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Be thankful: holiday meal cost holds steady

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It will only cost a penny more to feed the family at Thanksgiving this year.

 Virginians will be able to feed their families a Thanksgiving meal for less than $4.35 per person this year, according to an informal price survey conducted by the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

The survey of the price of basic items found on Americans’ Thanksgiving tables places the average cost of a traditional meal for 10 adults this year at $43.39.

The menu includes turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, rolls, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream.

Farm Bureau reports this year’s average represents a price increase of only one cent from the 2009 average total price.

The locality surveyed that had the highest average cost for a meal was Pound in Wise County, at $52.36. The locality with the lowest average cost was Bristol, at $33.18.

“The Thanksgiving marketbasket for the state of Virginia is little changed from last year, but each ingredient experiences a wide range of prices depending on location of the survey,” said Jonah Bowles, a Farm Bureau Federation market analyst.

“This indicates that the economy is still trying to recover, and it is doing better in some areas of the state than in others.

“There really isn’t any bad news for consumers this Thanksgiving. The opportunities for bargain prices are abundant for those who are willing to shop for good deals.”

Based on surveys of grocery stores throughout Virginia, Farm Bureau found the average cost of a 16-pound turkey was $19.34, or about $1.21 a pound — the same per-pound price as last year.

The organization found that the average price for a gallon of milk was $3.43; for peas, $1.68; for a 3-pound bag of sweet potatoes, $2.73; for celery, $1.51; for carrots, $1.26; for pie shells, $2.45; for whipping cream, $1.87; for canned pumpkin pie filling, $2.20; for cranberries, $2.33; for stuffing mix, $2.69; and for rolls, $1.90 a dozen.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has found that the farm portion of each food dollar spent in the United States is about 20 cents. Using that percentage across the board, farmers’ share of the average Thanksgiving meal cost in Virginia would be $8.68.

The USDA reports that Americans spend 9.47 percent of their disposable annual income on food — the lowest average of any developed country in the world.