Thanksgiving dinner for 10 costs 13% more than last year

Price of holiday turkeys has climbed by one-fifth the price

You're looking at a $65 tab to make this Thanksgiving dinner, and that's not counting beer or wine. The Farm Bureau conducted a national survey of holiday purchases and the average cost of a Turkey Day feast is up 13% over last year thanks to high fuel costs and a nasty bird flu, among other factors.

Alex Garncarz is organizing his church’s free Thanksgiving dinner – its first in almost three years – and he sat down Monday to tally the costs.

The bottom line made his eyes pop.

Garncarz, pastor of Zion United Church of Christ in Peru, said serving free turkey dinners will cost his congregation 20% more than the last pre-pandemic feast in 2019.

“I was not surprised it was more, but I was surprised at how much more,” Garncarz said. “I did not expect it to have risen that much.”

If you haven’t done your holiday shopping yet, take a deep breath before you keep reading. The average cost of a Thanksgiving dinner has been computed, and the yearly increase would have made the pilgrims reboard the Mayflower and sail back to England.

The American Farm Bureau Federation announced Wednesday that the average cost of a Thanksgiving dinner for 10 in Illinois has climbed from last year’s $58.15 to $65.53. That’s a 13% jump over the past year. Worse, Illinois families face higher costs than other Americans, who’ll pay a dollar less for their Turkey Day spread.

“Farmers have been experiencing higher input prices for over 18 months,” said Richard Guebert Jr., president of the Illinois Farm Bureau. “Increased fuel prices are a significant component of the distribution of food to customers.”

While the single biggest climber was stuffing (a 69% increase in cost), it’s the price of your holiday turkey that might give you indigestion. Over the past year, the price of a 16-pound turkey climbed by 20% to $29.12, a few cents higher than the national average of $28.96.

The Associated Press reported that wholesale turkey prices are at record highs after a difficult year for U.S. flocks. A particularly deadly strain of avian flu wiped out 49 million turkeys and other poultry in 46 states this year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As a result, U.S. turkey supplies per capita are at their lowest level since 1986.

One La Salle County food pantry hasn’t been able to procure enough turkeys for its clients. Community Food Basket in Ottawa hosts its Thanksgiving distribution Saturday, Nov. 19, at OSF St. Elizabeth Medical Center, and clients will not find a turkey in their holiday gift basket. Instead, clients are getting $20 vouchers for meat from Handy Foods.

That’s an unhappy first for Community Food Basket. Marissa Vicich, executive director, said a bad combination of supply chain problems, bird flu and erratic supply and demand left her unable to procure turkeys this year. Vendors told her if she wanted turkey, the time to have acted was February.

“The turkeys were spoken for very early this year,” Vicich said.

Almost every holiday staple is higher this year, including pumpkin – and never mind Illinois’ pumpkin crop is the nation’s largest. A 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie filling is $4.82 in Illinois, up from $3.66 last year.

And if you were thinking of replacing turkey with ham this year, consider that a 4-pound ham is $13.61, up from $12.46 last year.

Holiday shoppers might have noticed adult beverages are more costly, too.

Patti Hall, owner of Rudy’s Liquors in La Salle, said she and her competitors have seen delivery charges ranging from $4 to $24 per shipment as vendors grapple with rising wages and fuel costs. Despite the resulting higher prices, shoppers aren’t necessarily cutting beer and wine from their holiday tables.

“We have not seen a slowdown,” Hall said. “In fact, we’ve been busier than usual.”

Hall has observed, however, that shoppers are buying earlier than usual and making smaller purchases rather than buying in bulk.

“I think they’re spacing it out instead of getting sticker shock,” Hall said.

In theory, one could save money by going over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house and let her do the shopping and cooking. The American Automobile Association forecasts more than 2.7 million Illinoisans will do so, traveling 50 miles or more for Thanksgiving – that’s 38,625 more travelers than last year.

“AAA predicts 54.6 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving,” spokeswoman Molly Hart said. “While that national figure remains slightly below pre-pandemic levels, travel in Illinois and Indiana is forecast to be the busiest since 2005.”

Judy Martini, Grant Township clerk, holds her own Thanksgiving plate after serving others during the 2nd Annual Fox Lake Community Thanksgiving Dinner at Lakefront Park in Fox Lake. Tanya and Tim Hill, of Fox Lake, Kim Lunstrom, of Grayslake and other volunteers and community leaders helped to prepare and serve the dinner.
Tom Collins

Tom Collins

Tom Collins covers criminal justice in La Salle County.