7 Ways to Save Big on Your Thanksgiving Meal

Posted On: November 18, 2022


Thanksgiving is almost here. Turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and an assortment of other dishes and desserts are on everyone's mind and menu, as well as the number of guests you plan to serve. For some, this might mean hosting a small number of guests, but for a larger gathering, you could have several. This can lead to another pressing issue: how to host a Thanksgiving meal that won't break your budget, despite currently higher prices.


Start With a Budget

As with most holiday-related events, it's best to start with a budget before planning your Thanksgiving meal. Knowing how many guests you anticipate, whether you are hosting the entire dinner or just part of it, and which dishes you plan to serve will help you budget accordingly.

When creating your budget, consider the cost of food, drinks, decorations, and anything else you might need for the meal. Remember, allowing yourself to splurge on some things is okay, but plan this into your budget.


Scale Back Your Menu

After reviewing your budget, consider the dishes you plan to prepare. For example, are you feeding a large or small group of people? How much food will you need, and how many sides would make a sensible but special Thanksgiving meal?

It might be necessary to cut back on the number of side dishes and desserts offered. For example, instead of preparing as many side dishes as possible, you might offer two to three of each of the basics:

  • Appetizers
  • Beverages
  • Vegetable sides
  • Salads
  • Starches
  • Sauces
  • Desserts

Additionally, consider the main attraction, whether it's a turkey, tofurkey, roast, or another entree. While most people think turkey is the star of a Thanksgiving meal, no hard-and-fast rule says you must serve turkey.

Since there are also turkey shortages due to an outbreak of avian flu earlier in the year, the turkey might only be an option for some households. Consider alternatives and dress them up for your meal, such as roast duck or chicken, roast beef or pork, ham, prime rib, brisket, and more.

There are also many great vegan alternatives. For example, consider vegan lentil shepherd's pie, tofurkey, vegan lasagna, or field roast, to name a few.

Whatever you decide for your menu, keep recipes simple and familiar to your guests while offering enough variety. 


Shop Early to Catch the Sales

Shop for your menu and decoration items early and take advantage of the sales. If you use coupons, align them with store sales to maximize savings. You might also use a rebate app like Ibotta, Fetch, MyPoints, or a rewards credit card.

Don't forget to compare prices among local retail grocers. You can do this easily with apps like Flipp to view different store circulars and find the best sales and prices.


Make it a Potluck

Another way to save on your Thanksgiving meal is by making it a potluck. Have guests bring a dish to share. However, it's best to decide who will provide each side to avoid duplicates or having too many of one type of dish.

Many families prefer potluck holiday meals instead of one host preparing everything. And when you're expecting a large gathering, it's a great way to reduce costs and stress.


Buy In-season Produce

Whenever possible, buy produce in-season. Not only will it be fresher and tastier, but prices will also be much lower. 

Avoid convenience items such as pre-chopped fruits or vegetables if you want to save money. For example, it might be pricier than buying whole, fresh produce, even though it saves time.

As an alternative, you might buy frozen produce to use for your side dishes. Frozen produce is more economical than fresh and healthier than canned, which often contains added salt, sugar, and preservatives.


Choose Nature's Decorations

You can save money on your Thanksgiving decor by opting for natural fall decorations such as pumpkins, gourds, berries, pinecones, leaves, and more. Not only are they inexpensive, but they also look beautiful on the table and make a great addition to centerpieces.


Plan Meals Around Your Leftovers

Finally, plan your post-Thanksgiving meals around the leftovers. Use the extra meat to create healthy and delicious meals for days or weeks afterward. Consider making turkey potpies, turkey salads, and more.

You can also freeze the leftovers and store them for several weeks or months to enjoy later in casseroles, soups, stews, sandwiches, and more.


The Final Word

There are many simple ways to save on your Thanksgiving meal. From shopping early and taking advantage of the sales to making it a potluck or using nature's decorations, you can stick to your budget and still have a great holiday meal.


Happy Thanksgiving!