How to save money on Thanksgiving dinner – even on a tight budget

How to save money on Thanksgiving dinner – even on a tight budget

Roasted turkey garnished with cranberries on a rustic table decorated with pumpkin, orange, apples and autumn leaves.

Elena_Danileiko / Getty Images

Thanksgiving Day is just around the corner, and before you know it, it’s time to put your turkey (or tofurkey) in the oven. This will be the first Thanksgiving since the COVID-19 vaccines became widely available, making it a special for families who are able to gather again to celebrate. The only problem? Thanksgiving is an expensive holiday to host (and this year it’s getting more expensive than ever before).

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Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to save on Thanksgiving dinner and stay within a tight budget. Here are 18 expertly recommended tips to cut down on your Thanksgiving expenses without sacrificing joy.

Make it a potluck

“One of the easiest ways to cut down on hosting costs [Thanksgiving] is going the potluck route, ”said Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst at DealNews. As a host, you can offer to prepare the main course, and then get your guests to bring the sides and desserts. If you feel you want to include more than just the main course, choose things like drinks and disposable tableware, as these tend to be on the cheaper side of the spectrum (especially if you buy in bulk). “

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Make a list and stick to it

“Make a Thanksgiving shopping list, check it out twice, and stick to it,” he said Marisel Salazar, a food writer, chef and recipe developer. “Just buy what you know you need for Turkey Day; this way you do not end up throwing away much of what you buy. You can forget an ingredient in a recipe or spend a lot more than you originally planned if you do not have a list. ”

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Start shopping for ingredients early

“This gives you time to compare prices and store sales,” the budget expert said Andrea Woroch. “Spend some time now thinking about what you want to cook and write out an ingredient list, and tick off things you already have at home. This gives you a sense of what to buy and you can start figuring out offers under regular groceries. “

Buy your pantry first

“Instead of going on a complete shopping trip for Thanksgiving, be sure to check your kitchen out first to help save money and time,” Salazar said. Once you’ve chosen your Thanksgiving recipes, ‘shop’ your pantry by taking stock of what you already have. Check the back of the cupboards, pantry, fridge and freezer for any hidden items you might use as bread crumbs for fillings, sauces, marinades and spices. ”

Pay attention to grocery sales

“Like other types of holiday shopping, grocery stores will offer sales during this time frame with regular holiday ingredients for sale,” Ramhold said. “Whether you need the ingredients for pumpkin pie, casserole with green beans or your proven sausage filling, there are good chances that grocery stores have the essentials for these recipes for sale in the days and weeks leading up to the holidays.”

Compare prices from your top 3 grocery stores

“Once you’ve put together a list of the ingredients you need, take the time to compare prices,” said Guadalupe Sanchez, founder of Budgeting in blue. “You can use your app or refer to the weekly savings ad. Most stores’ weekly ads start on Sundays, so make sure you are ready to shop that day.”

Buy certain items in bulk

“Buy in bulk the non-perishable items you can use before and after Thanksgiving,” he said Jessica Weaver, financial expert and author of “Confessions of a Money Queen.” “Stretch out the expensive ingredients by recycling herbs with other accessories and special cheeses with other pieces of your meal.”

Replace green beans with squash

“Instead of planning a meal around recipes you find online, go to the grocery store and see what’s on sale and in season,” said Brian Nagele, CEO of Restaurant click. “It’s probably vegetables like squash, Brussels sprouts and potatoes. Skip the expensive vegetables out of season like asparagus or green beans.”

Buy frozen and / or canned vegetables – they are just as nutritious!

“In addition to being often cheaper than fresh, frozen vegetables are picked and packed on top of ripeness, meaning they are packed with nutrition and flavor,” he said. Kate Peterson, a registered dietitian and virtual nutrition coach. “Canned vegetables are also a good option to stay within budget. Just look for versions of canned products with little or no sodium added version. ”

Skip ready-made foods; DIY It instead

“To save money, buy whole foods,” Salazar said. “Fully sliced ​​fruit and vegetables are usually more expensive than their whole counterparts. So instead of buying ready-made cranberry sauce, fillings or other sides – buy the individual whole ingredients to make them yourself.”

Consider providing fresh meals that offer a discount

“Meal services like Blue Apron, Gobble and HelloFresh offer Thanksgiving meal sets,” he said Vipin Porwal, founder of Smart. “[They] have promotions for new customers and first aiders / health workers – and military discounts are also often offered. Power off offers $ 30 off your first box (use code WELCOME30 at checkout). “

other than that ButcherBox distributes free turkeys to new members until Nov. 17.

Buy exactly the right amount of Turkey

“We recommend 1.5 pounds of turkey per person for a generous serving and leftovers,” said Nicole Johnson, director of Butterball Turkey Talk-Line. “And do not forget to protect these leftovers by cooling within two hours after serving.”

Skip the fancy turkey pan

“No need to buy an expensive, fancy pan to cook the turkey this Thanksgiving,” Johnson said. “Try Turkey Talk-Line’s open frying method, which can be made with a cheap aluminum pan bought at the grocery store and thrown out after the meal. No wire rack? No problem, try the Butterball foil spiral method with a long piece of aluminum foil – if you do not have a frying pan, crush aluminum foil to a spool to keep your turkey away from the bottom of the pan. ”

Plan ways you can use remnants of Turkey

“In November, you can get some great deals on turkeys,” he said Lisa Thompson, savings expert at “Why not fill up by buying a few pieces that you can freeze for later, so think ahead: Turkey chiladas, turkey soup, turkey wraps – the list goes on. “

Order directly from wineries

“Are you looking for wine? Skip the grocery store and check out wineries directly for deals they may be running for the holidays if you buy directly from them,” Thompson said. “Depending on where you live, shipping can cancel your savings, so beware – but the holiday season is a good time to check. You can also consider joining your favorite brand’s wine club. ”

Keep desserts mouth-watering

“You do not have to serve whole slices of cake or pies, which can be expensive (and even a waste, as many guests will be happy with small bites of sugary treats),” Thompson said. Here’s an idea: Create a milk and cake bar. Ask guests to bring a dozen of their favorite cookies with the recipe on a map (anyone can take pictures to save the recipe), which will make it fun, easy and inexpensive way to spread the sugary love. “

Use Decor From Nature

Thanksgiving decorations tend to have autumn colors. Instead of going to a store to buy these nature-inspired shades, go to your backyard or to a nearby park.

“You can find amazing decor in nature: pine cones, acorns, leaves and more,” he said Marley Majcher, CEO, The party goddess. Just add some spray paint (gold, silver, white or red and green) and put them in a fun bowl that you can also spray paint. It gives a very cheap centerpiece or something to the mantle. ”

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About the author

Nicole Spector is a writer, editor and author based in Los Angeles via Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Vogue, Atlantic, Vice and The New Yorker. She is a frequent contributor to NBC News and Publishers Weekly. Her debut novel from 2013, “Fifty Shades of Dorian Gray” received rave reviews from people like Fred Armisen and Ken Kalfus, and was released in the US, UK, France and Russia – even though no one knows what happened to the Russian version! She has an affinity for Twitter.


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