Inflation Has Wyoming Families Watching – Or Breaking – Their Thanksgiving Budgets

Many Thanksgiving dinner shoppers in Wyoming this week have shrugged off inflated prices as they gather their favorite items for family celebrations, putting the higher-priced-than-expected items into carts anyway when they were available.

Renée Jean

November 23, 20226 min read

Thanksgiving shopping 2 11 23 22

By Renée Jean, Business and Tourism Reporter

Dorene Martinez was checking the shelves twice, then checking them again for her family’s favorite olives. Ultimately, however, she had to make do with pickles for the charcuterie board she makes every year for Thanksgiving.

Jen Tacke, meanwhile, was comparing prices between a Jenny O turkey and Butterball. The Jenny O bird, at 98 cents a pound, was considerably cheaper — but Butterball won out in the end.

“I know I always like Butterball,” she said.

Balancing The Turkey Day Budget

Martinez and Tacke, like many other Thanksgiving dinner shoppers this week, were shrugging off the high prices as they gathered their favorites for family celebrations, putting the higher-priced-than-expected items into carts anyway — when they were available. 

The Cheyenne store was short of many items that might be considered holiday essential by some. There was no heavy whipping cream, no apple butter and no strawberries, grapes or other fresh fruits to slice for holiday trays.

The high prices are definitely noticeable, however.

“That,” Martinez said, pointing to a small tin of canned fish, “was just a dollar last year.”

This year, the price was $2.76 for the same-sized tin. She added it to her cart anyway.

“I feel like those are things that we don’t buy that often, and really, it’s just for the holidays,” she said. “You’re going to splurge during the holiday.”

A basket of Thanksgiving items costing $67.86 at a Wyoming grocery store. The Farm Bureau’s annual survey in October priced a typical Thanksgiving basket at $64.05 for a dinner that will feed 10 people. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

Making Do

Kelly McInelly, meanwhile, said she has been relying on an already full pantry and just buying some fresh produce once a week — generally whatever is on sale that is healthy.

This week, that was sweet potatoes at 82 cents a pound. 

Meanwhile, she noted that a number of items where she shops at Walmart have been rolled back to 2021 prices, part of a special the store has announced will last through Dec. 26. 

The special extends to a basket of typical holiday foods that includes turkey, cranberries and sweet potatoes.

Higher Than Average

The average price of Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people, meanwhile, is up 20% over last year, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation 37th annual survey.

That 20% is on top of an already 14% uptick last year. 

The cost in 2020, meanwhile, had gone down 4% to $46.90, the lowest price since 2010. In 2019, the cost was $48.91.

Empty store shelves were not an uncommon sight for Thanksgiving shoppers. These shelves had held fresh fruit like strawberries and grapes, popular on party trays. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

Other Impacts

Most of the price uptick is inflation, said AFBF Chief Economist Roger Cryan, but some of the increases in turkey prices are because of a severe outbreak of avian influenza, which has been wiping out a number of poultry flocks in some states. 

The war in the Ukraine also has played a role in some of the price increases for commodity-based goods, Cryan said.

The Farm Bureau’s prices, however, may be a little out of date for last-minute shoppers. The Farm Bureau checked prices from Oct. 18-31. That was just before grocery retailers such as Walmart and Kroger announced price reductions for whole frozen turkeys. 

Kroger has also recently rolled out a shopping guide that shows meal options to feed 10 people for as little as $5 per person. The Farm Bureau’s average was $6.40 per person.

Option To Eat Out

Wells Fargo, meanwhile, produced a report suggesting this is the year for dining out at a restaurant for Thanksgiving. The costs of restaurant meals have increased much more slowly, at 5.79%, than food from a standard grocery store trip, which has gone up 9.81%. 

The cost of a restaurant meal is still higher than foods prepared at home, but the Wells Fargo report points out there is less work involved and no dirty dishes, meaning more time with family.

Best Deals Come Late

The average price of turkey, meanwhile, has continued to fall as the holiday nears. For the week of Nov. 3-9, the cost was $1.11, but it is now at 95 cents on average for the week of Nov. 10-16. 

The number of stores offering deals has climbed from 29% to 60%, rewarding last-minute shoppers a little bit — if they are willing to risk not getting some items.

Amber Miears poses with a broom at a housekeeping job. She’s been coping with inflation by taking extra work whenever she can, as well as watching for deals and sticking to store brands. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

Bought A Bird Early

That jives with what Amber Miears and her family experienced this year for Thanksgiving. They bought a turkey early, concerned there might not be any if they waited too long.

“I think theirs was around $50 to $60, because it was such a large bird,” Miears said. “That is very helpful, though, what Walmart and other stores are doing, you know, for the community. That would have helped if I would have known sooner.”

Miears said her family always does a big celebration where everyone brings something representing the family’s heritage.

“So, we’re going to have turkey, you know, but we’re going to have green chili enchiladas, menudo and stuff like that.”

Just Costs More This Year

Miears said inflation in general has been tough on everyone, but she’s been able to manage by sticking to store brands, watching for good deals and taking on extra work whenever she can.

“I get a week’s worth of groceries and it’s $200, you know, for just two people living in my home,” she said. “Inflation has just went up so much. Thanksgiving has definitely hit a higher mark this year on how much it is.”

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Renée Jean

Business and Tourism Reporter