Thanksgiving Day is just two days away. Most likely, if you’re cooking dinner or preparing a dish, you have probably purchased your ingredients already. Even more likely, you spent more (perhaps a lot more) than you did last year.
COVID-19 robbed us of Thanksgiving last year, inflation is ripping us off this year.
A look at the numbers
Inflation on consumer goods rose 6.2 percent overall from this time last year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), food both at home and away from home rose 5.4 and 5.3 percent, respectively, from one year prior.
Prices on many Thanksgiving menu items from turkey to canned veggies to ingredients for dessert were higher by single- and even double digits. Using the recent consumer price index for October, we assembled a Thanksgiving Inflation Tracker of common dinner items and ingredients.
Then late last week, the nonprofit American Farm Bureau released its annual Thanksgiving dinner cost survey and found that dinner costs were up 14 percent from last year. According to their analysis, the average cost for a Thanksgiving feast for 10 people is $53.31 which is a 14-percent increase from last year’s average of $46.90.
The Farm Bureau also found that turkey prices are driving dinner costs higher. At roughly $1.50 per pound more for a 16-pound bird, this is a 24-percent increase from last year.
Other local news outlets are investigating prices in their areas to see how much they deviate from the average. For example, the Daytona Beach News-Journal price-checked local supermarket chain prices and found that they were generally even higher than the Farm Bureau’s analysis, although not every item is more expensive.
Why are the data so different?
So which numbers are correct? The BLS, the Farm Bureau, or local price checking? It depends on the method and timing of the data collection. The Farm Bureau examined surveys made by voluntary shoppers who checked prices at store chains from October 26 – November 8. However, that was before many grocery stores began discounting prices on turkeys. As NPR explains:
— but the group, which lobbies on behalf of the agricultural industry, acknowledged that prices have already fallen in the time since the survey was conducted. This year, many grocery stores lowered prices later in the year, so the price of a frozen turkey, for example, is actually a lot more affordable right now. At the time of the survey, the cost for a 16-pound bird was around $1.50 per pound. But over the last week, it had fallen to 88 cents per pound for a whole frozen turkey.
BLS data also reflect prices on goods collected prior to Thanksgiving discounting.
Inflation is the bottom line
By whichever measure you use, Thanksgiving costs are higher and that is a troubling economic reality for nearly every household.
Drivers face record-breaking gas prices when they fill up at the pump to drive to grandma’s house. Nationwide, the average cost of a gallon of fuel is $3.41, roughly 50 percent higher than the same time last year. In Mono County California, residents are paying a whopping $6 a gallon for gas.
Home heating bills were 28 percent higher in October, which is well before cold weather set in across the country. Many families will face significant energy bills just to stay warm.
Grocery bills are stacking up even as shoppers find shortages, limited supplies, and smaller quantities of their daily needs. Let’s not forget that inflation has hit the dollar store.
Driving inflation are different factors including higher demand as Americans spend more and reduced supply due to supply-chain bottlenecks and transportation disruptions. Massive federal spending that flooded American households with cash and encouraged workers to leave their jobs and not seek new ones, is also to blame.
As the U.S. Senate considers another multi-trillion-dollar spending bill, we cannot ignore that undermining work will not slow inflation, but accelerate it. Americans know this, which is why, as my colleague Carrie Sheffield reported, a plurality of Americans think that more massive federal spending will make inflation worse.
As we head into the holiday season, Americans are already bracing for increased prices to put coal in their stockings and the Grinch of Christmas. If Congress acts on more federal spending, the financial pressure on household budgets will persist well into the new year.