It is that time of year again where we get stuffed to the gills with turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, and more! But do you ever wonder how much your Thanksgiving dinner costs? Do you ever wonder if there is a price difference among your local neighborhood grocery stores? The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) addresses these questions every year with their annual informal survey of the cost of a classic Thanksgiving dinner.
We here at priceBAM also wonder about the cost of your traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Consequently, we introduce our third annual informal survey that is patterned after the AFBF survey. Our first annual survey is here and our second annual survey is here. Our annual survey demonstrates the power of priceBAM to help you find the best prices and provides another reliable source that will help you estimate your Thanksgiving dinner costs.
Please note that our price survey is an informal and non-scientific survey. Our price survey was conducted in the Bellevue, Washington area. Bellevue is a suburb located east of Seattle on the eastern shore of Lake Washington. We surveyed five supermarket stores (local stores of large store chains) that are all within a three mile radius of each other:
The price survey was conducted on November 16, 2014. When national brands could not be compared (for example, milk), we used store brands. Sale prices were used in lieu of regular prices. Club prices were not used. However, special deals - for example, a free turkey for $100 spent - were not used.
Our survey is patterned after the AFBF survey and uses most of the items listed in the AFBF survey. The AFBF survey does not compare like brands. Rather, it does not specify the brand or any specifics of products in purchased. In contrast, our survey does attempt to select national brands wherever possible because it makes for a more valid and easier comparison. The AFBF survey also has a category for miscellaneous items. AFBF does not release the list of items and the amount of these items for each of these miscellaneous items. Accordingly, our survey does not incorporate these miscellaneous items.
The following is the list of items surveyed among the supermarkets (except for Whole Foods where we use a different section - see below for more details). We note the general name of the category in the first column and the corresponding national brand item (or local store item) surveyed in the second column:
Items Surveyed (for Fred Meyer, QFC, Safeway, and Walmart Neighborhood Market)
| Item Category || National Brand (or Store Brand) |
| Turkey, 16 lbs || Butterball premium young turkey |
| Rolls, 12 || Store brands, various national brands |
| Carrots, 1/2 lbs || Carrots (loose) |
| Celery, 1/2 lbs || Celery (bunch) - various varieties |
| Whipping cream, 8 oz || Cool Whip Original Whipped Topping |
| Cubed stuffing, 12 oz || Stove Top Stuffing Mix for Turkey |
| Sweet potatoes, 3 lbs || Sweet potato - various varieties |
| Whole Milk, 1 gallon || Store brands |
| Fresh cranberries, 12 oz || Ocean Spray Fresh Premium Cranberries |
| Frozen green peas, 1 lb || Birds Eye C&W Petite Peas |
| Pumpkin pie mix, 29 oz || Libby's Pumpkin Mix |
| Pie shells (2) || Keebler Ready Crust Graham Pie Crust |
We surveyed different items for Whole Foods Market. Obviously, Whole Foods caters to a different clientele and purports to offer higher quality and organic/natural products. Organic items were chosen over conventional items whenever possible. The Whole Foods brand (365 Everyday Value or 365 Organic) was chosen over national brands except for the pumpkin pie mix.
The following is the list of items surveyed at Whole Foods Market. We note the general name of the category in the first column and the corresponding Whole Foods items surveyed in the second column.
Items Surveyed (for Whole Foods Market)
| Item Category || Whole Foods Item |
| Turkey, 16 lbs || Whole Foods Market Organic Young Turkey |
| Rolls, 12 || Franz Old Fashioned Dinner Rolls |
| Carrots, 1/2 lbs || Organic carrots (loose) |
| Celery, 1/2 lbs || Organic celery (bunch) |
| Whipping cream, 7 oz || 365 Everyday Value Real Dairy Light Whipped Cream |
| Cubed stuffing, 10 oz || 365 Organic Stuffing Mix (with cranberries and chicken flavor) |
| Sweet potatoes, 3 lbs || Organic sweet potato |
| Whole Milk, 1 gallon || Whole Foods Market Organic Whole Milk |
| Fresh cranberries, 7.5 oz || naturipe Organic Cranberries |
| Frozen green peas, 1 lb || 365 Organic Green Peas |
| Pumpkin pie mix, 17.6 oz || Pacific Organic Pumpkin Puree |
| Pie shells (2) || Arrowhead Mills Graham Cracker Crust |
Results from our Classic Thanksgiving Dinner Cost Survey (for Fred Meyer, QFC, Safeway, and Walmart)
| Fred Meyer || QFC || Safeway || Walmart |
| Turkey, 16 lbs (price per lb) || $2.19 || $2.19 || $1.59 || $1.18 |
| Rolls, 12 (price per package) || $3.99 || $4.39 || $2.49 || $2.28 |
| Carrots, 1/2 lbs (price per lb) || $0.59 || $0.99 || $0.69 || $0.581 |
| Celery, 1/2 lbs (price per lb) || $0.69 || $0.99 || $0.89 || $0.741 |
| Whipping cream, 8 oz (price per package) || $1.00 || $1.49 || $2.49 || $0.98 |
| Cubed stuffing, 12 oz, 2 boxes (price per box) || $1.25 || $1.49 || $2.29 || $1.25 |
| Sweet potatoes, 3 lbs (price per lb) || $1.29 || $1.69 || $1.99 || $0.88 |
| Whole Milk, 1 gallon (price per bottle) || $3.29 || $2.99 || $3.59 || $3.38 |
| Fresh cranberries, 12 oz (price per package) || $2.00 || $2.99 || $2.99 || $1.98 |
| Frozen green peas, 1 lb (price per bag) || $2.00 || $2.49 || $2.49 || $2.28 |
| Pumpkin pie mix, 29 oz (price per can) || $2.99 || $3.99 || $3.49 || $2.88 |
| Pie shells (2) (price per package) || $1.99 || $2.49 || $2.39 || $1.78 |
| Total Cost || $61.21 || $67.91 || $54.14 || $42.02 |
1Walmart did not have bulk/loose carrots or celery available for sale. Instead, it only had prepackaged carrot and celery hearts. We thus took a prorated amount based on the weight of the package.
NOTE: The store(s) with the lowest cost for an item category has the particularly cell highlighted in bold for that particular item category.
Results from our Classic Thanksgiving Dinner Cost Survey (for Whole Foods Market)
| Item || Whole Foods Market Price (Total Price) |
| Whole Foods Market Organic Young Turkey (price per lb), 16 lbs || $3.99 ($63.84) |
| Franz Old Fashioned Dinner Rolls (price per package) || $3.49 |
| Organic Carrots, 1/2 lbs (price per lb) || $0.49 ($0.99) |
| Organic Celery, 1/2 lbs (price per lb) || $0.99 ($1.99) |
| 365 Everyday Value Real Dairy Light Whipped Cream, 7 oz (price per package) || $3.99 |
| 365 Organic Stuffing Mix, 10 oz (price per package)1 || $3.00 |
| Sweet potato, 3 lbs (price per lb) || $2.49 |
| Whole Foods Market Organic Whole Milk, 1 gallon (price per package) || $5.49 |
| naturipe Organic Cranberries, 7.5 oz (price per package)1 || $3.99 |
| 365 Organic Green Peas, 1 lb (price per package) || $1.99 |
| Pacific Organic Pumpkin Puree, 17 oz (price per package)1 || $3.00 |
| Arrowhead Mills Graham Cracker Crust, 2 (price per package) || $2.99 ($5.98) |
| Total Cost || $109.49 |
1 Note the package sizes differ (most notably being smaller) from the package sizes used in the survey for QFC, Fred Meyer, Safeway, and Walmart Neighborhood Market.
Similar to the previous surveys, there was a wide price discrepancy among the stores. However, the story stayed similar to previous years. Walmart is again the runaway price leader this year. It beat the other grocery stores by the largest margin ever - 28% lower in price than the next least expensive grocery store (Safeway). Safeway once again came in second although it once again did not have the lowest price in any item category. QFC lagged far behind this year and demonstrated a significant price increase year over year. In fact, QFC's prices were 61% higher than Walmart's prices! Don't ever let anyone tell you grocery comparison shopping cannot save you money!
The results once again demonstrate that turkey dominates the overall price of a Thanksgiving dinner. Special consideration should be given to selecting a turkey at the lowest price. Over one-third of the total bill is contributed by the price of the turkey! Walmart's turkey prices are a little less than half the price of the same exact item at both QFC and Fred Meyer! You can save slightly over $16 just by purchasing the 16 lb turkey at Walmart instead of Fred Meyer and QFC! However, turkey prices are lower than last year by a significant amount (at least for Walmart), albeit turkey prices increased from $1.08 just two years ago. There is clear price inflation in regards to turkey.
Other trends include:
- Milk prices have considerably increased this year unlike last year when it dropped significantly. This mirrors an overall trend in rising dairy prices over the past year.
- Processed food (such as pie shells, pumpkin pie mix, and cubed stuffing) prices seems to have stabilized in comparison to the year before.
- With the exception of milk, prices have stabilized across the board for all item categories. This is surely a welcome relief to families struggling across the country.
- However, an examination of prices show an increase in prices from 2-12% over a two year period.
Walmart was the consistent price leader in nearly all item categories - and most importantly, in the turkey category. However, Fred Meyer was the price leader in a few categories due to sales on a few items, so it still pays to find store specials in your area. Obviously, this is where priceBAM can help!
In regards to Whole Foods, it is quite obvious that items purchased at Whole Foods are more expensive than those bought in traditional grocery stores. The total cost is over twice the cost of a traditional grocery store. The gap between stores that sell conventional (non-organic) products and Whole Foods seems to have widened this year. Whether the additional cost is worth it based on the supposed increased quality and safety of the products is subject to debate and can only be answered by the grocery shopper. However, year over year changes in the prices charged by Whole Foods seems to be limited again this year. Whole Foods seems to have done a good job in limiting the price increases.
This survey demonstrated the wide price disparity among stores in a local area. Walmart was the clear total price leader, but you can find specials in other grocery stores. It pays to do some comparison shopping especially for the turkey. If you combine smart, targeted shopping along with judiciuous use of coupons and other incentives, you can feed a family of ten on a very limited budget.
Finally, this survey demonstrates the power of priceBAM! We need your help in adding prices to the database. Sharing your prices helps you identify pricing patterns in your local stores and also helps others. You can start by creating an account (click on the create account link on the top of the page) and creating your own shopping trip. If you want to mimic our Thanksgiving dinner shopping list, you can do so by looking at our shopping list (which has been stripped of store brands for milk and dinner rolls as well as turkey because it is a local store item. Its identifier differs from store to store).
We welcome your comments and suggestions! Is this what you want to see from priceBAM in the future? Let us know!