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Cost of a Thanksgiving meal is lowest since 2010 — unless you're ordering delivery

The average total cost for 10 people is $46.90 this year, according to an annual survey from the American Farm Bureau Federation.
RI Turkey Farmers Adjust As Families Downsize Thanksgiving
Donald Baffoni checks on the 6-month-old turkeys in one of the coops at Baffoni's Poultry Farm in Johnston, R.I., on Nov. 10, 2020.John Tlumacki / The Boston Globe via Getty Images

As shoppers prepare for a Thanksgiving like no other, there is some good news: The cost of a traditional Thanksgiving meal is at its lowest level in a decade, and down 4 percent since last year.

The average total cost for 10 people is $46.90, or less than $5 per person, according to an annual survey from the American Farm Bureau Federation, a non-governmental group that represents the agriculture industry.

“The average cost of this year’s Thanksgiving dinner is the lowest since 2010,” John Newton, chief economist for the Farm Bureau, told NBC News. “What we see is that Thanksgiving continues to be affordable.”

The informal survey collects data from shoppers both online and in store as they record prices for classic holiday staples. The list includes turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk.

Turkey, the star at the center of the dinner table, has seen a 7 percent drop in cost this year, with a 16-pound bird coming in at $19.39. Other traditional holiday items that have seen a decline this year include sweet potatoes and whipped cream, while dinner rolls, pumpkin pie mix, and cubed bread stuffing has seen a modest increase in price.

As with online retail sales for holiday gifts, grocers began their sales and promotions earlier this year due to Covid-19.

“Around the holiday we did see USDA data that suggested more than 80 percent of retailers were already running promotions and that they had run promotions earlier this year than in years past," Newton said.

Consumers who opt to avoid the Thanksgiving crowds at the supermarket and order online via a grocery delivery service are unlikely to see any savings on their Thanksgiving shopping, however.

Rising cases of Covid-19 have led almost half of families to alter or forgo their Thanksgiving celebrations this year, while the other half plans to proceed as normal, according to a holiday planning consumer survey from Nielsen, an analytics company.

With travel discouraged and large gatherings banned in many states and cities, Americans find themselves adapting their holiday traditions this year as the pandemic poses both physical and financial constraints.

This year, 70 percent of those planning to celebrate Thanksgiving will do so with six or fewer individuals, up from 48 percent last year.