It seemed like everyone in Hilo was grocery shopping last weekend, with most buggies containing items, savory and sweet, for a Thanksgiving feast.
“Oh, brah. Yesterday was nuts out here,” one shopper was overheard saying to another.
The parking lots at three of Hilo’s grocery stores — KTA Puainako, Sac N Save Puainako and Safeway — were packed.
While Christmas music played, kūpuna and parents with their keiki maneuvered through the crowded aisles searching through mounds of frozen turkeys to find the perfect bird. They also looked for ham, pork butt, all the fixings and of course, dessert.
The cash register lines were long, but nobody was really complaining — despite the amount they had to shell out. The price tag associated with a classic Thanksgiving feast has increased nationwide for the second year in a row, and the cost on the Big Island is in-line with that spike.
According to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 37th annual Thanksgiving dinner survey, the average cost of a traditional Turkey Day dinner for 10 people increased 20% this year to $64.05. That’s $10.74 more than the 2021 average cost of $53.31.
Inflation, supply chain issues and the war in Ukraine are all contributing factors.
The Farm Bureau’s shopping list for its informal survey includes turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, dinner rolls, peas, cranberries, carrots and celery, pumpkin pie mix, pie shells, whipping cream and whole milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10 with plenty for leftovers. The survey also includes nontraditional menu items such as ham, Russet potatoes and green beans.
Including those nontraditional foods, which also increased in price by about 18% from last year, the overall average cost of Thanksgiving dinner went up by $17.25 to $81.30.
The survey also found regional differences in cost. A classic meal in the U.S. West, which includes Hawai‘i, costs an average of $71.37 this year. The cost of an expanded menu with those nontraditional items in the West is $88.55 on average.
Big Island Now did its own informal survey Nov. 18 and 19 of prices for the same traditional and nontraditional menu items at each of those three Hilo grocery stores.
Looking at averages of the lowest prices available those two days for the menu items, the cost of a feast for 10 with all the fixings in Hilo, minus the whipping cream because only two stores had it available those two days, is $81.92 on average. The price jumps to $87.26 when including the average price for a half-pint of whipping cream based on the prices at the two stores that had it in stock.
That’s about $9 per person.
Including the nontraditional items on a Big Island Turkey Day plate, the average cost with the whipping cream is $107.31, or about $11 per person.
But what holiday meal in Hawaiʻi would be complete without adding local favorites such as rice, poi, fresh taro and pork butt/shoulder for kalua? With those items, the average price for dinner for 10 increases to a total of more than $160, a little less than four bucks shy of $20 per person.
Grocery store customers during the weekend discussed with each other what they needed to get, sometimes having to search for alternatives to items they just couldn’t find. Store employees restocked shelves as people watched with eagle eyes to see if they were putting anything out they needed. Others debated on what to add — or not — to their menu.
Checking prices for individual items for the main Thanksgiving menu, the average cost for a frozen turkey per pound in Hilo is $2.36. For a 16-pound bird, that’s nearly $40. The national average for the Thanksgiving table centerpiece is $1.81 per pound, or $28.96 for a 16-pound turkey, up 21% from 2021.
“The higher retail turkey cost at the grocery store can also be attributed to a slightly smaller flock this year, increased feed costs and lighter processing weights,” said the Farm Bureau’s chief economist Roger Cryan in a press release.
The average price of a 12-ounce bag of cranberries in Hilo was $3.79 compared to $2.57 nationally, which is a decrease of 14%. The cost of 3 pounds of sweet potatoes averaged out to $4.68. The national average is $3.96, up by 11%. A 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix will cost you an average of $5.32 in Hilo compared to $4.28 on average nationally, or 18% more.
Cubed stuffing mix costs $4.66 for a 14-ounce bag on average in Hilo. Nationally, stuffing had the greatest hike in price on the Farm Bureau’s ingredient list, increasing to an average of $3.88, or 69% more than last year. Going the Stove Top route seems cheaper, at an average of $2.30 in Hilo, but that’s per 6-ounce box.
A dozen King’s Hawaiian dinner rolls costs an average of $5.99 in Hilo, more than $2 higher than the national average of $3.73 for a dozen dinner rolls, which is up 22%. Two 9-inch frozen pie shells cost $5.11 on average in Hilo compared to $3.68 nationally, a hike of 26%. Only two stores had whipping cream available, with one price at $4.59 for half a pint and the other at $12.19 for a quart. Nationwide, a half pint of whipping cream costs an average $2.24, also up 26% from 2021.
You can save a little if you go with Cool Whip in Hilo, with one 8-ounce container costing an average of $2.50.
Prices on the low end for rice, either 15- or 20-pound bags, range from $21.99 for a 20-pound bag at one store to $24.99 for a 15-pound bag at another in Hilo. The average price for 1 pound of poi is $10.19 and only one store had fresh taro, which was $3.29 per pound. The average price per pound for pork butt/shoulder — the favored cuts for kalua pork — is $4.19.
“General inflation slashing the purchasing power of consumers is a significant factor contributing to the increase in the average cost of this year’s Thanksgiving dinner,” Cryan said in the press release.
He said general inflation has been running 7% to 9% in recent months, while the most recent Consumer Price Index report for food consumed at home reveals a 12% increase compared to the past year.
“Other contributing factors to the increased cost for the meal include supply chain disruptions and the war in Ukraine,” Cryan said in the release.
The Farm Bureau calculated this year’s national average using 224 surveys completed with pricing data from all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers checked prices in person and online using grocery store apps and websites, looking for the best possible prices without special promotional coupons or deals.
The Thanksgiving dinner survey was first conducted in 1986. Farm Bureau’s classic survey menu has remained unchanged since then to allow for consistent price comparisons.
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