Did anybody else have to take out a second mortgage to pay for Thanksgiving dinner this year? Just the cost of the main course alone was enough to give you sticker shock (and heart palpitations).
I knew things were bad when I was walking down the baking aisle of my local grocery earlier this week and had to step aside to avoid being trampled by a lady tightly clutching a 20-pound Butterball running as fast as she could toward the checkout lane. Fast on her heels was a store employee brandishing a price gun with stickers hanging out of it. Apparently, the price of fowl had gone up from the time the lady picked up her bird from the freezer section ‘til she hit the stuffing aisle. She was bound and determined to make it to the self-checkout scanner before the amount could be changed.
Just about every Thanksgiving staple – from the pecan and pumpkin pies to the mashed potatoes and gravy – cost way more this year than last. That seemed a bit odd to me since I didn’t think turkeys were sitting on cargo ships anchored off the coast of Los Angeles. Don’t we grow those things here in the heartland?
I wonder how many families decided to forego the usual feast day fare due to pocketbook constraints. I remember years ago that a friend of mine had a crowd of a mere three at his table. Just his mom and dad and he were present. Rather than cook a huge turkey for the trio, his mom went out and bought Cornish hens. He said he couldn’t blame her, but it just wasn’t the same trying to find a decent size piece of meat from that hen. And forget about leftovers. It wasn’t what you’d call a Norman Rockwell scene.
I know there were some people planning on shaking things up a bit this year. Maybe Cornish hens or even chickens were on many tables. Actually, the higher prices of everything may have worked well for the cooks in the house. Getting up before dawn to stuff the turkey and put that big bird in the oven so it’s ready by mid-afternoon can definitely be a real drag. Certainly steaks or even hamburgers on the grill don’t take nearly the prep nor cooking time. And I did hear about one enterprising soul who is obviously not a slave to tradition nor exorbitant prices. She fashioned a can of Spam into the shape of a turkey and fried that up for her fellow celebrants. (Nobody complained, and some heartily applauded the creativity.)
I’m just wondering if other folks made substitutions that suited their credit card better. Maybe potato chips and Fritos instead of rice and fancy stuffing? Or an attractive selection of Keebler cookies on a plate instead of those pies that take a really long time to make and are gone within ten minutes after being served.
In addition to higher food costs, traveling may have been a bit curtailed. Last summer, when you might have made the decision to go ahead and head to Uncle Harry and Aunt Lila’s house for Thanksgiving, the price of petrol was about half of what it is now. Suddenly the much-anticipated relaxing trip to see family and friends had turned into an economic conundrum. Do you buy food or gas? And maybe that $30 bottle of wine you were taking as a gift became Two-Buck-Chuck.
Just as with that lady bolting down the grocery aisle, we’ve probably all experienced a rise in the cost of almost everything. Unfortunately, it’s not unusual to hear a retail store employee say, “Yeah, that was the price last week. It went up two days ago.” And don’t look for too many bargains or big-time sales of the kind that used to dominate Black Friday. That one magical day has morphed into Black November (and even December), with many establishments not putting all their yearly sales quotas into one 24-hour day.
At least most stores are now closed on Thanksgiving, taking a lot of stress off the chef of the house to try to squeeze the feast in between kick-offs and shopping trips to favorite stores. I was never much of a fan of that “Open on Thanksgiving” idea.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear as if the cost of the holiday season is going to do anything but increase for the foreseeable future. Hey, do you suppose we could get Congress to buy our Christmas presents? They seem to want to use the Federal treasury to pay for everything else. (I’d like a new car, please, and my golf clubs are getting kind of old, if any Representative asks.)
©MMXXI. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer