Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. Here are 9 ways to do Thanksgiving on a budget. Incorporate some or all of these tips to save money.

For most American families, Thanksgiving dinner is the most anticipated meal of the year. It’s easy to spend a lot of money when you’re feeding a lot of people a lot of food.

But many families are struggling with ever-increasing food prices, inflation, and shrinkflation. Suddenly, the already-expensive Thanksgiving dinner is getting even more expensive. Thanksgiving is simply going to cost more than last year.

So what can you do to make a delicious Thanksgiving meal on a budget? Here are 9 easy-to-implement tips.

1: Stick To A Simple Menu

More dishes mean more money.

If you want to cut back on what you spend, stick to four or five dishes. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, a vegetable, and cranberry sauce is a good place to start. And pumpkin pie, of course.

If you have a smaller guest list, consider preparing a turkey breast as your main dish instead of a whole bird. 

2: Choose Cheap Recipes

Thanksgiving side dishes don’t have to cost a lot of money to taste great. Here are some favorite budget-friendly Thanksgiving recipes:

Applesauce stuffing.

3: Go Potluck-Style

There’s no shame in doing a Thanksgiving potluck: Your friends and family may be eager to make their favorite Thanksgiving side dish – or try a new recipe. Don’t hesitate to make this Thanksgiving a potluck.

4: Shop Sales

Many grocery stores have sales in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. Be on the lookout for discounted boxed stuffing, vegetables, frozen foods, canned goods, and Thanksgiving staples. Also look for store brands which almost always cost less than recognizable brands.

Shop discounted grocery stores that sell dented cans and almost-expired foods to save money.

You’ll also want to shop at discount grocery stores like ALDI, Walmart or your local salvage grocery store.

5: Make Boxed Stuffing… Better

You can buy boxed stuffing for less than $2.00 a box. And it will taste just fine.

But for just a little more money, you can upgrade your boxed stuffing by adding different ingredients to the mix – like mushrooms, fresh herbs, apples, pears or bacon.

Get 40+ ideas for upgrading boxed stuffing.

How to doctor up boxed stuffing: A few simple tweaks can take boxed stuffing from boring to extraordinary!6: Cut Out The Extras

There’s no way around it: Thanksgiving dinner is going to cost more this year.

Considering the dramatic increase in food prices, you may want to consider cutting out some of the more expensive “extras” such as:

  • Wine or cocktails
  • Appetizer platters
  • Gourmet cheeses
  • Multiple desserts

7: Make It Homemade

Many grocery stores and restaurants offer ready-made Thanksgiving mains and sides, like ready-to-heat green bean casserole or mashed potatoes, or pumpkin pie.

While it’s certainly convenient, it’s not cheap. 

These pre-made side dishes will dramatically increase your grocery bill.

Making homemade Thanksgiving dishes is a much cheaper option.

Shop sales for Thanksgiving dinner. Get more tips to save money this Thanksgiving.

8: Use What You Already Have 

Inventory your fridge, freezer, and pantry before you go to the grocery store.

Maybe there are some breadcrumbs ready to be made into homemade stuffing.

Maybe there are some cans of green beans that can be made into homemade green bean casserole.

Maybe you’re the lucky recipient of a free turkey from work. Or maybe someone in your family is that would be willing to contribute.

Avoid buying themed decorations, plates, and tableware. Use what you already have to save money. (However, you can shop after-Thanksgiving sales to find cheap decorations for next year!)

9: Make Great Use Of Thanksgiving Leftovers

Think of Thanksgiving leftovers as an awesome gift to yourself after cooking all day and serving your family.

While eating the same turkey-stuffing-cranberry meal again is an option, don’t be afraid to experiment with some more creative recipes using different Thanksgiving foods:

Leftover mashed potato bar: Mashed potatoes with lots of toppings! Click through for recipes.

How To Save Money On Thanksgiving FAQs

With food prices increasing dramatically, many families are looking for ways to save money on Thanksgiving dinner. Here are some of the questions we get about combating rising food costs around Thanksgiving:

What is the best way to save money on a Thanksgiving gathering?

Take a close look at your budget and determine where you plan on spending the most money on your Thanksgiving gathering: For most people, this will be food. Then, figure out where you can cut spending on your Thanksgiving grocery shopping list, either by shopping at discount grocery stores, scaling down your menu or asking friends and family to contribute a dish. 

What are the cheapest recipes for Thanksgiving?

There are so many cheap recipes that are appropriate for a Thanksgiving meal. Boxed stuffing (with delicious upgrades), homemade mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and cranberries are very affordable dishes. Many recipes will cost more because they call for fancy/higher cost ingredients, so stick to the simple recipes. Take a look at the links, above, for specific ideas. 

What are 3 easy ways to save money on Thanksgiving dinner?

My three go-to tips for saving money on Thanksgiving dinner are to choose cheap recipes that taste great, shop at discount supermarkets for ingredients, and ask friends or family if they will prepare a dish to share for the event.

Why does Thanksgiving cost more than previous years?

You can pretty much count on food price increases year-over-year due to inflation – and other factors like shrinkflation and supply chain issues. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to cut back on Thanksgiving spending while still throwing a great party.