The Cost of Thanksgiving Dinner Over Time

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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on Self.

Thanksgiving is one of the nation’s favorite holidays and an event at which we typically go above and beyond to treat loved ones with a special meal. Over time, the cost of hosting Thanksgiving has undoubtedly grown but … by how much?

We were curious to find out so we researched the most popular dishes people across the nation will be cooking and researched the cost of 3,905 ingredients dating back to the 1960s to find out.

Below you’ll see just how much the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner serving 10 has changed, and also which dishes have risen in price the most.

The Cost of Thanksgiving Dinner

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In 1960, the total cost of a Thanksgiving meal for 10 people cost an average of $11.65. Today, the cost of a 10-person celebratory feast has increased by over 565%, costing the average host $77.52.

In 2020, the cost would have been $74.92, meaning the cost of the ingredients has seen an increase of 3.5% over the past year alone.

Fortunately, the rising costs of the meal have mirrored the same increase as the median U.S. household income, meaning to our pockets, the increase doesn’t seem as drastic.

Turkey

Unhappy man with Thanksgiving turkey
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For many of us, the turkey is the star of the show, and that’s certainly reflected in the prices we pay.

Back in 1960, a 16-pound turkey would cost $3.06. Today, that price is $20.80 — an increase of 580%. However, the price of turkey has actually decreased somewhat over the years, peaking in 2015 at $23.04. Last year, consumers paid on average $19.39 for a 16-pound turkey, 7.3% less than today.

Mashed Potatoes

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Mashed potatoes are a staple for over half of U.S. homes on Thanksgiving, and spuds have increased in price even faster than turkeys have.

The cost of mashed potatoes saw a sharp increase of 757% in price since the 1960s with the dish now costing $6, up from $0.70 in 1960. The price of mashed potatoes reached its peak in 2019 when 10 portions would set you back $6.59.

The recipe is traditionally made from potatoes, butter and half-and-half. However, because the prices for half-and-half weren’t available in the 1960s, our recipe was substituted with milk.

Recipe used: The Kitchn, Mashed Potatoes

Cranberry Sauce

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Homemade cranberry sauce is a highlight for many on the Thanksgiving table, and our recipe called for 1 pound of cranberries, a cup of white sugar and a cup of freshly squeezed orange juice.

This year, the average cost has reached its highest-ever price at an average of $2.11. That is a 19.2% increase since last year, and an increase of 520% since the 1960s. The cost of the added orange juice alone has increased by more than 20% since 2020.

Perhaps surprisingly, the cost of cranberries has only increased 377% from $0.09 to $0.43 with the bulk of the price increase coming from the orange juice, which has increased 627% from $0.22 to $1.60.

Recipe used: Allrecipes, Cranberry Sauce

Stuffing

Thanksgiving stuffing
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Stuffing is another one of those dishes that crosses state borders and will typically be on the dinner tables for over 50% of the U.S.

We researched the cost of traditional stuffing ingredients, including bread, eggs, onion, herbs and a homemade broth substitute.

Out of all of them, it’s the onion that has seen the most dramatic price increases, jumping 1,700% since 1960. On the other end of the scale, eggs have seen the slowest price increase at just 189% in the same timeframe.

Overall, the ingredient price increases have meant the cost of a Thanksgiving stuffing dish has increased 428% since 1960, rising from $1.03 to $5.44 in 2021.

Recipe used: Averie Cooks, Classic Traditional Thanksgiving Stuffing

Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet potatoes
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Although marshmallows are a custom of the sweet potato casserole, they weren’t always as available as they are today, and in fact, they have traditionally made up the costliest part of making the dish when using the raw ingredients

The dish itself is typically made from sweet potatoes, brown sugar, butter, vanilla extract, milk, eggs, mini marshmallows (made from egg white, corn syrup, sugar and vanilla extract) and chopped pecans.

Overall, to feed 10 people in 2021, the cost of making a sweet potato casserole from scratch will set you back $9.41. That’s compared with just $1.02 in 1960. However, the cost of making the dish had only increased 104% up to 1999. From there, the price began to shoot up, increasing 352% in the 22 years since.

Recipe used: Delish, Sweet Potato Casserole With Marshmallows

Green Bean Casserole

Green snap beans
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Costing a mere $0.63 in 1960, a side of green bean casserole has since increased by 727% to $5.21 today.

The traditional recipe is made from canned green beans, fresh fried onions, cheddar cheese and mushroom soup, but the condensed cream of mushroom soup can be substituted with white sauce made from butter, flour and milk.

Although as a percentage, the cost of onions is where the largest increase has come from, on a dollar basis, it’s the cheddar cheese that will cost the most overall. One cup has increased from $0.34 in 1960 to $2.74 in 2021.

Recipe used: Allrecipes, Green Bean Casserole

Bread Rolls

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Bread rolls are the cheapest piece of the Thanksgiving feast, and always have been, but the price of making the rolls in 1960 was much closer to the cost of making cranberry sauce and corn than it is today.

While the cost of side dishes such as cranberry sauce and corn have gone up from 521% and 297% respectively, the cost of making bread rolls has only increased 213% in the same timeframe, despite all of them costing around $0.30 in 1960. That’s an increase from $0.30 to bake 14 – 16 bread rolls, to a cost of $0.94 today for the same amount of rolls.

The ingredients in a typical recipe are: milk, yeast, all-purpose flour, butter and egg.

For our research, we looked at the cost of Red Star Platinum yeast for this recipe; however, baking powder also works as an excellent substitute.

Recipe used: Sally’s Baking Addiction, Soft Dinner Rolls

Mac & Cheese

Mac and cheese
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An absolute fan favorite, mac & cheese has been featured on many Thanksgiving dinner tables for decades.

Because pasta hasn’t always been as easy to grab off the shelf as it is today, our recipe called for a homemade pasta recipe instead. Although more time-consuming to prepare, the pasta isn’t as costly as the most expensive part of the dish. Cheese is by far the most expensive part of making mac & cheese and heavily contributes to the 537% price increase since 1960, taking the dish’s price from $2.47 to $15.74.

Recipe used: The Chunky Chef, Creamy Baked Mac & Cheese

Creamed Corn

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The price of corn and cream cheese to make delicious creamed corn has seen an increase of almost 300% since the 1960s.

If you decide to make this side dish from scratch today, it will set you back $1.27 to serve 10 people. The recipe we’ve analyzed uses fresh corn and homemade cream cheese (made from milk and lemon juice).

Recipe used: Just A Pinch, My Thanksgiving Cream Cream Cheese Corn

Salad

Salad bag
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Salad is one of the most difficult dishes to track the price of simply because what a salad has meant through time has transformed more rapidly than any other dish since the 1960s. This meant historical prices of “salad” and what we may put in a salad today weren’t as available, so here we’ve had to use a staple of many people’s salads — the everpresent lettuce.

At an increase of over 1,300%, a salad (benchmarked by the price of lettuce) has gone up the most in value out of all Thanksgiving ingredients. A side salad would set you back $0.17 in 1960 however, today, the same dish will cost you $2.39 to feed 10. In fact, salad has never been as expensive as it is in 2021. Compared with two years ago (in 2019), the price has almost doubled from $1.09.

Recipe used: Bon Appetit, Everyday Greens Salad

Pumpkin Pie

Woman preparing pumpkin pie for holidays
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Arguably the second most important dish on the Thanksgiving table (after the turkey of course!) is the pumpkin pie.

Many may choose pumpkin pie as their preferred go-to, especially if and when serving dinner for 10.

As for the cost, in 1960 the price of making a pumpkin pie would set you back $0.75. Today, that price has increased 193% to $2.20, which is actually the slowest appreciation of all the dishes analyzed.

Due to the cost of pumpkins over time not being readily accessible, and specifically pumpkin puree, our recipe was substituted to include the cost of sweet potatoes over the same timeframe.

Recipe used: Simply Recipes, Old Fashioned Pumpkin Pie

Pecan Pie

Pecan pie for Thanksgiving
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A contender to the pumpkin pie, a pecan pie made from scratch has gone up in price far more than a pumpkin pie. Other than the obvious pecans, the typical recipe is made from pie crust (homemade using all-purpose flour and butter), eggs, syrup, brown sugar and butter. However, honey is a viable alternative to syrup and was used in our historical price analysis.

The price for these ingredients has gone up almost 600% since 1960, and 18.5% since last year alone.

Today, the cost of making a pecan pie is $6.01. Back in 1960, the same ingredients cost as little as $0.86.

Recipe used: Simply Recipes, Easy Pecan Pie

Methodology

Working on computer data analysis on a laptop
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We used a YouGov survey to establish the most popular Thanksgiving dinner dishes in the U.S. and calculated the exact measurement of each ingredient needed to cook a traditional meal for ten people. We then analyzed the cost of each ingredient, 3,905 in total, each year from 1960 until 2021 to establish the price fluctuation for each ingredient over time.

In some instances, the traditional recipe may have changed from 1960, such as accounting for the wide availability of dried pasta today, which wasn’t as available historically. In those instances, we have calculated the cost of substitutes that could be used instead. This includes:

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