Breaking: Thanksgiving Price Increases ‘Just Astronomical,’ Shoppers Say

Renee Fernandez had a simple strategy for Thanksgiving shopping this year: look for sales.

The 40-year-old stay-at-home mom who expects to host ten people for Thanksgiving visited several Long Island, N.Y., stores looking for deals and hoping to stretch her $250 grocery budget.

"I'm not even looking at brands right now," said Fernandez, while shopping recently at a ShopRite in Selden. "It's like, whatever is within my price range and however much I have to spend [in my budget]. If I have to put something back, I will."

Some of Fernandez's family members are helping this year with the cooking and baking. But, she said, there will likely be some holiday favorites missing from the dinner table. "There's certain things my sister likes that I just can't make because the inflation is just crazy," she said.

It's not just a Thanksgiving problem. Fernandez's husband drives for UPS, working long hours and Saturdays, she said. But the family is still struggling to keep up with rising prices.

"The prices are just astronomical," she said, "so, no matter what we do, it's never enough."

Fernandez is not alone this year. Heading into the holiday season, Americans nationwide continue to struggle with high prices for everything from food to gas to rent.

Inflation rose steadily in the months after President Biden took office, with the Consumer Price Index peaking at a 9.1 percent year-over-year increase in June, a new 40-year-high. While inflation has eased slightly since then — CPI was up 7.7 percent annually in October — inflationary pressures continue to squeeze American families. Republicans have slammed the Biden administration for exacerbating the problem by pouring trillions in new government spending on an overheated economy that was emerging from the Covid pandemic when Biden was elected.

Two years after Biden took the oath, the American Farm Bureau found that a twelve-item "classic Thanksgiving feast for ten" – including turkey, pumpkin pie, stuffing, cranberries, milk, and veggies – will cost $64.05 on average. That's 20 percent higher than last year's price, $53.31, and up nearly 37 percent over 2020, when the same items cost $46.90, according to the Farm Bureau. The bureau, which has been tracking Thanksgiving prices for 37 years, calculates its Thanksgiving prices based on surveys from more than 200 volunteer shoppers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

Over the last week, National Review reporters visited grocery stores in New York, Florida, Wisconsin, and Washington, D.C., to compare Thanksgiving meal prices. In many cases, the prices they found were significantly higher than those reported by the Farm Bureau.

At a Publix in southwest Florida, for example, turkey prices started at $2.29 per pound on Friday. At that price, a 16-pound turkey would run $36.64, nearly $8 more than the Farm Bureau's average price of $28.96. A gallon of whole milk at Publix was $4.95, more than a dollar higher than the Farm Bureau's price, $3.84. Publix prices were also higher for russet potatoes, green beans, and pumpkin-pie mix. Prices for ham, pie shells, and sweet potatoes were lower.

Luke Olson, who lives in the Fort Myers area, said he and his wife have been doing more meal planning then they did before inflation started to spike in mid 2021. "We have to make a list now each week before the week starts, and kind of itemize what we're going to eat for the whole week, and plan according to that for how much money we need," he said.

Olson, a father of three and grandfather of four, said Thanksgiving will mostly be the same this year, but with at least one cost-saving change. "We usually do a whole turkey. This year we're just going to do the turkey breast," he said.

At the ShopRite on Long Island, turkey started at $1.89 per pound, which would put a 16-pound bird at just over $30. Cook's brand spiral-sliced ham was $3.39 per pound, the same as last year. At that price, a four-pound ham would cost $13.56, nearly $2 more than the $11.64 Farm Bureau average.

Rino DeGuida, who is hosting 20 people for Thanksgiving this year, said he is more aware of prices this year. "It's bad. Something's got to break soon," said DeGuida, who was shopping at ShopRite. He said he's taken up couponing this year to help cut costs.

A 75-year-old woman at ShopRite, who declined to give her name, said her adult son moved back home during the pandemic, and is unemployed. That has led to higher grocery and utility bills, she said. Many days, she said, she's living on soup and crackers, but for Thanksgiving she intends to cook a traditional meal.

"I'm only buying what I absolutely need as opposed to some of the special treats, and I do a lot of my own baking as opposed to buying baked goods, because prices are ridiculous," she said.

In New York City, where residents expect to pay a premium on most commodities, shoppers at a Whole Foods in Midtown, Manhattan, have noticed price hikes on many of their favorite Thanksgiving foods this year. "Turkeys are probably $3 or $4 more. Inflation is very bad," said a store clerk, noting that some shoppers have complained about the rising prices.

"It's really fun living in the city," a female shopper joked in reply.

For city dwellers who don't want to cook, Whole Foods offers prepared Thanksgiving meals ranging from $109.99 to $249.99. Last year, the same meals ranged from $84.99 to $189.99.

"With inflation, its' very expensive. Everything is worse than last year," said a female shopper, who suggested shopping for turkey at Trader Joe's.

Monica Robinson, who was shopping recently at a Harris Teeter supermarket in the Washington, D.C., NoMa neighborhood, said she is well aware of the skyrocketing grocery prices in recent years. "I think you notice more if you're a person who is a cook or the provider for a family," she said. "I'm the cook, so I'm noticing it more."

Robinson said she recently got a new job that is helping her withstand the effects of inflation, but it is obvious to her that others are struggling. "There are families out there who are suffering, and they're either cutting back or doing without," she said. "Food costs touch everything. Transportation costs touch everything. So, all if it is a domino effect, and if we don't get a handle on it, it's gonna go out of control."

Josh, a father of two picking up items at Harris Teeter for Thanksgiving at his mother-in-law's house, said he and his wife are buying more generic items and sticking to their shopping list.

"Every time I check out at the grocery store, it's like 30 or 40 percent more. It used to be like $120. Now it's like $170," he said. "Harris Teeter is not so bad, because a lot of this stuff will be on sale, but the difference is the on-sale price is what used to be the normal price."

In Wisconsin, which has a large number of poultry and hog farms, prices for both turkey and ham are down slightly this Thanksgiving, according to the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation. A Pick ‘n Save store in Appleton, Wisc., had a special on Butterball turkeys, selling them for 99 cents per pound. However, fixing price increases have pushed a Wisconsin Thanksgiving meal up 4.3 percent over last year, according to the Farm Bureau. Prices for a full Thanksgiving spread were generally lower at Pick ‘n Save, compared with a nearby Meijer supermarket, according to a local news report.

Back in Florida, several shoppers who spoke to National Review had been severely impacted by Hurricane Ian in September. The high grocery prices were making their recovery harder.

A woman named Cynthia, who declined to provide her last name, was loading groceries into her sport utility vehicle at a local Walmart on Sunday. The hurricane flooded her storage unit and blew out the windows of her home, damaging her master bedroom and bathroom, she said. Normally, she and her husband would go out to eat on Thanksgiving. This year, to save money, they're staying home. "We're just going to do a pork chop," she said.

Don Creed, who was shopping at a Publix near Fort Myers Beach on Sunday, lost two vehicles in the hurricane, and his home was damaged. His son was sent to the hospital after he and his girlfriend got trapped in a flooded laundromat, he said. They are now living with Creed.

Creed said they're trying to cut down on food costs. "We're kind of staying away from meats," he said. "And we're doing anything we can to make the meal last longer than just one meal."

Instead of turkey or ham, Creed said they're having lasagna for Thanksgiving this year. But it's less about food prices, and more about turning the page and starting something new.

"We want the past to be the past," he said, "and we want to look at the future as something different."

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Thanksgiving Price Increases ‘Just Astronomical,’ Shoppers Say

NR reporters visited grocery stores in New York, Florida, Wisconsin, and Washington D.C. to ask shoppers how ... READ MORE


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