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extra credit: 11 ways to save this thanksgiving.

What would you guess the average Thanksgiving meal costs to prepare?

$49.20 for 10 people.

I would have thought it was higher, would you?

Well if you’re looking to eat well while trimming the cost of your Thanksgiving dinner this year, I’ve got 11 practical tips for you…

1.  Cook from Scratch: Choose recipes based on ingredients you already have in your pantry, refrigerator or spice rack.  I mean seriously, have you ever priced pine nuts?

2.  Spread the love…go for a pot luck this year.  Have guests bring their favorite sides, desserts or drinks.  Plus then you won’t have to slave away in the kitchen in the days preceding Thanksgiving.

3.  Shop Smart: Thanksgiving promotions often include frozen turkeys (which you can keep in the freezer for up to a year), ham, bottled juices, baking ingredients, cake mixes, cookie mixes, frozen vegetables, canned vegetables, canned tomatoes, canned fruits, canned cooking soups and more. You can stock up on these and use them the rest of the year.

4. Choose between ham or turkey. Choose one meat or main dish and plan the rest of your meal around it. This not only saves the cost of the additional meat, but also the cost of special side dishes that go with it. And you can feel all good and green since you’ll be saving a little electricity by avoiding the extra meat.

5.  Balance “pricey” and “inexpensive” dishes. Mashed potatoes are far less expensive to make than a creamy vegetable casserole; a pumpkin pie is generally cheaper to make than a cheesecake.  You get the idea…

6.  Trim down on extras. I’m willing to bet your guests won’t mind if you serve 2 desserts instead of 3, or 3 vegetables instead of 4.  Unless you are my husband and may not speak to me until next Thanksgiving if Green Bean Casserole isn’t on our Thanksgiving table.

7.  Find less expensive wines, including some of our Wine Friday recommendations that are between $5 and $10.

8. Decorate using items you already have – leaves, pine cones, acorns, pumpkins, cranberries, flowers from your garden, etc.  I typically stock my favorite magazines for ideas, then put looks together based on items I already own.

9. Choose the right size turkey for your meal. An 8-12lb turkey typically serves 2-4 people; a 12-16lb turkey for 5-7 people; a 16-20lb turkey for 8-10 people; and a 20-24lb turkey for 11-13 guests. These estimates allow for some leftovers, and if you plan ahead you can eat more than just turkey sandwiches in the days that follow.

10.  Use smaller plates.  This helps everyone eat less too so you’re really doing them a favor.  Is that passive aggressive?

11.  Stock up on seasonal and local produce for your feast. And if you’re wondering about what organic items to spring for – apples, celery, grapes, lettuce, pears, potatoes, and spinach are some Thanksgiving produce items with the highest amount of pesticides. Asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, corn, eggplant, peas, or onions are fine conventionally grown.

Let me know if you have any additional tips!

Happy Thanksgiving!


7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Good list, Kelly. I would add that simpler preparations cost less: roasted sweet potatoes taste great and you don’t need marshmallows or anything else to put in them. We save bread for a few months in a brown bag in a zinc-lined drawer to make stuffing with, although we do spring for fresh chestnuts for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

    The more seasonally you cook, even for feasts, the more money you will save. Use spinach for salad if lettuce is not around. Use dried tomatoes instead of fresh — just snip them fine and add them to your vinaigrette. No one in this hemisphere should be eating asparagus at Thanksgiving — that is a spring crop.

    November 20, 2011
    • Thanks Sharyn! I wish I had been thinking and could have saved bread over the last few months!
      As for the asparagus, well, I know they are a spring crop but for some reason they’re on sale locally for $1.99/lb. I could eat them all year long if I could.

      November 21, 2011
      • I’ll convert you, Kelly. Give me time. I’ve been over three years on the “Eat what is in season” plan. Asparagus is not my favorite thing, but if it were I would find some way to preserve it or give it up for a large part of the year.

        November 21, 2011
  2. I’m glad you posted this! This will be the first year I’m having Thanksgiving at my home. I was expecting it to be a little more pricey than $49.20…and there will only be four of us! Great tips!

    November 21, 2011
    • Me too! We’re having the neighborhood over so we’ll see how it goes. I absolutely planned to spend more than $49.20…and I’m pretty frugal! Anyway, thanks for the feedback!!

      November 21, 2011
  3. Kelly, You have so many good ideas, I love your idea on having guest bringing their favorite side dish. That always makes it easier. Send me some Christmas ideas and I will post them on my blog..

    December 3, 2011
    • Ok, let’s talk about how to swap blog posts!

      December 3, 2011

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