Despite inflation driving up grocery prices nationwide, shoppers still are loading up for their Thanksgiving feast ahead of Thursday.
Thanksgiving meals will cost 20% more this year than in 2021, according to a new survey by the American Farm Bureau Federation. A classic Thanksgiving dinner with 12 items including turkey, pumpkin pie, stuffing and more is projected to cost an average of $64.05, which is up $10.74 from last year.
A 16-pound turkey was the largest food item that increased in price, going from $23.99 in 2021 to $28.96 in 2022, a $4.97 change.
However, the higher costs haven't seemed to keep many local shoppers away this holiday season.
"Starting Sunday, the Thanksgiving rush really started to kick in,” said Rod Dolph, St. Joseph Hy-Vee manager. “I think it was a combination of the Sunday before Thanksgiving and then the Chiefs game on top of it. We always have an influx of business when the Chiefs are playing and with it being a night game, it gave people all day to shop Thanksgiving before game day things.”
Dolph said the busy crowd of shoppers should continue right up until late Wednesday. This is the first time in 93 years that Hy-Vee will not open on Thanksgiving, he said.
“We decided to close for Thanksgiving and that's all about just taking care of our people,” Dolph said. “I think we'll even be busier with just closing Thursday. think that influx of business is going to be even bigger on each day leading up until Thanksgiving.”
Michael Roach, assistant manager at Green Hills Grocery Store, said this year has been twice as busy compared to the past two years.
"This year has been really good," Roach said. "We've seen an influx of people. As far as sales go, we're selling a lot of turkeys, stuffing, all that kind of good stuff."
Roach said despite higher grocery bills nationwide, he has not seen an impact on the number of shoppers who come in.
"Usually our prices run about the same as everybody else," Roach said. "We get a lot of regular customers and a lot of people here."
Dolph said he thinks shoppers are ready to get back into celebrating a more normal Thanksgiving following the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A lot of special orders are going out this year with turkeys and hams and I think people are just ready to get back into bigger gatherings again like it used to be,” Dolph said. “It seems like there's inflation every year, but I don't think this year is any different.”
Turkey farmers are also battling inflation, with higher feed costs along with the spread of the H1N5 Avian influenza virus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 49 million birds in 46 states have either died as a result of bird flu virus infection or have been killed due to exposure to infected birds.
Dolph said the St. Joseph Hy-Vee has been lucky to not face any issues with the sale of turkeys this year.
“A lot of our competitors have been faced with the chicken flu going on,” Dolph said. “As far as I know, a lot of retailers don't have eggs and those type of things and we've been fortunate that our suppliers have all been able to keep up. We haven't seen any issues with production or anything so far.”
Roach said Green Hills also has not seen anything out of the ordinary as far as food prices and delays with the Avian flu.
With this being one of the first years celebrating Thanksgiving since the COVID-19 pandemic, Dolph said Hy-Vee stocked up with a larger staff and additional products with the prediction of seeing more shoppers.
“We typically try to forecast out what we think crowds are going to be and we thought this year would be a very good year for people getting together in larger groups,” Dolph said. “We forecasted higher sales and then with doing that, we brought in a lot more extra product. Especially with the bird flu going around, we brought an excessive number of eggs and those type of things to ensure that we don't run out for our customers during this holiday season.”
Roach said Green Hills is prepared to be busy up until closing early on Thanksgiving.
'We've got a few extra people out to help stock and to just keep up with everything," he said. "You can see the influx of people just coming in and out. During the holidays, it's really difficult to keep stuff on the shelf as it is and extra people do help with that."