Demand for precooked dinners is up slightly, possibly because more charities are buying to help the needy in the sluggish economy, retailers say.
"We have seen more people choosing the precooked dinners," said Amy McCormick, a spokesman for the Kroger Co. "One of the big things we have seen is people purchasing them for the less fortunate and also giving them out as gifts," she said.
Meijer Inc. also has had more purchases of precooked dinners by charities, spokesman Frank Guglielmi said.
"They used to come in and buy just the turkey. But instead of buying the turkeys they're placing orders for dinners for entire groups, which they'll pick up [Thursday] and then begin distributing them. Our [merchandise] buyer … said he'd never seen that before."
According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the price of a Thanksgiving dinner - a turkey, stuffing, cranberries, pumpkin pie, and all the basic trimmings - that feeds 10 people increased by 1 percent this year to $43.47.
The price of a 16-pound turkey decreased, but the overall increase was from milk, pie ingredients, and vegetables, the farm bureau said.
But a check of area supermarkets shows little change from last year for dinners that store officials say feed six to eight.
Kroger's express dinner with turkey, stuffing, gravy, and rolls is $34.99, the same as last year. It is offering a dinner that also includes mashed potatoes, cranberry relish, and a pie for $44.99
Meijer's dinner, which includes turkey, stuffing, gravy, relish, and two side dishes, is $39.99 this year, compared with $44.99 a year ago. The retailer also is offering an express version at $29.99 for a turkey, stuffing, and gravy.
Giant Eagle is offering a dinner with turkey, stuffing, four traditional side dishes, a pumpkin pie, and rolls for $59.99. The price is $5 less than last year.
Other area retailers offering precooked Thanksgiving dinners include Food Town, Sautter's Five-Star Market, Fresh Market, and Walt Churchill's Markets. The stores are offering a variety of meat options including turkey, ham, or duck to go with their selections of side dishes.
Prices range from $42.99 for a turkey dinner from Food Town to $129.99 for a deluxe dinner from Fresh Market that features both a 10-12 pound turkey and a 2.5-pound ham. Sautter's is offering a dinner that sells for the price of the precooked turkey of their choosing, plus $20 for all accompanying side dishes.
Dave Ruble, assistant director of deli operations for Walt Churchill's Markets, which have an $89.99 turkey dinner and an alternative duck dinner this year for $39.99, said customers love a traditional Thanksgiving meal but no longer seem to love the time it takes to prepare one.
"Every year we keep getting more and more orders. They want the traditional, old-fashioned dinner. That's the one thing that won't go away," he said.
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