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Average cost of Thanksgiving dinner is slightly down for 2013

By ALLISON MILES
Nov. 19, 2013 at 5:19 a.m.

The average Turkey Day dinner will cost $49.04, or  44 cents less in 2013 than it did in 2012.

Let's talk turkey

Here's a look at the average cost of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, dating back through 1986, the year the American Farm Bureau Federation began tracking the information:

• 1986: $28.74

• 1987: $24.51

• 1988: $26.61

• 1989: $24.70

• 1990: $28.85

• 1991: $25.95

• 1992: $26.39

• 1993: $27.49

• 1994: $28.40

• 1995: $29.64

• 1996: $31.66

• 1997: $31.75

• 1998: $33.09

• 1999: $33.83

• 2000: $32.37

• 2001: $35.04

• 2002: $34.56

• 2003: $36.28

• 2004: $35.68

• 2005: $36.78

• 2006: $38.10

• 2007: $42.26

• 2008: $44.61

• 2009: $42.91

• 2010: $43.47

• 2011: $49.20

• 2012: $49.48

• 2013: $49.04

Source: American Farm Bureau Federation news release

Thanksgiving doesn't have to break the bank

Brenda Anderson, extension assistant with Better Living for Texans, part of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, offered up some tips on saving money this holiday.

• Buy only the amount of meat that you and your guests will eat.

• Serve fewer side dishes. For example, instead of stuffing, mashed potatoes, rolls, green bean casserole and yams, choose one starch and one vegetable.

• Start off with a fresh salad, which can help fill you up before the main meal.

• Instead of casseroles, serve vegetables on their own, seasoned with herbs and spices. This will save the cost and calories that come from adding in creams, soups, butter and toppings

• Serve healthy foods that offer more nutritional value for your money. Pumpkin pie is a better buy than chocolate or pecan pie because it provides more nutrition for a similar cost.

• Serve water along with other beverages. Guests are more likely to drink less of other beverages if they have water to quench their thirst.

• Plan your menu ahead of time and use sales and coupons in combination to save more money.

• Use generic and store-brand products whenever possible to cut down on costs.

People nationwide have one more thing to be thankful for this upcoming turkey day. Namely: a slightly less expensive meal.

The American Farm Bureau Federation last week released its annual study tracking the price of the classic Thanksgiving meal, and this year's haul dropped to $49.04, down 44 cents from last year's average.

The study bases its prices on a meal for 10 people, according to a farm bureau news release. The shopping list includes turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, coffee, milk and pumpkin pie with whipped cream.

The turkey - a 16-pound variety in this case - was the key element to the drop, according to the release, as it rang in at $21.76, or 47 cents less than last year.

Much of that likely comes because of slightly increased turkey production in 2013 and more birds in cold storage, John Anderson, the farm bureau's deputy chief economist, said in the release.

And better deals could be on their way.

"Special sales and promotions on turkey and other holiday food items will continue right up to Thanksgiving," he said in the release. "If you have the patience to wait until the last minute to buy a turkey, you might come home with an exceptional bargain."

Other items saw price drops, including rolls, green peas, bread stuffing, cranberries, whipping cream and pie shells. Meanwhile, sweet potatoes, milk and pumpkin pie mix saw moderate price increases, according to the release.

Still, one big-name retailer made a point that the average $49.04 isn't a hard and fast rule.

Wal-Mart issued a news release the same day as the farm bureau's went out, noting customers could obtain the same holiday offerings at its stores for $34.86.

"We don't believe families should have to compromise their holiday meal traditions because they are concerned about how much it costs," Jack Sinclair, executive vice president of grocery for Wal-Mart U.S., said in the release.

Other methods can help cut costs, said Brenda Anderson, extension assistant with Better Living for Texans, part of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

Generic products cost less than their name-brand counterparts, for instance, and can ease up on spending. Starting the meal with a salad can also help fill people up more quickly.

And for those who typically have leftovers following the holiday meal, consider serving less meat. After all, that's typically the most expensive element.

"Buy only the amount of meat that you and your guests will eat," she said in an email.

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