The pace of inflation hit a 30-year high in September, according to the latest Commerce Department data. Food prices, specifically, rose 4.6% from last year. That means that if you're hosting Thanksgiving this year, you'll probably be spending more than you did in previous years, says Daniel Roccato, a personal finance expert at Credible and a clinical professor of finance at the University of San Diego School of Business.
"You are going to be paying more this year for putting on Thanksgiving dinner, throwing a party, and giving gifts," he says.
If you want a turkey to be the center piece of your meal, plan to spend a little more than in previous years. "I've seen that turkey [prices] are supposed to be up 8% or 9%," Roccato says.
The price of meats, poultry (including turkeys), fish, and eggs increased 10.5% from last year, according to Commerce Department data.
The increase is largely due to inflation and supply chain delays. Typically, the United States has an excess of turkeys, but this year, selections will be sparse, Rebecca Scheuneman, a Morningstar analyst, recently told Grow. "While USDA turkey cold-storage inventory is well below levels experienced in recent years, this does not reflect a shortage, but the market's oversupply the last few years," she says. "This excess supply depressed prices for turkey."
When you go to the store, birds might be a few dollars more in order "to cover the inflation they're experiencing in raw materials, labor, packaging, and transportation," she says.
Video by Courtney Stith
Fewer available turkeys also means less variety when it comes to size. Earlier this fall, Hormel told Scheuneman during an investor relations group call that it's unclear what size of turkey will be most sought-after. "It is difficult to predict what size birds will be in demand this season, which depends on how big gatherings will be," Scheuneman says.
Last year, large gatherings were not encouraged. This year it's hard to say how comfortable Americans are traveling and hosting.
"While [Hormel] feels that it was able to supply a sufficient number of birds, it is possible that the mix of sizes could be off, which could cause consumers to not be able to source the size of the bird they're searching for," Scheuneman.
Butterball is having the same issue. "The best advice we can offer is to shop early if there is a specific turkey size or product you want at the center of your Thanksgiving meal," says company spokesperson Christa Leupen.
It's not just turkeys that will be pricier. Fresh vegetable prices are up 3% and dairy products are up 0.6% from last year, according to Commerce Department data. Some food categories are experiencing even more dramatic cost increases. Beef prices, for example, rose 17.6% over last year.
To prepare, you might want to plan your Thanksgiving menu now. If you have freezer space, buy anything that can be frozen as soon as possible.
Price comparing will be extra important this year as some stores will be better able to absorb higher costs than others. Costco, for example, chartered three container ships and bought a $340 million distribution facility. This means the warehouse club can order merchandise earlier and keep it stored longer than it otherwise would, with fewer worries about supply chain points breaking along the way.
Regardless, Americans might want to plan to spend a little bit more this year, Roccato says: "Across the board, we are talking about higher prices."
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