Tennesseans Thankful but Struggle As Costly Thanksgiving Hits in 2021

John M. Dabbs

Preparing for Thanksgiving dinnerClaudio Schwarz

More than our weight and waistlines will go up this holiday season. The Tennessee Farm Bureau says Thanksgiving dinner costs show the average holiday meal will be at least 14% more than it cost families in 2020. Turkey isn't the only thing to have gone up either.

Nearly all facets of your holiday meal will likely cost more money than before, thanks to inflation. Supply chain issues have also led to nearly all ingredients for our Thanksgiving feast to be more expensive, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation's annual Thanksgiving dinner cost survey.

The survey concludes the average cost of the classic Thanksgiving feast is $53.31 (for a party of ten). This is a $5 per person increase over last year. This year's feast is reportedly the highest in the federation's 36 years of conducting the survey.

Interestingly enough, 2020 was reported as the least expensive in a decade, as most families skipped large gatherings - in favor of smaller gatherings and meals in the midst of the pandemic. The survey also reports the 2021 meal being expected to be up 9% of the last "normal" holiday meal, in 2019.

The Farm Bureau Federation's list hasn't changed since 1986. It is widely considered a reliable record of holiday meal cost comparison over the years. The list of compared products include:

  • Two frozen pie crusts: $2.91 (up 20%)
  • 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix: $3.64 (up 7%)
  • A half pint of whipping cream: $1.78 (up 2%)
  • A dozen dinner rolls: $3.05 (up 15%)
  • A gallon of whole milk: $3.30 (up 7%)
  • Miscellaneous ingredients to prepare the meal: $3.45 (up 12%)
  • 14-ounce bag of cubed stuffing mix: $2.29 (down 19%)
  • 1-pound veggie tray (carrots & celery): 82 cents (up 12%)
  • 1-pound of frozen peas: $1.54 (up 6%)
  • Heinz Turkey Gravy: $2.17 (up 9%)

Only the 14-ounce cubed stuffing went down since last year - dropping 52 cents from $2.81.

The Federation's survey also includes less common, but very mainstream, items such as russet potatoes and frozen green beans. Those families who choose to include these and ham to their feast with the expanded dishes to $68.41.

Inflation trends

USA Today reported Inflation is at a 31 year high. Food prices are up some 5.4% over last year (ending November), according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The CPI (Consumer Price Index) shows an 11.9% combined increase in meat, poultry, fish, and eggs.

"Unfortunately, restaurants are impacted even more harshly than home kitchens, with overhead also reaching highs." said Shane Lewin, owner of Shane's Place in Johnson City, Tennessee. Lewin says "A trip to a restaurant holiday meal will likely cost you even more. They have higher food prices, worker shortages, and those who are working necessitate a higher wage."


Jennie-O Turkey Store's recent survey tells how people plan to celeb rate. Their findings include:

  • 53% will purchase a whole turkey instead of just the breast
  • 5% more people plan to buy a larger turkey this year (37% of respondents will be the cooks)
  • Most people prefer dark meat over white meat
  • 27% estimate they will eat 7-10 pounds of turkey
  • 51% of people plan to roast their turkey
  • 34% plan to fry their turkey
  • Most people plan to make enough food to have plenty of leftovers.

You can find help on preparing your own bird from their experts at the Jennie-O website, or texting “Turkey” to 73876.

Turkey leftovers

I love to do quite a bit of the cooking at our home. I have been creative with our leftovers, though the turkey itself seems to last longer than most of the side dishes. Those that don't keep well are usually tossed - regardless of the quantity. Our dog and cat are usually the first to pick through them before we take them to the compost pile or trash.

Here are a few of the creations I typically use, though I've not listed them in any particular order:

  1. Turkey sandwiches
  2. Turkey pot pie
  3. Turkey helper
  4. Turkey stuffed peppers
  5. Creamed Turkey
  6. Turkey and Dumplings (one of my favorites)
  7. Turkey quesadillas
  8. Turkey noodle soup
  9. Sweet and Sour Turkey

I hope this story has been informative for you, and that you'll be able to take some information and even some ideas for your own leftovers home with you. Happy Thanksgiving!

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An outdoor enthusiast with a passion for travel and adventure. John is a professional consultant and photojournalist.

Bristol, TN

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