St. Charles Herald-Guide

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From staff and wire reports - November 20, 2007

FROM WIRE REPORTS

LSU AgCenter Writer

When Louisiana cooks shop for their Thanksgiving meal, they’ll find the cost of the basic dinner items will average $36.31 for 10 people, according to an LSU AgCenter survey of Baton Rouge-area prices.

That’s down by $3.50 from last year’s average of $39.81 – a 9 percent drop.

The survey was based on an American Farm Bureau Federation survey shopping list that includes turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream and beverages of coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a group of 10.

The cost of a 16-pound turkey, at $13.60, or roughly $.85 per pound, reflects a decrease of 23 cents per pound, or a total decrease of $3.68 per turkey. "This is the major reason for the overall decrease in the cost of the 2007 Thanksgiving dinner," said LSU AgCenter family economist Dr. Jeanette Tucker.

The LSU AgCenter and Farm Bureau surveys both looked for the best possible prices without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals. Research suggests that four out of five whole, frozen Thanksgiving turkeys are sold on a holiday special.

USDA research in 2004 found that whole frozen turkeys sold in November were two-thirds the cost that consumers paid for the same turkeys during the other 11 months of the year.

This suggests that many consumers probably purchase Thanksgiving turkeys for considerably less than either survey reports," Tucker said.

Another item priced lower this year is a package of two 9-inch pie shells for $2.01, down from $2.61 in 2006.

Higher-priced items this year include: a gallon of whole milk, $4.48; 3 pounds of sweet potatoes, $3.15; a 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries, $2.32; 30-ounce pumpkin pie mix, $1.98; 16-ounce froze green peas, $1.26; 12-ounce cubed stuffing mix, $1.84; 12-ounce brown-and-serve rolls, $1.54; and 8-ounce whipping cream, $1.50.

These price increases can likely be attributed to inflation, increased labor costs and higher energy prices which affect processing, packing, refrigeration and shipping costs.

Insufficient information was provided by the Farm Bureau study to replicate the cost survey for a combined group of miscellaneous items such as coffee, celery, carrots and other ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (onions, eggs, sugar, flour, evaporated milk and butter).

"Thus, the AgCenter used last year’s national average of $2.63," Tucker said.

The Farm Bureau survey was first conducted in 1986 when the average cost of a Thanksgiving meal for 10 was $28.74.

According to the Consumer Price Index data, the 1986 Thanksgiving market basket would cost $55.67 in 2007 dollars, indicating that the real cost of the holiday meal has actually decreased over time, Tucker noted.

The AgCenter does not make any statistical claims about the data, but the survey results reveal price trends in Louisiana, according to the family economist. Tucker offered a number of money-saving tips when shopping for Thanksgiving:

• Always use a list, and minimize number of trips to the store.

• Develop the list based on store layout to save time as well as money.

• Shop alone and avoid going to the store just before a meal.

• Check store ads and flyers for money-saving specials.

• Use coupons to reduce the cost of products that you usually buy and use.

• Purchase generic or store brands when practical and money-saving.

• Remember that items placed at eyelevel on shelves are often more expensive.

• Purchase fruits, vegetables and fresh seafood in season to avoid higher prices.

• Purchase fresh, unpeeled, unwashed, unpackaged vegetables.

• Buy in bulk whenever practical to save on cost per ounce and pound.

• Determine cost per serving when selecting meats.

• Check unit pricing to save money.

• Avoid expensive single servings and snack packs.

• Be flexible to take advantage of in-store specials.

For related holiday and family economics and consumer topics, visit the LSU AgCenter homepage, at www.lsuagcenter.com.

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