Feasting on wallets

LIHUE — Like it’s gobbling up your checkbook.

Hawaii was ranked the most expensive place in the nation to purchase turkeys and other Thanksgiving groceries, with another distant state, Alaska, coming in second.

That’s according to an analysis by the personal finance website NerdWallet.

Still, some local grocers said the expensive birds won’t stop people from picking them up. They said locals are used to Hawaii prices being the most expensive, so they won’t bat an eye when their holiday food is more expensive than, say, Oklahoma’s.

“The day before Thanksgiving is our busiest day,” said Gwen Batara, store manager at Times Supermarket in Lihue on Friday. “Normally, they buy turkeys the week before, so we’ve been selling turkeys. We haven’t heard any complaints on the price.”

The store offers turkeys at $1.69 a pound — $3.69 a pound for organic ones. Batara couldn’t estimate how many birds the store would sell when the season was done, but that they had an extra container in the back to hold all the turkeys they planned to move.

“They know the prices go up and stuff like that,” she said of customers used to Hawaii’s high prices compared to the rest of the nation. “They may be shopping and looking at the ads, but they’re still going to buy it.”

Hilo and Honolulu were the top two most expensive markets out of 264 examined in the study. Kodiak, Alaska, took third place and Juneau, Alaska, took fifth place behind Truckee, California.

Most products have to be shipped to Hawaii and Alaska, the only two states apart from the continental Mainland.

The findings were based on a study by the American Farm Bureau that included a shopping list of turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a tray of carrots and celery. It also included a pumpkin pie with whipped cream, coffee and milk.

The study pegged the national average at $49.41 for 2014. But Hilo residents would pay $79.11 for the feast while Honolulu dwellers would pay $76.73, according to NerdWallet.

Kodiak residents would pay $65.12 for their turkey dinners, while Juneau feasters would dine for $65.07.

The cheapest place to load up on the holiday? Texas. The Longhorn state dominated the list of cheapest places to prepare a home-cooked Thanksgiving meal.

But as far as Hawaiian prices, it’s not a surprise to be at the top of the list, others said. Hawaii just came in as the most expensive place to buy gas, too.

Wendy Kawaguchi, manager at Sueoka’s in Koloa, said the store doesn’t stock up on turkeys like the bigger retail chains, but sells a few birds at the holidays. Other items like pies they sell, too, and customers don’t seem to be shocked at any of the prices.

“I think a lot of people are used to it,” she said.

What might help lower costs on Hawaii? Well, more local product, perhaps.

“Maybe Hawaii needs more turkey farms,” she said.


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