Thanksgiving dinner costs $251 on average this year — even mac & cheese seems absurdly expensive

NEW YORK — Mac and cheese may be off the menu this Thanksgiving, especially if you’re shopping on a budget. A new poll examined the impact of inflation on the dishes that traditionally fill America’s Thanksgiving feasts — finding that turkey, mac & cheese, and sweet potato casserole have seen their prices skyrocket the most over the last 20 years.

Overall, the survey, commissioned by CouponFollow, found that the cost of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner is now 64 percent higher than it was in 2002. On average, Americans are spending $251 on their Thanksgiving feast this year.

If you’re looking at the cost of the ingredients alone, shoppers have to pay nearly $88 to get everything they need for dinner. This grocery list includes the turkey, mac & cheese, potato casserole, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, corn, bread, pecan pie, and pumpkin pie.

Just 10 years ago, that shopping list cost the average American less than $69. In 2002, these dishes cost just $53.62.

When it comes to the “main event” of Thanksgiving — the turkey — Americans are now paying $23.60 for the average bird. That’s nearly $10 more than the $14.39 shoppers spent in 2002. Interestingly, a recent survey found that two-thirds of Americans would considering eating cultured meat grown in a lab setting because of the skyrocketing price of meat currently.

Are certain dishes too expensive for Thanksgiving?

While it might be hard to do without a turkey this year, Americans may be looking to cut costs elsewhere. Could the first casualty of the holidays be the mac & cheese?

The survey found that this cheesy side dish has nearly doubled in price, going from $10.89 in 2002 to $17.86 in 2022. With that in mind, another recent poll finds that a staggering 88 percent are cutting at least one dish from their table in order to make ends meet.

Nearly six in 10 (57%) admit their Thanksgiving guest list is much smaller this year and 53 percent are cooking fewer dishes. Overall, 45 percent of the country say they feel financially stressed by Thanksgiving 2022.

thanksgiving costs

Younger adults are spending the most this holiday season

So, who’s paying for all of this good food? The CouponFollow survey found those who are hosting Thanksgiving are spending $272 on this year’s dinner. That doesn’t mean the guests are off the hook. Respondents who say they’re attending someone’s Thanksgiving dinner are still spending $97.

Looking at holiday spending by generations, millennials are spending the most on Thanksgiving, dishing out a whopping $299 on dinner this year. That’s a giant increase over the $204 Gen Z respondents are spending, and even more than Gen Xers ($195) and baby boomers ($140).

Overall, 61 percent of hosts say they’re preparing “all” or “most” of the dinner. Notably, 39 percent of hosts admit they’re only preparing “some” or “half” of their feast. That might be because 52 percent are asking guests to bring a dish to Thanksgiving dinner. Three in four are asking guests to bring their own alcohol, while just under half (46%) are asking people to provide the dessert.


For this study, CouponFollow explored a recipe dataset sourced from, specifically recipes tagged with “Thanksgiving.” In total, 4,947 recipes were analyzed. Additionally, researchers surveyed 1,004 Americans celebrating Thanksgiving this year. Among the survey respondents, 57.2% identified as male, 42.3% identified as female, and 0.5% identified as nonbinary. 8.5% were baby boomers, 20.8% were Gen X, 60.4% were millennials, and 10.3% were Gen Z. The margin of error is plus or minus 3%, with a 95% confidence interval.

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