How to save money on Thanksgiving dinner: these ‘keep it simple’ tips can help

By keeping things simple, you’ll save not only cash but also cooking time. That’ll help save money and give you more time to spend with guests, one chef suggests.

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You can save some some bucks this Thanksgiving holiday by opting to serve a roast chicken (or two) instead of turkey. 

You can save some some dollars this Thanksgiving holiday by opting to serve a roast chicken (or two, depending on the number of people you’re feeding) instead of turkey.

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It’s natural for Thanksgiving to cause preparation-related pressure for hosts and at-home chefs. But this year, rising prices at the grocery store are adding another layer of stress.

Turkey prices are expected to soar this year thanks to inflation and an avian flu outbreak, with the U.S. Department of Food and Agriculture forecasting a 23% price hike in the fourth quarter compared to last year.

To help ease some of the financial burden, we asked Institute of Culinary Education chef-instructor Stephen Chavez for money saving ideas.

His biggest tip: Keep it simple. By doing so, you’ll save not only cash but also cooking time. That’ll help save money and give you more time to spend with guests.

“It’s really about family and getting together,” he says. “I think people just need to kind of simplify.”

With simplification in mind, here are seven tips from Chavez to help cut costs this Thanksgiving.

1. Skip the turkey, opt for roast chicken

Turkey might be the traditional bird of Thanksgiving but that doesn’t mean you absolutely have to have it on your table. Chavez advises opting for a different bird entirely to save some cash.

“I’ve heard that the price of turkey is way up,” he says. “You can buy a whole chicken and, for a family of four, a chicken is more than enough.”

And, if you’re not hankering for that Black Friday leftover turkey Thanksgiving sandwiches, you probably don’t need a ton of leftovers anyway.

2. Focus on smaller portions

Thanksgiving is known for being an indulgent holiday. Many of us eat to excess while still finding ourselves throwing leftovers in the trash.

We don’t need to do that, though. To save money — and potentially avoid a stomach ache — reducing portion size is a good option.

“If you want turkey, opt to get a turkey breast instead of purchasing a full bird, Chavez says,

3. Avoid trends

The holiday doesn’t need to be extravagant to be enjoyable. And you don’t have to jump on trending dishes to make your table feel fun or special.

“You don’t need to make a charcuterie board,” Chavez says. “You don’t need to make a butter board.”

Trendy dishes that require multiple ingredients hike up your grocery bill faster than tryptophan puts you into a turkey coma.

4. Don’t buy pre-made sides

There are plenty of pre-made options for hosting such as dips and cheese trays and pies — but those might cost you.

“Don’t buy anything that’s pre-made,” Chavez says. “It’s just so much more expensive than making your own.”

Consider making your own pumpkin pie or other desserts for Thanksgiving, rather that buying high-priced, pre-made items.

Consider making your own pumpkin pie or other desserts for Thanksgiving, rather that buying high-priced, pre-made items.

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Instead of buying pumpkin pie, he advises buying a can of pumpkin pie filling and making a pie — or smaller pies in single serve portions with a streusel topping that can be made with ingredients at home like flour, sugar, salt and butter. It will be “way less expensive” than buying a pre-made pie, he says. (Recipes are readily available online.)

5. Use what you already have

Look at Thanksgiving as an opportunity to do a bit of cabinet clean-out, Chavez says, noting there are lots of odds and ends that you can find in your pantry or fridge and use creatively to form Thanksgiving dishes.

Make your own Thanksgiving dinner side dishes, such as stuffing, cranberry sauce and veggies. It can save you some money this holiday season.

Make your own Thanksgiving dinner side dishes, such as stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole and veggies. It can save you some money this holiday season as you may already have some of the ingredients in your pantry or freezer. And recipes are readily available online to help guide you.

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It’s just about thinking how you can use what you already have. Bread ends can turn into stuffing, half a carrot and onion can be thrown into the stuffing, too. Things like frozen vegetables can come in handy for side dishes such as creamed corn.

“It’s a great time to use up those things that you’ve had for a while that you can use in a smart way,” Chavez says.

6. Opt for a potluck-style Thanksgiving

Chavez says that a potluck can be a good option if you’re looking to save.

Instead of taking on all the responsibility for the celebration, opt for a potluck and have guests bring a side like a salad or mashed potatoes, or a dessert, maybe a pie, while taking on perhaps the turkey (or chicken) and a couple other dishes yourself.

This takes the onus of cost responsibility off of the host by spreading the cost around a bit.

7. Think about how you’re shopping

Once you make a game plan for your Thanksgiving spread, continue to be strategic while shopping. Consider the grocery store geography. Visit areas like the frozen section, think about how you can use inexpensive staples and consider where you’re shopping.

Contributing: Bailey Schulz, USA TODAY

Read more at usatoday.com

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