SHOPPERS TO PAY MORE FOR THANKSGIVING MEAL
MONTGOMERY, Ala.-- Thanksgiving dinner will likely cost Alabama families more this year, according to the special holiday edition of the Alabama Farmers Federation's monthly food price survey. Although the report showed savings on cranberry sauce and pre-packaged stuffing this year, six of eight traditional holiday foods were more expensive than in 2003. Meanwhile, the average cost of 20 basic market basket items was $46.51 in November, up 2 percent or 93 cents from October.
Topping the list of higher-priced holiday menu items were shelled pecans, which averaged $6.71 a pound, up $1.40 from a year ago. Brian Hardin, director of the Federation's Horticulture Division, said Alabama's pecan crop was devastated when Hurricane Ivan ripped through the state uprooting trees and blowing green pecans to the ground. As a result, Alabama's already thin pecan crop could be as low as 2-3 million pounds, down from a normal harvest of 12-15 million pounds.
Other Thanksgiving favorites that cost more this year included turkeys, up 4 cents to $1.01 a pound; smoked hams, up 17 cents to $1.63 a pound; and sweet potatoes, up 12 cents to 86 cents a pound. Hurricanes also took a toll on Florida's orange crop, driving prices up 19 cents to 93 cents a pound when compared to 2003. Apple prices were slightly higher as well, but pre-packaged stuffing was a bargain at $2.63 a pound, down 20 cents, and cranberry sauce was two cents cheaper at 94 cents for a 16-ounce can.
Month-to-month food price comparisons showed shoppers could find bargains on almost every aisle this month, despite a 2 percent increase in the market basket total. At the butcher's counter, pork chops were down 23 cents to $3.36 a pound, and bacon was 18 cents cheaper at $3.22 a pound. Boston butts, however, were up 3 cents to $1.77 a pound. T-bone steaks also were more expensive at $8.54 a pound, up 23 cents, but the average price of ground beef was a dime lower at $2.01 a pound. Chuck roasts, meanwhile, were down 19 cents to $2.95 a pound, while whole fryers were up 3 cents to $1 a pound.
On the produce aisle, a huge seasonal jump in tomato prices skewed the overall total as the summertime favorites soared to $2.52 a pound, up a dollar from October. Lettuce also was higher at $1.34 a head, up 27 cents, while red potatoes were unchanged at 65 cents a pound.
Holiday bakers got some good news this month as eggs dropped a nickel to 83 cents a dozen, but that was offset by higher prices for butter, which averaged $3.41 a pound, up 8 cents. Milk prices continued to stabilize in November, dropping to $1.99 for a half-gallon, down 8 cents, while ice cream was a quarter cheaper at $3.04 for a half-gallon.
Regional reports collected around the state showed the market basket averaged $43.57 in northwest Alabama, $46.20 in the central counties, $47.25 in the northeast corner of the state and $48.56 in south Alabama.