Prices are through the roof for everything, especially groceries. With most of us grocery shopping weekly, we’ve been feeling the pinch for some time. The Consumer Price Index shows an 11% rise in grocery prices compared to a year ago. Amid inflation woes, we’re also seeing turkey flock shortages due to outbreaks of bird flu. Analysts expect the price of turkey to break $1.60 per pound. For a 15-pound bird, that’s a whopping $24.00 -without the dressing or roasting pan and meat thermometer.
Big yikes. Luckily, there are lots ways you can save big on Thanksgiving dinner. From sweet potatoes to pecan pie, there are lots of deals for you to afford a savory Thanksgiving feast.
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How to Save Big on Thanksgiving Shopping
With a little prep work, you can put out a big spread for Thanksgiving without having to skimp any further.
1. Get a Free Turkey
A number of grocery chains give away free turkeys every year. Generally it’s related to a promotion, like having to meet a minimum spend amount at that store over a certain period of time. Or frequently, you must purchase a minimum dollar amount for a certain store category like deli or produce.
These supermarkets regularly run free turkey promos that kick off in October:
- Acme Markets
- Albertsons (You can also earn cash back shopping rebates at Albertsons from Swagbucks)
- BJ’s Wholesale Club
- Fred Meyer
- Weis Market
If you can’t score a bird for for free, getting a cheap turkey is the next best thing. These stores are known for having killer turkey prices.
- City Market
- Cub Food
- Fred Meyer
- Fresh Market
- Weis Market
Charities Giving Away Free Turkeys or Free Thanksgiving Meals
A number of charities give away free turkeys or meals on Thanksgiving Days for individuals and families experiencing food need.
Check with these organizations:
- Local food banks – search for food banks in your state or zip code.
- United Way – chapters through the country host turkey drives and offer free turkeys to families in need. Find your local United Way.
- Salvation Army – hosts free Thanksgiving dinners. Each dinner is organized and hosted by local locations, so look for a Salvation Army near you.
2. Make a Thanksgiving Shopping List and Stick to it
Plan your meal and side dishes in advance. Make a list for what you’ll need and stick with it. You can get your kids or grandkids to help you as an exercise in personal finance management.
As you build your list, it’s a great time to keep it basic. If most years your family is happy eating Stouffers’ boxed stuffing, don’t switch it up to a fancy new recipe that calls for special herbs and oils. Stay the course with family approved dishes that are budget-friendly.
If you don’t want change up Thanksgiving dinner itself, consider other areas where you can save. You can serve chips with salsa instead of guac? Or serve fried ravioli instead of chicken wings or other hearty hors d’oeuvres?
3. Use Grocery Apps to Get Digital Coupons and Free Cashback
You can use grocery apps to get free food for your Thanksgiving Day meal. Apps like Ibotta, Fetch Rewards, or Swagbucks run holiday themed promotions. For example, purchase specific Thanksgiving themed items like pumpkin puree or mashed potatoes, earn cash back rebates.
These apps are like coupons, but in reverse. Instead of saving, say, $1 at the register you’ll get $1 in cash back after you make the purchase and scan your receipt. (You just have to take a picture on your smartphone and tap send.)
Some of the savings are even money makers. For example, you might find a deal to get $2 cash back on a product that’s price at only $1.59. That means you’ll actually make $0.41 for purchasing that featured item.
4. Branch Out: Shop Different Stores for the Best Prices
If you’re willing to plan ahead and shop at more than one store, you’ll get the best deals. Supermarkets run promotions on specific items to drive foot traffic. They want you in the store so while you’re there you’ll purchase other items with higher mark-ups.
If you’re willing to get your roasting pan for $0.29 at one store and your fresh herbs for $0.99 at another, you could be saving $10 or more. And that’s just for two ingredients on your list. Make sure to check prices ahead of time and plan out your shopping. If you can, group together all the stores you want to shop within one outing.
Also don’t forget to check out dollar stores and pharmacies like Rite Aid or Walgreens. They may not be an obvious choice for grocery food shopping, but they often carry many of the same items you can find at your local grocery stores.
5. Make it a Potluck
Take a load off and let other family and friends do some of the cooking. Assign everyone a dish to bring. Some of you may delight in being at the helm and you relish cooking every single dish, I get it. But you want to pass on those recipes and traditions. No one will learn to make it (closet to) how you do unless you show them. Give them a recipe and assign them a dish.
Or tell them to show up early and bring a bag of russet potatoes or can of cranberries. You can make the dish with them and teach them how to do it the right way on the spot.
6. Save that Jack-O-Lantern Pumpkin
Turns out you can eat Jack-O-Lantern pumpkin! They’re bread to be ginormous: they’re seedy with very little flesh. Halloween pumpkins don’t taste like pumpkin pie and I wouldn’t use them for muffins or pumpkin bread, but a Jack-O-Lantern pumpkin is basically a squash.
After you’ve carved it, you can wash it and roast it. And then freeze it until you bake it into a Thanksgiving side dish.
Immediately after you’ve carved the pumpkin, you do need to keep it in cool weather and cook it within 24 hours. This means you’d need to carve your pumpkin the day of Halloween and cook it the next day. If you’re in doubt about whether or you should use the pumpkin (it’s been 28 hours, or it got a touch warm out), go ahead and compost it. It’s great for your flowers and veggie garden. You can find some ideas for how to cook your Jack-O-Lantern pumpkin here.
7. And Save that Halloween Candy Too!
Last year, I used a few pounds of my kids’ Halloween candy to make sweet treats for Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving – I forget which.
Spread out some pretzels on a cookie sheet. Top with chopped up Halloween candy. Then bake in the over for 10-15 minutes. Let the candies harden and cool and you can freeze them. After I pulled the candies out of oven, I pour cereal and cracker crumbs over them for a salty edge.
8. Try a Salvage Grocery Store
Salvage grocery stores sell foods near or past their expiration date. Many experts feel that expiration dates are random and only directional at best. Canned items can keep the longest – often months past the expiry date. It’s up to your best judgment. With so many Thanksgiving food ingredients boxed or canned, like cranberry sauce, pumpkin puree, and green beans, it’s worth a try.
9. Push Out Your Celebration a Couple Days
There’s no reason why Thanksgiving needs to be celebrated exclusively on the fourth Thursday of November. After all, the very first Thanksgiving celebrated by the Pilgrims was 3 days long. For the next two hundred something odd years, people celebrated the holiday on all different days and months. It didn’t get formalized as the fourth Thursday of the month until 1941.
Can you hold your feast on the Friday or Saturday after Thanksgiving? Or the following weekend out? The price of Thanksgiving groceries plummets the day after Thanksgiving. My husband and I like to stock up on whole frozen turkeys then that are sold at $0.49 a pound – or less.
Bottom Line on Saving Money on Your Thanksgiving Grocery Bill
There are a lot of ways to save money on groceries and supplies for your Thanksgiving Day feast. You can even get a free turkey. With a little bit of planning and flexibility, you can pull it off.
Imagine, for one day only – how good it would feel to enjoy a huge Thanksgiving meal with all your loved ones while not breaking the bank. You can still get fed and look generous on a tight budget.
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