Thanksgiving On A Budget: 10 Ways To Save On Turkey Day

October 29, 2021 Saving

Holidays can rack up some serious bills relatively quickly if you let them. One of the biggest holiday spendings is the cost of that one big glorious meal that everyone loves. Thanksgiving… but how do you even begin to budget for the event?

And as lovely as that meal is, it can cost some serious dough. Especially if it rests on just one person to do all of the preparation, cooking, and cleaning (yikes). Not to mention the pressure of everyone loving your cooking. To take some of the stress off, we’ve compiled a detailed how-to on keeping your spending at bay and how to budget for Thanksgiving.

Plan ahead

Most of the ingredients for a traditional Thanksgiving meal can either be frozen or are canned goods you can store in a pantry for months. Take advantage of this and start picking up items here and there to store for the big day. Items such as-

  • Frozen turkey
  • Frozen ham
  • Canned Green Beans
  • Canned Corn
  • Boxed cornbread
  • Canned Cream soups

All have a relatively long shelf life, at least two months’ worth. So go ahead, start that holiday food buying in October. It’ll save you from having to spend a huge chunk at one time come November.

Look for specials

Go all in looking for specials, scour those grocery newsletters, weekly ads and grab those in-store coupons. You’d be surprised at how many freebies you can score just buying stuff you were already planning on purchasing.

This is especially true if you wait until November, you’ll start noticing those sale items on end caps and more coupons in the weekly newsletter.

Opt for a potluck Thanksgiving

Although, there’s still the popular option of potluck. Taking on all of Thanksgiving can be a pill, but separating tasks can mean less money and time for you.

Simply make your list of favorite food items and divide them up amongst your guests. Most of the time others are happy to contribute if it means they can come and eat too.

Buy in bulk

For those of you who don’t want to buy a little at a time and refuse to let anyone else attempt your amazing Mac n cheese, buying in bulk is your best bet. Places like Costco and Sam’s Club have excellent deals on seasonings, canned goods, and other Thanksgiving items like decor and pies. But be careful, sometimes it’s more cost-efficient to buy in bulk, other times it’s better to stick to your local grocery for smaller needed items. This is where price comparisons come into play.

Get your turkey free

You read that right, get your turkey for free. That main centerpiece, the big bird, is the key factor of the Thanksgiving meal and it’s possible to not buy it at all… how’s that for sticking to a budget? Here’s the deal: places like H-E-B and Walmart run specials close to the holidays where you buy a fully cooked ham and get the turkey for free. Check your weekly newsletter and see what you can find near you.

Go simple

Most traditional Thanksgiving sides are fairly simple and cheap to make. It’s when you get all fancy and upscale that the price goes up. Instead of opting for expensive fruits, charcuterie and desserts, stick to the basics. Choose cheaper side options with simple ingredients and your Thanksgiving meal is sure to taste just as amazing without the price.

Share the cost of alcohol

This is where the price starts to go up. Alcohol is expensive especially when you’re already footing the bill for everyone’s food. Drinks for each adult in your party can wind up costing you hundreds of dollars on the back end. Instead either don’t do alcohol at all or ask each person to BYOB. This way those who want to drink can and those who don’t – well, you won’t be paying for them.

Make your pies

It’s so tempting to just buy everything pre-made, especially pies. But there are ways to keep your sanity and still have your favs at the dinner table. First, most ingredients for pies are reusable except for pie shells and those are relatively cheap. Next, opt-out of name-brand ingredients, the store brands are just as tasty. Last, try doing pre-made pie filling instead of a pre-made pie. This way you skip part of the process without paying $20+ for a whole prebaked pie.

Use what you have

Now, surely the best way to stick to a Thanksgiving budget is to just… not spend money, right? We know, we know, everyone hates the dishes but buying pans, paper servers and plastic utensils are not only costly but they suck the class out of the occasion. This year try using your cookware, pull out the nice china and glassware and assign the kids dishwashing duties. Most of the time they’re looking for something to keep them busy anyways.

Don’t aim for leftovers

Cook only for those that are present, don’t go overboard and try to send everyone home with leftovers. That’s essentially a whole second meal. Take your list and plus-ones, tally up servings and make your shopping list according to the result. Trust us, leftovers are nice but most of them end up in the trash after day two anyway so save yourself both the time and the money.

Enjoy the festivities

Thanksgiving is a great time of family, friends, and reflection, but most certainly not the time to be going into debt behind something as simple as food. Take the initiative to pre-plan your meal, shop early, and go simple. Most importantly, remember to stick to your Thanksgiving budget – and enjoy the day! It only happens once a year.


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