The $4.29 Thanksgiving Dinner

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We’re not talking about using coupons or tricks to throw together a random cheapie meal. We’re talking about the typical Thanksgiving feast, with turkey, cranberry sauce, rolls, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie.

The American Farm Bureau (spotted via Consuming Interests, thanks) says that because prices have come down on certain foods, including turkey and milk, Thanksgiving dinner should be 4% cheaper than last year. In 2009, the average cost for a Thanksgiving dinner that feeds ten is $42.91, or about $4.29 a person. Last year, the average meal for ten was $44.61, $1.70 more expensive.

The price decrease is nice. But what stands out to me is that the day we gorge and eat and pass out and unbuckle our belts and eat some more isn’t that expensive, even before food prices dropped. All you have to do is cook at home and your meals will be reasonably priced. It’s as simple as that. Even if you occasionally go all out with an expensive piece of meat, cooking at home is still way cheaper than going out to eat, even at restaurants we all consider cheap.

As Jim Sartwell, an American Farm Bureau economist, says of the home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner:

Again this year, the cost per person for this special meal is less than a typical “value meal” at a fast-food outlet.

Think about that the next time you’re pulling up to the drive-thru.

A Consumer Reports blogger, meanwhile, offers a way to trim your Thanksgiving grocery bill even further. He saves an easy 34% by purchasing store brand foods rather than national brands when putting together a standard Thanksgiving dinner, and previous blind taste tests by Consumer Reports (and an indie blogger) show that the generic brands taste just as good.

Thanksgiving Dinner: Easier, Cheaper, More Authentic, Less Awkward, Gravier