Although we’ll pay a bit more this year, on a per-person basis, our traditional Thanksgiving feast remains a better value than most fast-food value meals, plus it’s a wholesome, home-cooked meal,” Anderson said.

A gallon of whole milk increased in price by 42 cents per gallon, to $3.66. Other items that showed a price increase from last year were: a 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix, $3.03, up 41 cents; two nine-inch pie shells, $2.52, up 6 cents; a one half pint of whipping cream, $1.96, up 26 cents; one pound of green peas, $1.68, up 24 cents; a 14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing, $2.88, up 24 cents; a dozen brown-n-serve rolls, $2.30, up 18 cents; three pounds of sweet potatoes, $3.26, up 7 cents; and fresh cranberries, $2.48, up 7 cents.

A one-pound relish tray of carrots and celery declined by a penny to 76 cents, while a combined group of miscellaneous items, including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (onions, eggs, sugar, flour, evaporated milk and butter) decreased in price, to $3.10.

“Demand for U.S. dairy products has been strong throughout the year and continues to influence retail prices, as demand for higher-quality food products grows globally,” Anderson said. 
  


He noted that despite retail price increases during the last year or so, American consumers have enjoyed relatively stable food costs over the years, particularly when adjusted for inflation.

The 13 percent increase in the national average cost reported this year by Farm Bureau for a classic Thanksgiving dinner is somewhat higher but still tracks closely with the organization’s 2011 quarterly marketbasket food surveys and the federal government’s Consumer Price Index for food (available online at http://data.bls.gov/).

Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers are asked to look for the best possible prices, without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals, such as spending $50 and receiving a free turkey. Shoppers with an eye for bargains in all areas of the country should be able to purchase individual menu items at prices comparable to the Farm Bureau survey averages. Another option for busy families without a lot of time to cook is ready-to-eat Thanksgiving meals for up to 10 people, with all the trimmings, which are available at many supermarkets and take-out restaurants for around $50 to $75.

The AFBF survey was first conducted in 1986. While Farm Bureau does not make any scientific claims about the data, it is an informal gauge of price trends around the nation.

A total of 141 volunteer shoppers from 35 states participated in this year’s survey. Farm Bureau’s survey menu has remained unchanged since 1986 to allow for consistent price comparisons.