6 ways to save on Thanksgiving dinner
Plan your menu, finalize headcount and create your shopping list 2 weeks ahead so you know what size turkey and ham to get. Rule of thumb is 1 – 1.5 lbs per person. Since you can get a turkey for FREE at Safeway when you spend $100 through November 14th, you are getting an instant $32 savings for a 16 lb turkey that would feed 10 people with leftovers.
Shop Early – It’s not too early. In fact, the prices of all the Thanksgiving essentials are on sale and even at their lowest levels one to two weeks before the big day. Only a few items like fresh green beans, fresh cranberries, frozen pies, sweet potatoes and 10 lb. bags of potatoes will go down between now and Thanksgiving. The turkey and sides are already on sale at their lowest prices and will be for the next few weeks, so take advantage of the great deals now.
If you wait until the last minute – you may be stuck paying for a fresh turkey, which is typically over $2 – $3/lb. or a turkey that is not the right size for your gathering. You may have too many left overs if you are stuck with a bigger bird than you need.
Shop Smart – by comparing prices before you shop and shopping the cheapest store for your list, you can save a bundle. Whether you are hosting a Martha Stewart style meal, or a semi-homemade meal, where you shop can make a difference in what you can expect to pay for your Thanksgiving meal. To save the most, you definitely want to shop the grocery sales and in-store promotions for Thanksgiving and use digital coupons for extra savings. Use the free uGrocery app to compare your entire shopping list and see the best place to shop.
A lot of times, the cheapest items won’t be at one store, so if you are really on a tight budget, you can shop around for the absolute best value. The uGrocery app tells you the best prices for all the items on your shopping list from the turkey to the stuffing to the fresh or canned green beans.
Delegate and Ask for Help – Friends and family will inevitably ask you what they can bring – the best answer is a bottle of wine and if they want to bring more, then a dessert is best. This way, you don’t have to splurge on the expensive adult beverages and you’ll know that dessert is covered. If you don’t have enough oven space for all the sides, you can always ask someone to bring a side, but be specific about what you want them to bring. Since you are hosting, you want to control the menu and you may not want Aunt Carol’s jello salad as a side.
Keep decorations simple – use simple fall pumpkins, gourds and fall leaves and other fall decorations that you can find on clearance right now in lieu of fresh flowers for your table setting. Fresh flowers will set you back at least $40 – $50, whereas simple mini pumpkins and gourds will cost $.50 – $.69 each, so if you get ten, you’re going to spend up to $7 on decorations, which is a no-brainer, but you must get these early because as it gets closer to Thanksgiving, you won’t find these in the stores as they will be promoting Christmas and holiday decor, pinecones etc, the week of Thanksgiving.
Skip Paper – If you plan to host Thanksgiving again in the future you want to purchase some fall colored cloth napkins. These are around $1.00 a piece at Pier One and you just wash, iron and reuse every year. You can often find cloth napkins in the dollar section at Target. It will save money over buying paper napkins and can be incorporated into your décor. Since Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate, bring out the fancy china that you got for your wedding. This is the time to use it.
You can realistically host a simple Thanksgiving dinner for 10 for under $50. In fact the Farm Bureau’s total for the past few years has been $49.50, and Colorado’s super competitive grocery market has made it possible for Colorado consumers to pay even less – just $38 for a traditional turkey dinner.
Eva Fry is the co-founder of the free uGrocery price comparison app and a consumer savings expert. She is a mom of 3 and lives in Lakewood, CO.