 $51.88
59 Los Angeles-Long Beach CA 104.9 $51.83
60 Fond du Lac WI 104.8 $51.78
61 Dallas TX 104.7 $51.73
62 Pryor Creek OK 104.5 $51.63
63 Atlanta GA 104.3 $51.53
64 Benton Harbor MI 104.3 $51.53
65 Minot ND 104.2 $51.49
66 Camden SC 103.5 $51.14
67 Olympia WA 103.5 $51.14
68 Fresno CA 103.3 $51.04
69 Glenwood Springs CO 103.3 $51.04
70 Birmingham AL 103.2 $50.99
71 Minneapolis MN 103.2 $50.99
72 Sumter SC 103.0 $50.89
73 Mankato MN 102.9 $50.84
74 Milwaukee-Waukesha WI 102.9 $50.84
75 Daytona Beach FL 102.8 $50.79
76 Gainesville FL 102.8 $50.79
77 St. Louis MO-IL 102.8 $50.79
78 Dalton GA 102.7 $50.74
79 St. Paul MN 102.7 $50.74
80 Myrtle Beach SC 102.7 $50.74
81 Jacksonville FL 102.5 $50.65
82 Orlando FL 102.4 $50.60
83 Williamsport-Lycoming County PA 102.2 $50.50
84 Plano TX 102.2 $50.50
85 Rockford IL 102.1 $50.45
86 Bismarck-Mandan ND 102.1 $50.45
87 Ithaca NY 102.0 $50.40
88 Winston-Salem NC 102.0 $50.40
89 Ardmore OK 102.0 $50.40
90 Charlotte NC 101.9 $50.35
91 York County PA 101.9 $50.35
92 Winchester VA-WV 101.9 $50.35
93 Thomasville-Lexington NC 101.8 $50.30
94 Phoenix AZ 101.6 $50.20
95 Albany NY 101.6 $50.20
96 Bellingham WA 101.6 $50.20
97 El Paso TX 101.4 $50.10
98 Yakima WA 101.1 $49.95
99 Champaign-Urbana IL 100.5 $49.66
100 Janesville WI 100.5 $49.66
101 Dothan AL 100.4 $49.61
102 Salt Lake City UT 100.4 $49.61
103 Charlottesville VA 100.3 $49.56
104 New Orleans LA 100.1 $49.46
105 Springfield IL 100.0 $49.41
106 Burlington NC 99.9 $49.36
107 Harrisonburg VA 99.9 $49.36
108 San Angelo TX 99.8 $49.31
109 Pittsburgh PA 99.7 $49.26
110 Denver CO 99.6 $49.21
111 Quincy IL 99.6 $49.21
112 Lafayette IN 99.6 $49.21
113 Lincoln NE 99.6 $49.21
114 Hattiesburg MS 99.5 $49.16
115 Bullhead City AZ 99.4 $49.11
116 Mason City IA 99.4 $49.11
117 Alexandria LA 99.4 $49.11
118 Lake Havasu City AZ 99.3 $49.06
119 Lake Charles LA 99.3 $49.06
120 Pueblo CO 99.2 $49.01
121 Wichita KS 99.2 $49.01
122 Lexington KY 99.2 $49.01
123 Columbia SC 99.2 $49.01
124 Fort Worth TX 99.2 $49.01
125 Cedar City UT 99.1 $48.97
126 Moses Lake WA 99.0 $48.92
127 Hastings NE 98.9 $48.87
128 Fargo-Moorhead ND-MN 98.9 $48.87
129 Tulsa OK 98.8 $48.82
130 Savannah GA 98.5 $48.67
131 Topeka KS 98.5 $48.67
132 Enid OK 98.5 $48.67
133 Lawton OK 98.5 $48.67
134 Hammond LA 98.4 $48.62
135 Eau Claire WI 98.4 $48.62
136 Waterloo-Cedar Falls IA 98.3 $48.57
137 Durham NC 98.1 $48.47
138 Longview TX 98.1 $48.47
139 Chicago IL 98.0 $48.42
140 Tucson AZ 97.9 $48.37
141 Fayetteville AR 97.9 $48.37
142 Sarasota FL 97.9 $48.37
143 Morgantown WV 97.9 $48.37
144 Fayetteville-Fayette County GA 97.8 $48.32
145 Punta Gorda-Charlotte Co FL 97.7 $48.27
146 Indianapolis-Morgan County IN 97.7 $48.27
147 Decatur-Hartselle AL 97.6 $48.22
148 Rio Rancho NM 97.6 $48.22
149 Greenville SC 97.6 $48.22
150 Raleigh NC 97.5 $48.17
151 Slidell-St. Tammany Parish LA 97.4 $48.13
152 Portland ME 97.2 $48.03
153 St. George UT 97.2 $48.03
154 Tacoma WA 97.2 $48.03
155 Nashville-Murfreesboro TN 97.1 $47.98
156 Lima OH 96.9 $47.88
157 Jefferson City MO 96.8 $47.83
158 Athens-Henderson County TX 96.7 $47.78
159 Montgomery AL 96.4 $47.63
160 Gunnison CO 96.4 $47.63
161 Columbia MO 96.4 $47.63
162 Salina KS 96.2 $47.53
163 Grand Rapids MI 96.2 $47.53
164 Dodge City KS 96.0 $47.43
165 Kennewick-Richland-Pasco WA 96.0 $47.43
166 Richmond VA 95.9 $47.38
167 Little Rock-North Little Rock AR 95.8 $47.33
168 Tampa FL 95.7 $47.29
169 Cleveland TN 95.6 $47.24
170 Evansville IN 95.5 $47.19
171 Bowling Green KY 95.5 $47.19
172 Wooster OH 95.5 $47.19
173 Prescott-Prescott Valley AZ 95.4 $47.14
174 Peoria IL 95.4 $47.14
175 Burlington IA 95.4 $47.14
176 Danville IL 95.2 $47.04
177 Houma-Terrebonne Parish LA 95.1 $46.99
178 Abilene TX 95.1 $46.99
179 Marshfield WI 95.1 $46.99
180 Staunton-Augusta County VA 95.0 $46.94
181 Statesboro-Bulloch County GA 94.8 $46.84
182 Rochester NY 94.8 $46.84
183 South Bend IN 94.7 $46.79
184 Omaha NE 94.7 $46.79
185 Colorado Springs CO 94.6 $46.74
186 Kansas City MO-KS 94.6 $46.74
187 Memphis TN 94.6 $46.74
188 Sierra Vista AZ 94.5 $46.69
189 Jonesboro AR 94.5 $46.69
190 Indianapolis IN 94.5 $46.69
191 Texarkana TX-AR 94.5 $46.69
192 Hot Springs AR 94.4 $46.64
193 Thibodaux-Lafourche Parish LA 94.3 $46.59
194 Paducah KY 94.1 $46.49
195 Springfield MO 94.0 $46.45
196 Martinsville-Henry County VA 93.9 $46.40
197 Monroe LA 93.8 $46.35
198 Lynchburg VA 93.8 $46.35
199 Des Moines IA 93.7 $46.30
200 Lafayette LA 93.7 $46.30
201 Columbus OH 93.7 $46.30
202 Grand Junction CO 93.6 $46.25
203 Davenport-Moline-Rock Is IA-IL 93.5 $46.20
204 Buffalo NY 93.4 $46.15
205 Florence AL 93.3 $46.10
206 Ashland OH 93.3 $46.10
207 Joplin MO 93.2 $46.05
208 Manhattan KS 93.0 $45.95
209 Green Bay WI 93.0 $45.95
210 Detroit MI 92.9 $45.90
211 Tyler TX 92.9 $45.90
212 Boise ID 92.5 $45.70
213 Fort Wayne-Allen County IN 92.5 $45.70
214 Fitchburg-Leominster MA 92.5 $45.70
215 Oklahoma City OK 92.5 $45.70
216 Denton TX 92.5 $45.70
217 Lubbock TX 92.5 $45.70
218 Vancouver WA 92.5 $45.70
219 Spokane WA 92.4 $45.65
220 Joliet-Will County IL 92.3 $45.61
221 Twin Falls ID 92.2 $45.56
222 Blacksburg VA 92.2 $45.56
223 Hutchinson KS 91.9 $45.41
224 Shreveport-Bossier City LA 91.9 $45.41
225 Idaho Falls ID 91.7 $45.31
226 Bloomington IN 91.7 $45.31
227 Ponca City OK 91.7 $45.31
228 Lexington-Buena Vista-Rockbridge VA 91.6 $45.26
229 Roanoke VA 91.3 $45.11
230 Ames IA 91.2 $45.06
231 Chattanooga TN 90.7 $44.81
232 Hampton Roads-SE Virginia VA 90.7 $44.81
233 Conroe TX 90.6 $44.77
234 Sherman-Denison TX 90.6 $44.77
235 Louisville KY 90.5 $44.72
236 Midland TX 90.5 $44.72
237 Nacogdoches TX 90.3 $44.62
238 Knoxville TN 90.0 $44.47
239 Tupelo MS 89.9 $44.42
240 Harlingen TX 89.5 $44.22
241 Odessa TX 89.3 $44.12
242 Morristown TN 89.0 $43.97
243 Cedar Rapids IA 88.9 $43.93
244 Jackson-Madison County TN 88.9 $43.93
245 Beaumont TX 88.9 $43.93
246 Seguin TX 88.6 $43.78
247 Cookeville TN 88.5 $43.73
248 Amarillo TX 88.3 $43.63
249 Decatur IL 87.7 $43.33
250 Edmond OK 86.9 $42.94
251 Temple TX 86.9 $42.94
252 Round Rock TX 86.3 $42.64
253 San Antonio TX 86.3 $42.64
254 Richmond IN 85.7 $42.34
255 Jackson MS 85.4 $42.20
256 Austin TX 85.4 $42.20
257 Norman OK 84.3 $41.65
258 Houston TX 84.2 $41.60
259 McAllen TX 83.3 $41.16
260 Kalamazoo MI 82.8 $40.91
261 Brazoria County TX 82.7 $40.86
262 San Marcos TX 82.5 $40.76
263 Corpus Christi TX 80.7 $39.87
264 Waco TX 80.6 $39.82

 

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How much will you spend on food this Thanksgiving? How do you balance a bountiful meal and a sensible budget? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

(And Happy Thanksgiving from NerdWallet!)


Turkey dinner image via Shutterstock.