Thanksgiving dinner is gonna be a lot more expensive this year

A classic Thanksgiving dinner with spiced turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and green beans
  • Thanksgiving is around the corner, and inflation is what’s for dinner.
  • Turkey prices are a whopping 13% higher than they were two years ago.
  • It’s not all bad — potatoes are up only 2%, and the apples for your pie have gone up much less than overall inflation.

Thanksgiving is going to be a real turkey this year, and it’s because of a very 2021 dinner guest who’s showing up to the party: inflation.

The latest consumer price inflation release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed prices overall across the economy increased 6.2% between October 2020 and October 2021. The inflation read was broad-based, with prices for almost all goods and services going up over the last month.

Food prices are one of the big components of the inflationary surge, with groceries up 5.4% over the last year. With Thanksgiving coming up, we decided to take a look at how some of the components of a traditional dinner have fared since October 2019, the last pre-pandemic Thanksgiving season, based on the detailed CPI components data published by BLS:

Turkey prices are up about 13% from two years ago, outstripping the 7.5% increase in overall prices over that period. Ham, fresh dinner rolls, and canned fruits and vegetables also have outpaced general inflation from before the pandemic.

It's not all bad news — mashed potatoes, one of the most crucial side dishes for any Thanksgiving table, should still be affordable, with potato prices up only 2% over the last two years. The fresh apples needed for your grandmother's pie are only about 3.5% more expensive than they were before the pandemic. Since the Federal Reserve shoots for about 2% inflation per year, both of those are cheaper relative to what "normal" price increases would be than two years ago.

Here's a look at how much more the ingredients for Thanksgiving dinner cost now, compared to 2019:

  • Turkey: 13.2%
  • Ham: 8.7%
  • Canned fruits and vegetables: 8.3%
  • Fresh biscuits, rolls, and muffins: 8.1%
  • Frozen fruits and vegetables: 7.5%
  • Frozen and refrigerated bakery products: 6.8%
  • Sauces and gravy: 6.7%
  • Ice cream: 5.3%
  • Rice, pasta, and cornmeal: 3.6%
  • Fresh apples: 3.2%
  • Potatoes: 2.0%

Food joins a host of other goods and services that have seen prices skyrocket over the last year amid supply chain woes and a surge in demand. The pandemic changed Americans' purchasing habits, and the big influx of stimulus money over the last year and a half has provided families with fatter wallets to fuel demand.

Given the big uptick in turkey prices, this might be a good Thanksgiving to try something non-traditional — pasta has gone up less than 4% over the last two years, an Italiansgiving could be in order.