Alexander says consumer preference will dictate whether the Thanksgiving meal will be higher or lower this year. For example, consumers choosing to purchase and serve whole turkeys will experience the greater savings, but turkey parts, such as turkey breasts, may cost a little more than last year. Also contributing to consumer prices are whether shoppers are in the market for frozen or fresh turkeys, brand names over generic brands and other factors including precooked turkeys or the use of store coupons or specials.

As far as other traditional holiday food items, Alexander says cranberries will cost about the same as last Thanksgiving but sweet potato prices are up by about 10 percent and white potato prices are up by about 15 percent.

Other analysts predict overall consumers will spend more this year for holiday foods than last year and warn those who feel the greatest squeeze are those on limited incomes, the unemployed and those who have relied on food stamps to help with holiday costs.

Last week $11 million in federal stimulus support for food stamp recipients expired and was not extended, meaning those that rely on food stamps to supplement their food budgets are being hit with a sizable reductions in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits just in time for the holidays. In addition, as farm bill conferees struggle with the issue of SNAP funding in any new farm legislation, additional cuts in the food stamp program are expected to further complicate those relying on the program in the year ahead.

Alexander says for the unemployed or underemployed (minimum wage earners), food cost increases for the holidays this year could mean as much as a 25 percent rise in food costs compared to last year.

In addition, consumers are expected to pay more for natural gas this holiday season compared to 2012. Natural gas prices have risen between 3 percent and 5 percent since last fall.


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