It’s Thanksgiving! That time of year when distant family members journey across the country to converge in a single location to gain ten pounds, engage in heated political debates, and prepare themselves to awaken at 4 a.m. the next day to line up in front of a store to buy stuff they don’t need and can’t afford. No other event in the year is as joyous, entertaining, and fatiguing as Thanksgiving.
…you could cover the entire cost of the feast before your next lunch break.
But before you rip off your grandfather’s MAGA hat, or your blood pressure spikes over a discussion on tax policy, you should take the time to be grateful for something. Even if you’re a miserable nihilist who loathes the world, you can be thankful for this fact: Your turkey holiday will be cheaper this year.
A Thanksgiving Dinner
According to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 33rd annual survey of classic items found on a typical Thanksgiving Day dinner table, the real cost of a 2018 meal is the lowest it has been since 2010, and it’s 26% lower than in 1986, when the study first began.
The average rate for a family of ten is $48.90, or about $5 per guest. This represents a 22-cent dip from last year’s $49.12 bill. The decline has been the norm since 2015, and the expense has tumbled to an impressive eight-year low.
Because of an immense supply of turkeys, the featured 16-pound item on tables will set you back $21.71, or $1.36 a pound, which is down 3% from 2017. Retail turkey prices are also at four-year lows.
Several items that complement your turkey also have fallen from last year:
- A gallon of milk: $2.92.
- A three-pound bag of sweet potatoes: $3.39.
- A one-pound bag of green peas: $1.47.
- A dozen rolls: $2.25.
On the other end of the spectrum, you will experience a modest increase in cranberries, pumpkin pie, coffee, and ingredients needed to prepare the feast. However, don’t worry about the dollars and cents involved in inducing a heart attack because a half-pint of whipped cream is still $2.08.
Time Cost of Dinner
The time needed to work to afford a Thanksgiving supper is about one-third less than it was 32 years ago. Or, put another way, you could cover the entire cost of the feast before your next lunch break.
In 1986, the average American needed to clock in 3.21 hours to make enough money to buy a turkey dinner for ten. Today, because average hourly wages for workers are $22.89, only 2.14 hours are required to purchase the same meal. This, too, is down from 2.21 hours last year.
Overall, the time cost is 33.3% lower, leaving you to spend that extra hour’s wages on copies of The Art of the Deal for the hipster millennial you inevitably will sit next to at the table.
Food Affordability in America
There is usually talk, particularly among the left, of a food crisis impacting the nation. This is on display in such renowned documentaries as Super Size Me, Food Inc., and A Place at the Table.
We generally hear about how impoverished families are unable to put decent, nutritious groceries in the refrigerator, resulting in a plethora of chronic health conditions. During their weekly trip to the supermarket, cash-strapped shoppers opt for soda pop and chips rather than fruit juices and spinach. The reasons vary, ranging from the pecuniary to the social. Or, as The Los Angeles Times recently and ridiculously opined, the impecunious indulge in junk food because it “is the only indulgence they can afford.”
But here is a fact: Relative to incomes and costs in the past, overall food in the U.S. is far more affordable today than at any other time in history. In fact, even when you account for the estimated 2% annual increase in food prices, you’re forking over only 34 cents more per day. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that consumers dedicate just 10% of their annual incomes to food, but the problem is that 40% of it is on eating away from home, which is an added and unnecessary premium.
Over the last three decades, the agriculture sector has embraced labor-saving technologies that enable farmers to produce more and remain energy efficient. International trade has allowed consumers to save on produce. Crude oil has averaged around $50 since 1946, and other forms of energy have been relatively cheap on a long-term path.
Even with the devaluation of the greenback, shoppers’ purchasing power at the grocer is remarkable and the envy of the rest of the world.
Here are two scenarios you should think about.
First, when you’re buying a bag of carrots for $1.99, consider the following: Landowners had to invest in equipment, supplies, and labor to plant, pick, and package the vegetable. Then, the farmers had to transport the vegetable to a middleman who will then sell the carrots to a supermarket, which has its own overhead and competition with which to contend. There’s a lot that comes with selling carrots.
Second, if you’re purchasing a chicken salad sandwich from a delicatessen for $5, try to determine the factors that went into that meal. The chickens had to be raised, slaughtered, processed, cleaned, and transported. The grains had to be grown, and the bread had to be manufactured, packaged, and shipped. Don’t forget about the fixings in the sandwich. Employees to make and serve the sandwich had to be hired and paid, and the owner had many business-related expenses, from rent to hydro.
In the end, for everything that went into getting the carrots into your fridge and the sandwich into your belly, you’re paying only a couple of bucks. The kings and queens of yesterday only wish they had such luxuries!
On Thanksgiving, take the time to be thankful for living under such a system. As socialist nations starve on diets of zoo animals and lost dogs, benefactors in free market economies are gaining weight and clogged arteries on affordable and convenient stuffed turkey, rolls, pumpkin pie, and little tiny onions.