If you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner, it’s likely that you’ll be hitting the grocery stores in the next few days. Although the cost of a Thanksgiving meal is usually a lot higher than your average family meal, that is mainly due to the quantity of food you’ll be cooking (especially if you have guests), and not because the ingredients themselves are particularly expensive. It is possible to save money on Thanksgiving dinner if you follow the simple tips we’ve shared below.
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Add turkey dinner on the cheap to your list of things to be thankful for this year.
What is the average cost of a Thanksgiving meal?
According to the American Farm Bureau, the cost of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people is $61.17 in 2023.
What is included in a typical Thanksgiving feast? Dishes will vary a lot depending on your family traditions and what part of the country you’re from, but in general, the holiday dinner includes the following:
- Roasted turkey or turkey breast
- Cranberry sauce
- Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes or sweet potato casserole
- Green beans or green bean casserole
- Corn or sweet corn
- Dinner rolls
- Pumpkin pie with whipped cream for dessert
Feel free to leave anything out your family doesn’t love. After all, you’ll probably be eating Thanksgiving leftovers for a few days (and we have recipes for how to use them.)
How much should I budget for Thanksgiving?
This year, the Farm Bureau gave the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner for 10 at $6.12 per person. But you can probably put Thanksgiving dinner on the table for a lot less. One year, we were able to provide a feast for 6 for under $25.
This isn’t too difficult, especially since the most popular Thanksgiving dinner items often go on sale this time of year.
With a little planning and careful shopping — and using the tips below- you can feast like a king and still stay within your budget. (And if you are hosting others this year, ask each family to bring a dish. That will save you both time and money.)
How can I save money on Thanksgiving dinner?
We connected with shopping and grocery savings expert Andrea Woroch, for her ultimate list of frugal Turkey Day tips. Follow her advice, and study the circulars, and you could stuff your Thanksgiving table with savings.
Comparison shop for turkey
You’re pretty used to comparison shopping online by now, so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t apply that practice to the star of the show (and the most expensive item on the table) — the turkey. “Prices on Thanksgiving groceries like turkey and canned veggies can vary significantly from store to store, so it pays to compare costs. Plus, many stores will offer to price-match their local competitors while others will offer discounts on a turkey based on a single trip or overall spending,” says Woroch. See where you can find the cheapest turkey prices this year.
Save on staples
Lucky for you, mashed potatoes, yams, stuffing and corn casserole all use inexpensive ingredients that can really fill up your table with comfort food goodness. Take the time to scout out your local grocers to see where to score the deepest discounts on these items. While you’re shopping for Thanksgiving, pick up a few extras of some of the most common grocery items on sale in November, and you’ll be able to restock your pantry at a deep discount.
Trim costs on trimmings
“Whether you’re serving roasted broccoli, honey-glazed carrots or sauteed Brussels sprouts as your signature veggie dish, buying whole produce will save you up to 40 percent on the prepackaged stuff,” says Woroch. Yes, you’ll have to do the washing, chopping and prepping, but that’s all the more love that will go into your meal.
If your favorite side dish or dessert features an out-of-season fruit or vegetable, however, consider buying frozen instead. “Frozen produce is cheaper than fresh, and because it’s flash-frozen at peak ripeness, you still get all the flavor and nutritional benefits,” she says. That goes for cranberries, too! For larger crowds, it could pay to buy oversize bags at stores like Costco and freeze what you don’t use.
To keep the price of Thanksgiving dinner from creeping up, be sure to decide exactly which side dishes you can’t live without, and only purchase the ingredients for those. Most of us tend to make so much food at Thanksgiving we can’t eat all the leftovers. Keep the Thanksgiving budget on track by sticking to those side dishes you really love.
Ultimately, boxed stuffing and canned gravy won’t break your Thanksgiving budget, but where you really need to focus your do-it-yourself skills is on dessert and baked goods like pumpkin pie and cheesecake, says Woroch. “Prices at the bakery are marked up 100 to 300 percent, which will send your grocery costs soaring,” she says.
Also, stick to generic when it comes to flour, sugar, brown sugar, etc. These are single-ingredient items that a brand name can’t produce any differently than a store or off-brand, says Woroch, and it will cost 30 percent less.
Finally, if you’re having guests, you could always ask that they take care of those extras that add up, like the wine, a kid-friendly dessert and/or a couple of pre-feast appetizers. With proper planning and the willingness to store hop a bit, you could create a Thanksgiving masterpiece that won’t cut into your Black Friday shopping budget. Happy eating!
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Other Thanksgiving articles:
Fun things to do on Black Friday (that aren’t shopping)
What to do with leftover Thanksgiving side dishes
Ways to use leftover turkey
23 delicious uses for Thanksgiving leftovers
18 frugal Thanksgiving leftover recipes
Day after Thanksgiving favorites: