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Rachel Tan/MEDILL

More diners are choosing to celebrate Thanksgiving at home this year.

Thanksgiving at home remains important in tough economic times

by Rachel Tan
Nov 15, 2012

Although consumer confidence increased in September and October, more diners are celebrating Thanksgiving in their homes this year instead of dining out.

Of people who are choosing to dine out this Thanksgiving, a majority are doing so because of convenience or travel plans that make them unable to celebrate traditionally, according to a study by the National Restaurant Association.

However, the vast majority of consumers still prefer to dine in. Seventy-three percent will prepare their festive meal entirely at home this year, according to a survey by Technomic Inc., a Chicago-based restaurant consulting firm.

“I know the price has gone up on food, but we spent probably pretty much the same amount as last year,” said taxi driver, Tony Soltani, who already has done his Thanksgiving shopping. An immigrant from Iran, he makes an effort to celebrate the American holiday with his family so his children do not feel left out of school conversations.

Turkey prices have climbed this year according to a survey by the American Farm Bureau Federation, but there is something about home and the holidays that make people more open to spending.

Jasmine Johnson, an assistant at West Fulton’s Glazed and Infused donut shop, plans to spend Thanksgiving at home with her family over a home-cooked meal. The only thing that may be store bought are the dinner rolls.

“I think we all think about costs, but Thanksgiving is that time you can splurge a little bit,” she said.

Rob Levitt, a butcher and owner of the Butcher and Larder in Wicker Park, treats his Thanksgiving as a strict tradition. While his wife and mother-in-law make the cranberry sauce and pie, he carves the turkey and makes gravy, Levitt said.

A surge in turkey orders this year at Levitt’s shop also is an indication that more people are cooking at home this season.

“Our turkey orders are up from last year by probably 25 percent,” Levitt said.

The butcher shop sells its turkeys solely to individuals, not restaurants. Though humanely raised turkeys are more expensive, consumers are increasingly aware and particular about where their protein comes from, and are rarely shocked by the accompanying price tag, he said.

Though turkey and stuffing for a majority of diners will be homemade, 8 percent of consumers surveyed by Technomic will buy pies and prepared sides from restaurants or catering companies – up from last year’s 4 percent.