10 Ways to Cut Costs This Thanksgiving That Could Save You Hundreds of Dollars

Fight inflation with these helpful tips.


Lise Gagne/Getty Images

Inflation is here, and we’re no strangers to the higher grocery prices for pretty much everything. Yep, that means the biggest feast of the year, Thanksgiving, is doomed to be a lot more expensive. In fact, data analyzed by The Balance shows that the prices of holiday staples have significantly increased. Turkey and potatoes are around 17 percent more expensive this year, sweet corn is up 11 percent, ham is up 8.1 percent, and pumpkins are up 2.5 percent. 

However, the good news is that there are plenty of ways to save money without sacrificing the quality or tastiness of your festive Thanksgiving meal. Here are a few ways to beat inflation at your holiday table, many of which can be combined for the ultimate Thanksgiving celebration that doesn’t leave you in credit card debt

Host a holiday potluck

Potlucks are both fun and so much easier on the host. Create a shared sign-up sheet at least a week before your festivities so guests can plan and organize—and so you’re not stuck with seven sweet potato casseroles. Consider offering to make the turkey and fixings, and encourage guests to bring starters, sides, and dessert. This is a great opportunity for family members to whip up their renditions of traditional family recipes, or for friends to show off their own favorite holiday dishes. 

Go meatless

Plant-based meals are often less expensive than meat-centric meals, plus they're more environmentally friendly and accommodating to guests who follow vegetarian and vegan diets. You could go for a tofurkey in place of a real bird, or get creative with veggie entrees like a wild rice and butternut squash bake, mushroom pot pie, creamy butternut squash pasta or red lentil curry. This can also be the year that you make an entire meal out of side dishes, which are the true heart of Thanksgiving anyway. And we’re just going to say it—no meat means more room for dessert, a true win-win. 

Make the most of food scraps

Wasted food is wasted money, and your food scraps don’t have to be tossed out. When prepping your meal, save peels, stems, leaves, and roots to boil into a veggie or turkey-based stock later on. Consider using ugly or bruised produce in dishes like stuffing, where no one will notice the aesthetics of your celery and carrots, and toast up squash or pumpkin seeds to serve as an appetizer. 

Opt for a limited menu

Plenty of restaurants are cutting back on their menu options, thanks to labor and ingredient costs, and you can too! Serve up a chic, restaurant-worthy menu that will be easier and more enjoyable all around. To make this bistro-style meal more elegant, write or print out a menu on cardstock that adds to your restaurant flare. One appetizer, a soup, an entree, a side or two, and dessert is plenty and still super indulgent.  

Shop ahead and buy in bulk

With a limited menu, you may need more of each ingredient, which means you can save money by buying in bulk. You can also pair up with neighbors or loved ones to spit a larger bag of potatoes, or an industrial-sized package of walnuts to get the lower price. Decide on your Thanksgiving menu a few weeks ahead of time so you can monitor sales, and stock up on what you need at hopefully the lowest price. 

Opt into turkey pieces

You already know this, but we’re here to remind you: You don’t have to cook a whole turkey! Turkey legs, turkey wings, and/or turkey breast for white meat lovers are just as delicious. Consider serving exclusively drumsticks, which clock in at about $2 per pound, and you can portion out one per guest. They’re so easy to roast—no carving required! Plus, your dining table pics will be epic if guests choose to eat with their hands (which they should). Just have a roll of paper towels on standby.

Don’t buy new equipment

First time hosting? No worries. Before you spring for that baster, roasting tray, or specialty cake pan, consider borrowing. Neighbors and friends may have extras on hand (especially if they’re not hosting) and some local libraries and sustainable stores are now lending kitchen equipment for free or a low-cost rental. You don’t need a bundt pan taking up room in your home for the other 364 days of the year, just borrow one! If you can’t find one to borrow, go secondhand. Check Facebook Marketplace or other social sharing apps for good deals, or publish an ISO (in search of) message on NextDoor to see if a neighbor can help out with a gravy boat.

This year is BYOB! 

There’s truly no need for a host to provide all the beverages for Thanksgiving, and it’s honestly in good form for a guest to bring a gift. Ask each guest to bring a bottle of something that represents what they are grateful for—a California wine may be a nice memory of a trip and a low-proof aperitif may be an acknowledgement of healthfully cutting back—to turn the crowdsourced bar into a themed game. 

Cook from a meal kit

Meal kits are known for being thrifty, providing everything you need and limiting food waste. This year, Purple Carrot is offering a plant-based Thanksgiving feast for $75, designed to serve four people. Blue Apron is offering a Thanksgiving box that serves up to eight people for $99, plus a vegetarian box for $68. Time is money, and with no shopping, minimal prep, and just enough food for the pre-set recipes, a meal kit may be your best bet against inflation. Don’t even want to cook? Goldbelly is shipping turkey dinners for four people for $120.

Be strategic about leftovers

While you don’t know how much of everything you’ll have leftover, you can generally plan for the type of food you’ll have at home for the next several days. Lightly meal plan to make the most of your bounty. Have bread on hand for turkey sandwiches, a stockpot or slow cooker ready to go to make a stock using the turkey bones, eggs to scramble with leftover veggies, and plastic bags to freeze turkey in if you’d rather just have it on hand after New Year’s. If you know you won’t eat all of your Thanksgiving food, contact neighbors to see if they’d like a plate, or join social media food share groups to see if you can give back to food insecure folks in your area. And if you’re sending leftovers home with guests, suggest that they bring their own vessels so you’re not out a ton of food storage containers.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles