Other items showing a price increase this year include one gallon of whole milk, $4.54 (up 11 cents); 30-ounce pumpkin pie mix, $2.84 (up 15 cents); 3 pounds sweet potatoes, $2.86 (up 20 cents); and 12 ounces cubed stuffing mix, $2.15 (up 79 cents).

Five items showing a price decrease include a 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries, $2.39 (down 11 cents); 12-ounce brown and serve rolls, $2.22 (down 13 cents); 16-ounce frozen green peas, $1.50 (down 32 cents); 8 ounces of whipping cream, $1.62 (down 15 cents); and two 9-inch pie shells, $1.92 (down 37 cents).  

The Farm Bureau study didn’t provide enough information to replicate the costs for a group of miscellaneous items such as coffee, celery, carrots, onions, eggs, sugar, flour, evaporated milk, butter and other ingredients necessary to prepare the meal. "Thus, the AgCenter used last year’s national average of $3.86," Tucker said.

The USDA projects a 2.5 to 3.5 percent price increase in all at-home food from 2011 to 2012. Guidry said this increase is expected to be higher in the last quarter of 2012 and into 2013 as the market starts to fully reflect the effects of lower overall commodity supplies as a result of the 2012 drought.    

The Farm Bureau survey was first conducted in 1986 when the average cost of a Thanksgiving meal for 10 was $28.74. According to Consumer Price Index data, the 1986 Thanksgiving market basket would cost $59.63 in 2012 dollars, indicating the real cost of the holiday meal has actually decreased over time.

“On average, American consumers have enjoyed stable food costs over the years, particularly when you adjust for inflation,” Tucker said.

Consumers can enjoy a wholesome, home-cooked turkey dinner for under $4.50 per person – less than a typical fast food meal. “That’s a real bargain in these challenging economic times,” Tucker said.

The survey was conducted in three Baton Rouge stores Nov. 5-7.

The family economist offers several tips for saving money when shopping for the Thanksgiving meal:

– Always use a list and minimize the 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 you usually buy.
– Purchase generic or store brands when practical and money-saving.
– Remember that items placed at eye level on shelves are often more expensive.
– Purchase fruits, vegetables and fresh seafood in season to avoid higher prices.
– Purchase fresh, unpeeled, unwashed, unpackaged vegetables.
– Determine the 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.