Forget about the battle being fought for where you spend your money the day after Thanksgiving. The battle being fought right now is over where you spend your turkey dollar before the holiday.
Meijer, which has nine stores in its Lexington-Louisville market area but is the dominant grocer in Michigan, earlier this week set turkey prices as low as 29 cents a pound — a $1 drop — with a $20 additional purchase.
GFS Marketplace, which serves small businesses as well as individual customers, listed turkey as low as 49 cents with a $25 minimum purchase in its Nov. 13 sale ad.
"We want to own the holiday meal," said Frank Guglielmi, a spokesman for Meijer.
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Meijer's strategy was to lead other grocery providers in what Guglielmi called the "center of plate" item: the turkey.
Kroger downplayed Meijer's hail-turkey bid for Thanksgiving dominance. Tim McGurk, spokesman for Kroger's Louisville-based Mid-South division, said he preferred not to comment about a specific competitor or its promotion.
"Our customers have told us they prefer to know the exact price per pound of their turkey, and the coupons offered in the past made it confusing for some."
Offering variety, freshness and competitive prices on all holiday food items "is what customers appreciate most," McGurk said.
It's the turkey that's driving most of the increased cost of the 2011 Thanksgiving dinner versus that of 2010. The average cost of a 16-pound turkey is up $3.91, or about 22 percent, making turkey prices the biggest price surge among traditional Thanksgiving items for 2011.
Turkey portions are supposed to average about 3/4 pound to a little more than a pound per guest, depending on whether you want leftovers, according to Realsimple.com.
Meijer's Guglielmi said it was too early to predict what the retailer would charge for Christmas turkeys.
Nonetheless, you buy what you value. At Whole Foods, turkey prices start at $2.49 a pound for the free-range variety and escalate from there into the heirloom, kosher and organic varieties.
Still, the best deal might be for those who skip the turkey altogether: If you're vegan, you can put together a Whole Foods dinner of veggie cutlets with the vegetable and fruit trimmings for two to four people for $40.