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7 Ways to Save on Your Thanksgiving Meal

The cost for a Thanksgiving meal is cheaper this year but there are still ways to save more

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Gathering around the table to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal will be a little cheaper this year, as the costs for everything from turkey and stuffing to whipping cream and pie crust have started to ease.  

Just how much can you save this year compared with 2022? Turkey prices are down 5.6 percent from last year, while milk costs 0.10 percent less.  All told, the cost of a Thanksgiving feast is down 4.5 percent, according to the Farm Bureau.

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Even with prices coming down, households across the country are looking to save on this holiday tradition. The good news is there are several ways to do that, including these seven:  

1. Reduce portions.

Thanksgiving Costs Year Over Year ​

  • 16-pound turkey: down 5.6 percent, to $27.35 , or $1.71 per pound
  • 14-ounce bag of cubed stuffing mix: down 2.8 percent, to $3.77
  • 2 frozen pie crusts: down 4.9 percent, to $3.50​
  • Half-pint of whipping cream: down 22.8 percent, to $1.73
  • 1 pound of frozen peas: down 1.1 percent, to $1.88
  • 1 dozen dinner rolls: up 2.9 percent, to $3.84
  • Miscellaneous holiday ingredients: down 4.4 percent, to $3.95
  • 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix: up 3.7 percent, to $4.44​
  • 1 gallon of whole milk: down 2.6 percent, to $3.74
  • 3 pounds of sweet potatoes: up 0.3 percent, to $3.97
  • 1-pound veggie tray (carrots & celery): up 2.3 percent, to 90 cents​
  • 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries: down 18.3 percent, to $2.10

— Source: Farm Bureau

Thanksgiving leftovers are a staple for many families, but if you are looking to save, they may have to be put on the back burner. To save money, consider reducing the portion size and number of sides you serve. Mashed potatoes and scallion pancakes may both be appetizing, but choose one. “Focus on what your family enjoys most and skip the rest,” says shopping expert Andrea Woroch. “You can even opt for a smaller turkey to save big.” At one Walmart we checked, for example, a 10-16-pound Butterball turkey, which serves five to eight people, cost $18.34, while a 16-24-pound turkey, which serves eight to 12 people, was going for $26.

Cutting back doesn’t have to end there. If you’re worried about affording Thanksgiving dinner, consider reducing the guest list to a more manageable level. ​

2. Find substitutes.

Some ingredients are more expensive than others due to supply and demand imbalances. Potatoes, for example, are in short supply and high demand, which drives up prices, Woroch says. If you choose alternatives such as pomegranate sauce,  you can reduce those costs. 

3. Stick to store brands.

Store brands are a great way to save money any time of the year, but particularly during periods of high inflation. You can save as much as 30 percent by using store-brand boxed, canned and frozen food, Woroch says. Grocery stores also have more wiggle room than manufacturers when it comes to pricing, so you can expect to see bigger deals when you go generic, she says. ​

4. Score a free bird.

Many grocery stores around the country reward loyal customers this time of year with a free turkey, though there’s a catch. Typically you have to spend a specified amount of money to get the deal. At Safeway, for example, you have to spend $150 in a single transaction to get the free bird, while at WinCo, a Midwestern chain, you have to spend $125. ​

5. Ask for sides.

Just because you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t mean you have to make everything on your own from scratch. It’s OK to ask guests to bring sides, which, according to Richard Donahue, chief marketing officer for Ibotta, tend to be the most expensive part of the meal. Not only will you save money, but you’ll get to try new dishes. And it doesn’t have to be a side. You can request a dessert or a beverage, anything to spread out the financial burden.​

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6. Search for digital coupons.

Digital coupons can be a great way to save money on your meal. Download your grocery store’s app on your phone to quickly access savings. Click on the coupon you want to use and scan the barcode at checkout to save. Some grocery stores offer first-time-user coupons that can increase your savings.

7. Serve something different.

If serving a traditional Thanksgiving dinner is going to break the bank, consider celebrating with other foods. You’ll save money and perhaps start a new tradition. “Inflation has caused consumers across the board to shift their buying habits, especially when it comes to dining at home,” says Donahue. “One of the most popular trends we’ve seen is the concept of trading down. This can look like choosing other proteins, such as chicken, for example.”

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