Jay Roach’s nickname is “the Pie Guy,” and family members have no qualms about leaning on him for Thanksgiving desserts. Roach loves to bake and happily obliges.
This year, however, the longtime Putnam County resident (he recently moved to Peoria) has to be more judicious at the store thanks to inflation.
“The shells are a little more pricey,” Roach said. “Right about now they’d give you a good two-for-one deal, but the prices are not as good. Fillings are up a dollar, but you can catch sales, and nuts are still super high.”
Roach isn’t wrong. Food costs remain historically high, and filling a Thanksgiving table remains is more costly than before the pandemic.
Nevertheless, the Illinois Farm Bureau had a little good news: The cost of an average holiday feast has fallen by 2.5% over last year.
The 38th annual American Farm Bureau Federation’s Thanksgiving Cost Survey revealed a statewide average price of $63.87 for a classic holiday feast for 10. Last year’s average was $65.53.
Didn’t notice any savings when you did your holiday food shopping? You’re not alone.
Jan Martin is executive director of the Hall Township Food Pantry in Spring Valley, and she certainly didn’t spot any discounts – “I’d like to know where they shopped,” she quipped – when she ordered holiday food for those in need.
“The food baskets are more expensive, and we’re giving away more of them,” Martin said. “I probably had 60 more families than normal. Think about what you pay for Thanksgiving, multiply that by 60, and that’s a lot.”
Holiday food is indeed historically expensive. A Thanksgiving meal sits at 25% higher than in 2019, a reflection of the effect high supply costs and inflation have had on food prices since before the pandemic.
“While the average cost of a Thanksgiving meal decreased slightly over the previous year, inflation continues to strain families’ wallets,” said Richard Guebert Jr., president of the Illinois Farm Bureau.
Here and there, however, a crafty shopper might spot a good price. The national average price for a 16-pound turkey, for example, is $27.35, or $1.71 per pound. That’s down almost 6% from last year.
“Turkey prices have fallen thanks to a sharp reduction in cases of avian influenza,” said Veronica Nigh, senior economist for AFBF, “which have allowed production to increase in time for the holiday.”
Overall, only four of 12 must-have food items climbed in costs this year, none by more than 4%. Among the more expensive items are dinner rolls (up 3%), sweet potatoes (up less than 1%) and veggie trays (up 2%).
One way to save money is to substitute pumpkin pie for another variety. The cost of a 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix rose almost 4% (an average $4.44), which was the single biggest riser among holiday food costs. (Whipped cream is cheaper, however. A half-pint of heavy cream slid almost 23% from last year.)
At the homeless shelters in Peru and Ottawa, clients will enjoy a potluck of holiday foods brought in by donors. Carol Alcorn, executive director of the Illinois Valley Public Action to Deliver Shelter, is grateful for their generosity and, by extension, her ability to direct funds to other areas of need. Those needs are hefty this year.
“We’ve been averaging 45 to 48 individuals in each shelter per night, so the need for food and shelter is phenomenally higher than we’ve ever seen it,” Alcorn said. “It’s incredible, the need we’re seeing.”
Those who are hitting the road for Thanksgiving will enjoy a small savings at the pump. GasBuddy.com said gas is projected to drop to $3.25 a gallon, saving Americans almost $1.2 billion during holiday travel compared with last year.
As with food costs, however, prices at the pump were decidedly cheaper before the pandemic. GasBuddy.com reported the national average for gas stood at $2.60 per gallon at Thanksgiving 2019. That’s 25% less than what we’re paying this holiday.
That won’t stop Illinoisans from driving over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house. AAA projects more than 2.8 million Illinoisans will travel 50 miles or more during the holiday travel period, up about 2% from last year. It’s also the second highest volume since AAA began tracking holiday travel in 2005.
“Travel demand has been strong all year and that trend will continue with one of the busiest Thanksgivings on record,” said Debbie Haas, vice president of travel for AAA – The Auto Club Group.
- 16-pound turkey: $27.35 or $1.71 per pound (down 5.6%)
- 14-ounces of cubed stuffing mix: $3.77 (down 2.8%)
- 2 frozen pie crusts: $3.50 (down 4.9%)
- Half-pint of whipping cream: $1.73 (down 22.8%)
- 1 pound of frozen peas: $1.88 (down 1.1%)
- 1 dozen dinner rolls: $3.84 (up 2.9%)
- Misc. ingredients to prepare the meal: $3.95 (down 4.4%)
- 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix: $4.44 (up 3.7%)
- 1 gallon of whole milk: $3.74 (down 2.6%)
- 3 pounds of sweet potatoes: $3.97 (up .3%)
- 1-pound veggie tray (carrots and celery): 90 cents (up 2.3%)
- 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries: $2.10 (down 18.3%)