5 Tips for Cutting Costs on Thanksgiving Dinner

It’s almost Thanksgiving Day, just two weeks left. Many of us celebrate Thanksgiving by eating large meals with friends and family. We have our traditional dishes that are made special for the holiday or that special someone who’s finally home for a visit. The special dishes and meals themselves also need to feed a large number of people. Getting so much food can get expensive especially around a time of year when you’re spending more than average in preparation for the next quickly approaching holidays. Let’s go over five tips on how to cut costs for Thanksgiving dinner. They also work to cut costs on food in general.

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), last year the Thanksgiving Day dinner cost $49.48 for ten people. The AFBF included “turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, coffee and milk.” I don’t know about you but I think they low-balled it. I know for sure in my family, we have more than one pie and several side dishes to accompany the turkey. If your celebration is like mine and you spend more than $50 on items for Thanksgiving dinner then check out the tips below. Even if you do not celebrate Thanksgiving, these tips can be used to cut costs on your food bill.

1) Sign-up for grocery store loyalty programs. Use these in addition to coupons. I’m all for general coupons that you find online and in newspapers, but loyalty programs are great as well. They will reward you by sending specialty coupons for their members as well as coupons tailored to what you like to buy. Remember, how I said they are gathering information about you as you shop and when you’re in the store? Well this time it works in your favor as you’ll get coupons not advertised anywhere else. This helps me to save between 30 – 40% off my grocery bill.

2) Buy freezer bags and containers. Usually there are leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner. These can be frozen and eaten later. You can also create new dishes from the leftovers later if you don’t want to eat the exact same thing. Can you say turkey soup, turkey sandwiches, stewed turkey etc. Properly freezing leftovers will save you money later as you have partly prepared meals for dinner and lunch. The average person spends $7 on lunch, so if you’re able to get three to five lunches out of the leftovers you’ll save $21 – $35. You save even more money by feeding the entire family on leftovers. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average cost to feed a family of four is around $150 – $289 per week. You can significantly cut that down by utilizing leftovers.

3) Skip the pre-packaged foods. It’s tempting to save time by using pre-packaged meals or items for the meal, but resist. Pre-packaged meals cost more than if you find the recipe and make it yourself. The packaged price includes the cost for the packaging as well as the labor of the person who prepared it. You can cut your costs and make a healthier meal yourself.  According to an experiment done by Carrie Wells, Ed.D., aka Huppie Mama, it cost $0.63 per serving for homemade healthier macaroni and cheese versus $0.54 per serving for the pre-packaged macaroni and cheese in the blue box. The homemade also took less time, I didn’t figure on that one either.

4) Buy what’s in season. Check what vegetables are in season where you live. See which recipes can incorporate these items and then head to a farmer’s market or grocery store. Items such as brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and kale should be in season. Herbs are usually available as well and will be cheaper to purchase live than dried in a bottle, usually half the price for the plant. This will help you cut costs on side dishes and garnishes.

5) Don’t buy plastic. Many people purchase and use plastic plates and cups for the holiday because it decreases cleanup, especially when you have a large gathering. Who wants to spend time doing the dishes when there is family and friends you haven’t seen in months and sometimes years standing a few feet from you? None of us. However, that’s an extra cost to use the plastic plates and cups and paper napkins. Instead, use your regular dishes and ask family to pitch in for the cleanup, make it a family affair. You’ll save green in two ways, money and the environment.

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Photo credit: Werner Schrottner

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