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The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

Signal

The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

Signal

Ways to Save as Food Prices Rise This Thanksgiving

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Kristin Platts

Although turkey prices have come down in the days leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday, they are still more expensive than this time last year. 

Inflation has hit Americans hard this year and they can expect to continue feeling the pain at the Thanksgiving dinner table next week. On average, the cost of a traditional Thanksgiving meal is expected to rise by 20% this year, according to an American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) annual survey. The survey is based on a classic turkey or ham meal with the trimmings to serve 10 people. For comparison, the survey breaks down the price by region, with the Southern portion of the country coming in the cheapest at $58.42, while those of us in the West will pay the highest price of about $88.55.
While inflation is the most discernable factor in rising food costs, the effects of avian influenza, which wiped out millions of commercial turkey’s this year, drove up turkey prices. Other factors include the same things that have been plaguing food costs for months, such as labor shortages, weather conditions, and a shipping industry still catching up from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though, some budget friendly items are still on this year’s Thanksgiving menu. Cranberries are down by 14%, according to the AFBF survey. And Sweet potatoes, always a traditional favorite, are one of the lower cost items this year.
Like many commodities, sweet potatoes are sensitive to supply and demand, according to Sarah Alvernaz, a grower in Livingston, just south of Turlock, who says her industry has been fortunate this year.
“While many produce items are experiencing low supplies, which drive prices up, we are fortunate to have a good supply available for consumers to enjoy this Thanksgiving and all year round,” she said.
That’s not to say that sweet potato growers don’t need a higher return for their product, Alvernaz explained, since they are facing many of the same extreme rise in costs that every farm product is experiencing, due to wage increases, reduction in over-time, fuel costs, fertilizer costs, water, and every other input. 
“Growers have had a rough couple of years for returns,” she said. “In order to be successful, we definitely need consumer support to move product.”
The Turlock native said she and her family like to eat the colorful root vegetable in any form, year-round, but opt for a twist on the traditional sweet potato casserole dish for their holiday meal.
“We love sweet potatoes with apples baked with cinnamon and butter,” she said. 
Alvernaz added that the California Sweetpotato Council has a host of creative recipes on their website, including sweet potato gingerbread cookies, sweet potato chili and more if you really want to get creative with this economical veggie.
In a Signal Instagram poll this week, those who participated said potatoes were their number one Thanksgiving side dish, followed by stuffing and rolls. While each of these items will cost consumers a bit more this year, potatoes are among the items that have risen the most.
But even college students, who are often among the most budget conscious of consumers, won’t skimp on some holiday food traditions.
Hannah Swisher (freshman, Geology) said there’s one Thanksgiving staple she would still spend the money on. 
“Even if it’s expensive, green bean casserole, like one hundred percent,” she said. “It’s my favorite dish, if I don’t have it this year, I’ll make it myself.”
Ways to Save
Outside of cooking your own holiday meal, dining out at a restaurant or ordering a pre-cooked meal for Thanksgiving can actually be a cost saving move, not to mention a time saver. Restaurants like The Fruit Yard in Hughson are still taking pre-orders for full turkey or ham dinners, complete with all the trimmings that serve 10-12 people. They’re also offering a dine-in or to-go meal option on Thanksgiving Day for $20 per person. Local chain grocery stores like Safeway, Raley’s, Save Mart and Costco offer a pre-order option for complete holiday family dinners as well as smaller pre-portioned meals that serve one or two people. WinCo Foods is also offering a free turkey when you spend $125.
If you simply can’t break from tradition, consider swapping some of your fresh staples for canned. Canned foods are picked at the peak of freshness and have comparably the same nutrients as their fresher counterparts, according to fruitsandveggies.org. Canned foods tend to be less expensive than fresh fruits and vegetables and grocery stores often advertise them even lower during the holidays. 
This week on the CSU Stanislaus campus, many students were able to take advantage of free food boxes through the Stan State Basic Needs program. The food boxes, which are available twice a month for enrolled students, included a number of items that can be used for a traditional Thanksgiving meal, like potatoes and canned vegetables.
Zachary Gurr, director of Stan State Basic Needs, said they distributed 150 food boxes on Wednesday, 125 at the University Circle drive up location, and the other 25 went to the food pantry for students who couldn’t make the distribution hours. He said they plan to make extra food available over the coming days before most students leave on Thanksgiving break.
“We know a lot of students leave before that time, so we try to get more food during that time,” Gurr said. “So, we’ll have a box, we’ll have a recipe kit, we’ll have a holiday dinner kit, and then we can also use the pantry at the same time.”
The pantry and food distribution is funded through donations and the California Faculty Foundation. Gurr said that the effects of inflation on the Basic Needs program has probably been most notable by the volume of students being served on food distribution days and at the food pantry.
“We serve about 2,000 students a month, so our food pantry coordinator’s grocery shopping all the time and restocking, we see about 500 students a week, so we have seen it [the effects],” he said. “But we’re doing our best to make it work, so our students have their food.”
Swisher, one of the 2,000 students that takes advantage of the food pantry, considers it a life saver, and said the items available right now will really help her save money on Thanksgiving. She was able to pick up several bags of items from the pantry on Thursday, including tamales and a recipe kit. 
“Even like the basics, like mashed potatoes and green beans, you can get from the pantry, and that will save me like ten bucks right there,” she said.  “This was so helpful, now I can actually bring something to my Thanksgiving [dinner] and not have to worry about it.”
If you missed out on this week’s food distribution boxes, you can still snag some grocery staples to pad your holiday meal through Wednesday November 23 at the Warrior Food Pantry

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Ways to Save as Food Prices Rise This Thanksgiving