In 1911, a Frugal Thanksgiving Meal Cost 69 Cents. What Would It Cost Today?

A frugal host can put together a Thanksgiving meal for eight people with only 69 cents and smart incorporation of leftovers, according to a 1911 “On the Spur of the Moment’’ Globe column. Roy K. Moulton wrote:

“We have attempted to come to the rescue with a Thanksgiving menu calculated to save considerable worry and money for the ultimate consumer. With the kindly assistance of a well-known chef, we have been able, in spite of the high cost of living, to prepare a menu for eight persons which will cost only 69 cents, and it seems as though this should be within the reach of all.’’

In his column, Moulton omitted crucial brand and quantity information when advising readers about a menu, so calculated the total cost of putting together a similar meal, sans turkey, in 2014 (based on inflation rates): $54.13.

We opted for the cheapest modern-day correlates to Moulton’s 1911 selection, using Campbell’s (three 10.75 oz. cans), Ritz crackers (a 13.7 oz. box), Instant Quaker (a 16 oz. can), Pepperidge Farm (16-slice loaf), romaine (1-2 heads), Russet potatoes (5 lb. bag) and filleted cod (1.5 lbs.), and your standard grocery-made pie, cake, and corned beef hash. Prices were sourced from Boston-area supermarkets.


But the average cost of an American Thanksgiving dinner for ten this year is closer to $49.41, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. Turkeys are the big ticket, with a 16-pounder costing an average of $21.76. Still a steal, considering that in 1911, a 16-pound turkey cost around 22 cents per pound, or an $88 turkey.

Clearly 2014 families have figured out how to make their dollar go further.

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