8 ways to save money on Thanksgiving dinner favorites

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Hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year?

In addition to the glory that accompanies serving the most succulent turkey and the creamiest mashed potatoes, hosting Thanksgiving dinner also comes with a set of challenges.

...Including how to afford it.

The last thing anyone wants to focus on is the expense of hosting. But it's a reality! Buying groceries for a large dinner (not to mention snacks, apps, desserts, and drinks) to feed a houseful of loved ones is no joke.

If you’re not careful, the amount at the bottom of your grocery receipt can quickly become unmanageable.

Stick to your monthly food budget (without sacrificing quality or your favorite ingredients!) by following these money-saving tips:

Follow your food values

In a perfect world, we'd buy all free-range, all local, all artisanal everything, right? But that's not realistic for most families. Start your Thanksgiving prep by getting clear on what matters most to you when it comes to food.

Whether you want to buy a free-range turkey, support local farmers for produce, or have the gourmet sausage your grandma's stuffing recipe calls for, prioritize the pricey ingredients you care about most. Then fill in the rest of your ingredients around those primary needs.

Plan your menu + start shopping early

Once you know your food priorities, plan a menu to stretch your dollar further.

Look for dishes that use simple, affordable ingredients over unnecessary dollar-gobblers. A pumpkin pie spice mix, for example, is much pricier than mixing together some cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves yourself.

Then, start shopping for non-perishables (canned pumpkin, frozen corn, boxed broth) and grab items when they're on sale. Some stores increase the price of seasonal items the closer it gets to Thanksgiving, so stock up while they're priced low.

Shopping for items bit by bit also helps break up the grocery bill so it's not one giant hit in the days before Thanksgiving dinner.

Use cards wisely

Some credit cards offer additional rewards (like 2x or 3x the points) when used at the grocery store. Use this card when shopping for Thanksgiving items and apply the extra points towards gift cards for the holidays!

Check out gift card sites like raise.com to purchase grocery store gift cards for 1%, 2%, 3%, even up to 20% off! The site also has gift cards for home goods stores if you need extra plates or flatware, and specialty kitchen stores like Williams Sonoma.

Buy only what you need

Did you know that you can ask your grocery store to buy half of an item (half a butternut squash, block of cheese, or cut of meat)? Not every store offers this, but many do. It never hurts to ask!

Also, look for items that can be found in the bulk bins (oats, nuts, rice, dried fruit). Not only can you purchase the exact amount you need, these items are cheaper because they don't include packaging. 

Check out your grocery store's salad bar if you only need a small amount of produce. It's the perfect place to find 1/4 of a red pepper, a few tablespoons of sweet peas, or a handful of cherry tomatoes.

Buy organic...strategically

If buying organic is important to you, invest your budget in buying organic items in the "Dirty Dozen" — the 12 fruits and veggies with the highest amount of chemical residue.

Save money by buying conventional for "cleaner" produce like sweet corn, onions, and cauliflower.

Click to see the full Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists.

Utilize money-saving apps

Coupon websites and smartphone apps can help you save money on your Thanksgiving trip. Check out coupons.com, savingstar.com/coupons for coupons and our new favorite Ibotta app for cash-back rebates when you shop. 

Many grocery stores have apps of their own, filled with coupons and special offers. Kroger's, Target, and Whole Foods are just a few chains that offer valuable savings in their free apps. Search the app store to see if your local store has one!

Consider potluck style

The original Thanksgiving with the pilgrims and Native Americans was potluck style. Recreate the tradition while sharing the burden of cooking (and spending.)

Here are a few ideas to divvy up your Thanksgiving meal:

  • You make the turkey and ask guests to each bring a side dish
  • You cook dinner and guests bring dessert
  • Ask guests to each bring a bottle of wine with them

Most guests are happy to bring along a dish or drink — so don’t be afraid to ask!

Get savvy on what can be frozen

Many types of produce can be frozen ahead of time (buy them on sale and save for the big day) or afterward (if you have leftover ingredients). Less wasted food, less wasted money. Win-win!

A few Thanksgiving ingredients you can freeze:

  • Bread: freeze leftover slices or end pieces throughout the month. Defrost and chop into small cubes for stuffing, toast for crostini, or whizz up into breadcrumbs.
  • Pumpkin: cut up into small chunks or freeze pumpkin puree
  • Apples: slice, dip into water and lemon juice (to prevent browning), freeze on a parchment-lined baking sheet for a few hours, then move to a freezer bag
  • Carrots: peel and slice, blanch in boiling water for two minutes, plunge in an ice bath to cool, freeze

Click here for a list of foods you can and cannot freeze.

One final money-saving tip…

Did you know that the Dooli™ bag adapter allows you to use ANY bag in your Diaper Genie® or Litter Genie®? 

...Plastic grocery bags included! :)

Instead of spending money on expensive bag refills, the Dooli™adaptor lets you re-use any plastic bag you already have around the house.

Better for the environment. Better for your wallet. What's not to love?

Click here to purchase your Diaper Genie® Compatible Bag Adapter or Litter Genie® Compatible Bag Adapter.

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