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How to Make Thanksgiving Dinner on a Budget

Get a load of great money-saving tips and top-rated recipes to help you feast best for less.

Holding a plate of Thanksgiving dinner

Photo by Allrecipes

Top 10 Tips to Keep Costs Down

Before we get to the recipes, let's take a quick rundown of simple ways to plan a Thanksgiving dinner that won't blow up your budget.


1. Buy Store-Brand Frozen Turkey

Turkey is usually about 40 percent of the cost of the meal. Save money by buying a store-brand frozen turkey (with a coupon) instead of a fresh bird. Be sure to allow enough time to thaw the bird: one day in the fridge for every five pounds.

2. DIY the Basics

Save money by making your own Thanksgiving basics such as breadcrumbs, whipped cream, pie crusts, and chicken stock.

3. Go Big

Potatoes are cheaper by the bag. Can't use a whole bag? Split it with a thrifty-minded pal. Same thing goes for buying butter, eggs, sugar, and flour at big box stores like Costco or Sam's Club. Split the packages with friends and you're sharing the savings.

4. Buy in Bulk

Herbs are cheaper if you buy in bulk bins where you can purchase only the small amounts you need.

5. Seek Out Specials

Look for store coupons and weekly specials, especially during the holidays when retailers are trying to attract you into the stores.

6. Choose Generic Brands

Generic brands are less expensive but just as good as big name brands.

7. Shop Early

Buy canned cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie filling and other canned goods the week before Thanksgiving when they typically are on sale.

8. Buy Some Frozen Foods

Like canned goods, frozen ingredients can cost a lot less than fresh.

9. Stick to the List

Go to the store with a shopping list and stick to your list. Impulse buys add up quickly.

10. Share the Cost

Thanksgiving potlucks are a great way to share the big feast (and the cost) with family and friends. It's a win-win all the way around.

Thanksgiving Dinner in Progress

Photo by Allrecipes

Budget Thanksgiving Menu

Each of these crowd-pleasing recipes rates four stars or more, and you don't have to spend on fancy ingredients to get the big flavors.

A Simply Perfect Roast Turkey

"Simple, perfect roast turkey just like grandma used to make," says Syd. "Seasoned simply with salt and pepper, and basted with turkey stock, the flavors of the turkey really stand out. Stuff with your favorite dressing."

A Simply Perfect Roast Turkey

Photo by mrs.americanhorse

Bread and Celery Stuffing

"Everyone loved this dish at thanksgiving dinner," says MELODYYOON. "It's extremely simple and very tasty which helps when you've got homemade cornbread, pumpkin pie, and the turkey to cook."

Bread and Celery Stuffing

Photo by Michelle Ramey

Basic Mashed Potatoes

"If you love good, old fashioned mashed potatoes this is the perfect recipe," says Esmee Williams. Simple and delicious."

Basic Mashed Potatoes

Photo by lutzflcat

Green Bean Casserole

"Nothing goes over better then a tried and true, comforting, green bean casserole," says FLOWERGRLLLL. "This is a recipe you can rely on, and the ingredients are inexpensive and easy to store in your pantry for when your ready to whip it up."

Green Bean Casserole

Photo by SayMarie11

Candied Yams

"This is a simple and quick way to enjoy a Thanksgiving favorite," says LORIEANN29. "Canned yams or sweet potatoes may be used."

Candied Yams

Photo by jazgbl

Cranberry Sauce

"It's so nice to have such a simple, easy task when there are so many other things to worry about when making Thanksgiving dinner," says Annette. "Everyone was so impressed with the fresh cranberry sauce and it was the simplest dish I made!"

Cranberry Sauce

Photo by wannabe chefette

Mom's Pumpkin Pie

"Simple, quick, and easily made from ingredients found in the pantry and fridge," says Errantdreams. "Delicious!

Mom's Pumpkin Pie

Photo by jkdomrose

Terrific Leftover Recipes

Get the most out of your meal by turning Thanksgiving leftovers into tasty casseroles and other dishes.

Check out our collection of Thanksgiving Recipes.


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