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Planning, menu changes can offset higher food costs of Thanksgiving dinner


Robert E. Thomas
Information Specialist
University of Missouri Cooperative Media Group
Phone: 573-882-2480

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2008

Story sources:

Tammy Roberts, 660-679-4167Brenda J. Procter, 573-882-3820

COLUMBIA, Mo.-With a little planning and a few changes to the menu, consumers can offset the increase in food costs for their Thanksgiving dinner, say University of Missouri Extension specialists.

"There are ways to whittle away at these increased costs, but it does require planning and some minor changes," said Tammy Roberts, nutrition specialist.

Based on data from an American Farm Bureau Federation survey, in 2007 it cost an estimated $42.26 to feed 10 people a typical Thanksgiving dinner of turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, buttered rolls, peas, cranberries, a celery and carrots relish tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, coffee and milk.

The USDA Economic Research Service estimates that this year's Thanksgiving dinner will cost 5 to 6 percent more.

"But you don't need three vegetables and the meal would be still be healthful if you serve only stuffing and no rolls," Roberts said. "There are other trade-offs by simply eliminating a few items."

Some preparation before you head to the grocery store can help you save money on the items you keep on the menu.

Start by checking for ingredients and foods you already have on hand. Make your menu early and buy only the items you need. Make a shopping list and stick to it.

Watch grocery store fliers for sales on items you use on Thanksgiving. Most items on the Thanksgiving Day table are featured in sale ads in the weeks leading up to the holiday.

Check newspapers for coupons. Some stores offer double coupons at Thanksgiving, which can be a significant savings.

Frozen turkeys are usually less expensive than fresh birds. Choosing the right size bird for your meal also helps keep costs in line, Roberts said. Some stores offer a free turkey with a food purchase over a certain amount.

After the meal, put food away promptly. Most families prepare enough food for the Thanksgiving meal to have plenty of leftovers, which can trim your food costs for the week.

"One of the best approaches to decision-making about Thanksgiving is to gather your family together and explain that food costs have gone up," said Brenda Procter, Extension specialist in personal finance planning. "Together, you may even start a new tradition that also saves money."