5 Tips to Save on Thanksgiving Dinner

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Thanksgiving costs Americans an average of more than $40 — but use these tips to trim the fat from your shopping list and you'll have one more thing to be thankful for this year.

There’s a lot to be thankful for on Thanksgiving: good food, family, friends, and more. But one thing that we’re often less than grateful for  is the price tag for this holiday feast.

According to the American Farm Bureau, the traditional Thanksgiving dinner for 10 costs an average of about $44 – up about 50 cents from last year. But that number is based on a survey of “volunteer shoppers looking for the best possible prices” and probably lowballs the actual figure quite a bit. It also doesn’t account for the actual diversity of dishes people prepare.

To make sure your Thanksgiving bill is something to give thanks for, follow these tips recommended in the video above:

  1. Stick with one meat. While turkey is the traditional centerpiece for Thanksgiving, a lot of people like ham. But don’t get both. If you’re having trouble deciding, turkey is healthier than ham, as long as you don’t eat the skin: There’s a lot less fat and salt.
  2. Pick an appropriate-sized bird. If you’re looking to save money and don’t want leftovers, you probably only want about a pound per person, maybe a little more. If you’ve got a huge group coming, consider buying two smaller turkeys instead of one big bird. They’ll cook and thaw faster, and they’ll probably be more moist.
  3. Buy cheaper sides and desserts. Fresh foods are cheaper than frozen ones, and mashed potatoes are cheaper than casseroles. If you’ve got the time, make as much as you can yourself to maximize the savings. Here’s 59 Cheap Thanksgiving Recipes to give you some ideas – the desserts look especially delicious. You could also try to talk your guests into bringing dishes, too.
  4. Cut costs on the beverages. Boxed wine costs less and looks just as nice in a decanter. You can also serve milk, coffee, or tea. Any calorie-conscious guests might even be happy to see ice water with lemon. As Stacy said in the video above, drinks you add water to (Kool-aid, coffee and tea) are much less expensive than those with the water already in them (juice and soda).
  5. Find the best coupons and stores that will match prices. If you want your bill to be as low as the American Farm Bureau’s estimate – if not lower – you need to look for bargains like they did. Start with our deals search and then head over to Google to see how other people are saving. Here’s a recent list of Thanksgiving coupons you can get off the Web, and there’s more out there. And before you start shopping, see if your local grocery store will match competitor’s prices or take their coupons – then you can do your shopping in one place.

If you’ve got a big frozen turkey – and don’t forget frozen is normally cheaper than fresh  – don’t forget you need time to thaw it. Here’s a few different methods to thaw a turkey. Ideally you’ll leave it in the fridge for a few days, about one day per five pounds of turkey. If you don’t have time for that, thaw it in cold water (but you’ll still need about half an hour per pound). Just don’t leave it sitting in the open air to thaw, because that poses health risks.

And if you’re more interested in a non-traditional Thanksgiving Day meal, try these ideas.

Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

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