Last-minute shoppers, bring your pocketbooks |

Last-minute shoppers, bring your pocketbooks

Amanda Fehd
Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Mary Ebright walks out of Overland Meat Co. in South Lake Tahoe with a 13-pound "natural" turkey.

Today is a big day for supermarkets as those who have put off their Thanksgiving shopping raid the shelves to buy holiday comfort foods.

The bill can add up fast.

At Safeway, the average ringup at this time is between $180 and $225, store managers say.

“I feel people are shopping to please themselves, not their pockets,” said Roni Bombino, customer service manager and the main bookkeeper for the store.

She estimates the average-income family is spending around $140 for the holiday, while on the high end it’s between $250 and $400.

Compare that to what the American Farm Bureau Federation claims is the price for a feast for 10: $35.68, down 60 cents from last year. “Thanksgiving dinner remains affordable,” proclaims their Web site. The federation is a non-partisan organization representing agricultural producers in the country.

“I don’t see how that’s possible,” said Safeway’s assistant manager Russell Zermani, “That’s only $3 a person.”

It might not be possible in South Shore, where the cost of gas, one of the highest in the country, may reflect the cost of living.

The federation’s estimate assumes 89 cents a pound for turkey, while prices in South Lake Tahoe range anywhere from 25 cents per pound for frozen turkeys over 25 pounds, to $2.99 a pound for organic, fresh free-range turkey. The average price remains between $.99 and $1.99 per pound.

Supermarkets say consumers should assume about 3/4 pound to 1 pound of turkey per person.

If Thursday is Tofurkey Day for you, you’ll be paying $17.99 for 3.5 pounds of meatless tofu turkey, by far the most expensive option, working out to be more than $5 a pound. An Unturkey, made from wheat gluten, is $27.99 for 7 pounds, which is about $3.99 a pound.

That’s not to say it’s not possible to bring the price down, if you stick to the basics. One South Shore store has turkey dinners for 6 to 8 people for $34.99, which comes with a 10-12 pound turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, a pie and a dozen rolls. Add a few more people and drinks and the price is pushing at least $50.

Every year, the farm federation conducts their non-scientific survey by sending out a team of volunteer shoppers in 30 states to find the best deals they can on all items for the holiday table. Their shopping list includes: turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray including carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream and beverages of coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10.

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