Thanksgiving-meal cost won't take an extra bite

2012-11-14T00:00:00Z 2012-11-14T09:18:48Z Thanksgiving-meal cost won't take an extra biteHoward Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star
November 14, 2012 12:00 am  • 

PHOENIX - Arizona consumers can give thanks for the fact that the grocery market in the state is so competitive.

New figures from the Arizona Farm Bureau show the cost of a typical Thanksgiving dinner for a family of 10 this year will be $47.53, which is about $1.50 less than last year and nearly $2 less than the national average for the same items.

A major eye-opener this year is the sharp drop in the cost of fixing the same dinner using only organic products.

Last year, going organic more than doubled the grocery bill, topping $106. This year's organic bottom line is less than $88.

"The Arizona retail market, it is so competitive," said Peggy Jo Goodfellow of the Arizona Farm Bureau Federation, which prepares the annual survey. And she said many more people are demanding organic products.

In some communities consumers have more options to shop around for the best price, with chains like Trader Joe's, Sprouts and Whole Foods each trying to carve out a niche in the market. The result, Goodfellow said, is these stores now have to be sure they are not being undersold.

For those not going the organic route, the list of items shows its normal year-to-year variance.

Turkeys, for example, are less expensive. So is milk and whipping cream, even though Goodfellow said farmers continue to cut the size of their herds to deal with higher feed prices because of the drought.

But the bag of cranberries for those who prefer to make their own sauce, versus the stuff from a can, will cost a bit more. And produce prices also are up, so the relish tray of celery and carrots will take more out of the wallet.

Goodfellow said there are ways to save money and bring in the cost below the Farm Bureau survey.

She pointed out the organization's volunteers base their reports on the list price of items, before any coupons, and before any specials offered to those shoppers who carry store "affinity" cards.

For example, Safeway is offering free birds with certain minimum purchases. Other stores are also providing deals to lure shoppers in their doors. (See Page A11, as well as the ad inserts in today's Star.)

She also said shoppers should not be fooled into believing that the more expensive name-brand items are necessarily better.

"Store brands work just as well," Goodfellow said. "They're all pretty much packaged at the same location many times."

Goodfellow said that while the survey may be a typical list, it is not necessarily a recipe for a happy family. "I go with what my family likes," she said.

But if you do have leftovers, Goodfellow said, there are lots of recipes on the organization's website - fillyourplate.org - for everything from sandwiches to quesadillas.

MOre INSIDE

• Thanksgiving deals are in today's grocery store ad inserts.

• Tips for saving on Thanksgiving spending, A11

• Our weekly Food section has recipes, A20

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