Thanksgiving Dinner Costs 21% More Than It Did in 2020

The main course comes with a substantial serving of inflation in 2021

illustration of a full plate at a thanksgiving dinner. food items are labeled with their 2021 cost. title "the rising price of thanksgving dinner: ingredient cost for 10 people"

The Balance / Dennis Madamba

Cost-conscious cooks might want to get creative with their Thanksgiving menus. Staples of the holiday meal are pricier, making a dinner for 10 people 21% more expensive than the same meal last year, according to a recent analysis by The Balance. A 2021 holiday feast is also more than 11% more costly than the same meal purchased for a pre-pandemic Thanksgiving in 2019.

Key Takeaways

  • Ingredients for a 10-person Thanksgiving dinner cost $55.49, up from $45.73 in 2020
  • Both ham and turkey—typical main dishes—jumped in price
  • Lower prices on corn and sweet potatoes present opportunities for savings

The Balance analyzed agricultural prices since 2019 and found the biggest increase in ham, which rose over 62% since last year. Turkey isn’t much cheaper of an option, though prices jumped more modestly (about 8%) this year compared to the 2019-2020 increase. But at $16.29 for a 15-pound bird, the traditional centerpiece of a Thanksgiving dinner is 29% more expensive than it was in 2019. Potatoes (up 8.38%) and cranberries (28.5%) also pushed the meal price higher. 

But not every item in your Thanksgiving feast will cost you more this year. Both corn and sweet potatoes have gotten cheaper over the last two years. Two and a half pounds of sweet potatoes will cost you less than $4, a decrease of 4.33% since last year. Thanksgiving dinner saw the biggest decreases in corn prices, which dropped nearly 9.5% since last year, and almost 13% since 2019. Pumpkins (0.52%) cost about the same as they did in 2020 and 2019. 

The Balance’s analysis looked at costs for fresh fruits and vegetables, not canned.

In total, Thanksgiving this year will set you back an average of $55.49, more than $5.50 over the same meal in 2019, and nearly $10 more than it would have cost you for Thanksgiving last year. 

Not Just a Thanksgiving Problem

The things Americans spend money on cost 6.2% more than they did last year, according to October data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the fastest increase in over 30 years. Prices rose in almost every category in the Consumer Price Index (CPI): Food cost 0.9% more in October than in September and leapt 5.3% from the same month last year.

While wages have also grown, prices have risen at a faster pace. Unfortunately for grocery shoppers, it doesn’t look like food prices will be falling any time soon: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that grocery prices will rise between 1.5% and 2.5% in 2022.

But why is food getting so expensive? The USDA highlighted strong demand, labor shortages, supply chain disruptions, and climate events like storms and drought as contributing factors.

Research and analysis by
Adrian Nesta
Adrian Nesta, Research Analyst on the Data Journalism team at Dotdash
Full Bio
Adrian Nesta is a research analyst on the Data Journalism team at Dotdash, the digital publisher that owns and operates The Balance. His work includes data collection, cleaning, analysis, and visualization for stories in the data journalism portfolio across every vertical at Dotdash.
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Article Sources

  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Consumer Price Index Summary - 2021 M10 Results.”

  2. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Real Earnings - October 2021." Page 1.

  3. USDA Economic Research Service. “Summary Findings - Food Price Outlook 2021.”