Thanksgiving is just around the corner, but food costs have soared since last year. So how can you have a wonderful meal without breaking your budget?

√ Share the cost – and the thanks
√ Stay within budget by planning ahead
√ Begin checking the weekly grocery store flyers now
√ Save on the turkey
√ Keep the menu simple
√ Keep desserts to a minimum
√ Save leftover bread ends now
√ Enjoy the spirit of the season and your meal

Share the cost – and the thanks: If having guests bring prepared dishes is part of your family tradition, by all means continue it. Having others contribute to the meal will decrease your total cost. I am sure there will be some guests who are just waiting to be asked to bring their favorite dish so they can share the compliments when the meal is served.

If this is not part of your custom, this year is the perfect time to reach out to family or friends to discuss sharing. Just remember to plan what each guest will bring so that your meal is balanced. After all, you don’t want to wind up with five desserts and no vegetables.

Stay within budget by planning ahead: If you are the sole provider of the Thanksgiving meal, don’t despair: planning ahead will help reduce the cost.

Begin checking the weekly grocery store flyers now: Many flyers are advertising staples for the Thanksgiving meal. This week, I found frozen vegetables on sale for $1.00 per small box at the three major local supermarket chains. Stock up on the variety of vegetables you traditionally serve with your meal, but also think of vegetables that can be added to pot pies or soups when you’re preparing leftovers.
• Healthy eating tip: Look for the packages with NO added sauces or butters.
The supermarket produce section has vegetables, potatoes (both white and sweet), and a variety of squashes that are priced lower during this season. Gravy and chicken broth are also on sale.
• Healthy eating tip: When choosing the gravy and broth, select the low-fat and low-sodium varieties to help control the added fat and sodium.

Again, having ample supply of these sale items will help save on the main meal and those all-important leftovers. You won’t have to run out to the store when you’re ready to use the extras.

If you are short on funds, check with your local food pantry, church, or community organization to find out if they can help. Project Bread’s Food Source Hotline has staff available to answer your questions. The number is 1-800-645-8333. It’s worth the call!


Save on the turkey: Many grocery stores offer specials on frozen turkeys: Larger turkeys offer the most cost savings per pound. However, if space for cooking or storing is an issue, try purchasing two smaller turkeys. Take advantage of the grocery store specials, which offer the frozen turkey at a lower price if you purchase a minimum amount of groceries. And the good news is that the minimum is a lot lower this year than last. So if you spend about $25 dollars for groceries then you get the turkey for less than half the regular price per pound.
Planning ahead is important for getting the right size turkey and leaving enough time for defrosting safely. Here are some tips on purchasing and handling frozen turkey from the National Turkey Federation:

• When shopping for a whole turkey, it is best to purchase at least one pound per person. This will allow for plenty of extra helpings plus some leftovers. If you don’t want to allow for any leftovers plan on ¾ pound per person.
• Store the bird in the freezer until the thawing time begins.
•  Thaw in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave.
• Refrigerator: Allow approximately 24 hours for each four to five pounds to thaw in the refrigerator. So, if you have an average 18 pound turkey, plan four days for defrosting in the refrigerator.

• Cold water: Allow approximately 30 minutes per pound to thaw in cold water, which you should change every 30 minutes. Do not use warm or hot water and be sure to change the water every 30 minutes.
• Microwave: Make sure that your turkey will FIT in your microwave as soon as you bring it home, if you plan to use this method. Follow the microwave manufacturer’s directions and begin to roast the turkey immediately following the microwave process.

Keep the menu simple: Cut back on all those extra side dishes that everyone insists we must have, but frequently wind up going to waste. Select just two additional side vegetables, one stuffing, and the cranberry sauce. This will cut down on waste, preparation time, and additional calories.

Keep desserts to a minimum: Opt for one or two favorite desserts. Desserts are a great option for guests to bring. Making them yourself can also save money and calories. And baking together is a great way to get younger family members involved in the Thanksgiving meal preparation.
If you’re making the traditional pumpkin or squash pies, check the grocery store flyers as these canned items often are on sale.

• Healthy Eating tips: Fruit-based desserts can be healthier options. Apples are now in season and lower cost. Look for recipes for apple crisp or baked apples. Using a fruit-based dessert, you can often find recipes where you can use sugar substitutes as the sweetener and have a dessert option for guests who are limiting their sugar content. Check out this Dutch apple pie recipe.
• To prepare a lighter pumpkin or squash pie check out this recipe.

Save leftover bread ends now: You can add them to stuffing: Or just toast them and keep them tightly sealed in a plastic bag until ready for use.
If you start now, you may set aside enough to meet your stuffing needs. If not, purchase one stuffing that is on sale and add your leftover bread pieces to stretch the purchased bag.

Enjoy the spirit of the season and your meal: By planning the menu, shopping for the specials, and preparing to cook most of the holiday meal at home, you can have a healthy Thanksgiving meal without breaking the budget.

Got leftovers from Thanksgiving? Send me your creative ideas for how to use leftovers so we can save money and keep eating healthy throughout this holiday season.