How to Save on Thanksgiving Dinner | personal finance

Sharing a meal and reflections of gratitude with family and friends will always be priceless, but the cost of actually putting Thanksgiving dinner on the table has gone up – a lot.

Thanksgiving-related groceries will cost 13.5% more this year than they did last year, according to research from data analytics firm IRI. Despite the higher price tag, more than three-quarters of Americans say that they’re planning a celebration similar in size to those they had before COVID-19 restricted many large family gatherings.

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner, but are worried about the cost, follow these do’s and don’ts to keep your budget in check.

Do: Start Early

Starting your Thanksgiving shopping early not only gives you a little bit of time to spread out the financial hit, but it also allows you to shop around to see which stores have the best prices. You can compare circulars using the Flipp app to see which goods are on sale each week. If you see a good price on nonperishable goods you’ll need, stock up.

It may also make sense to expand your search beyond supermarkets. “Go to dollar stores, go to drug chains, go to grocery outlets,” says Phil Lempert, founder of SupermarketGuru.com. “All of these stores have some products that are less expensive than at grocery stores.”

Don’t: Overpay for the Tablescape

Paper products and decorations can add significantly to the cost of the meal. “A lot of folks, when they’re thinking about Thanksgiving, are only focused on the edible costs, but they don’t take into account non-edible things like napkins, paper plates if you’re doing disposable, tin foil – all of that is more expensive this year,” says food writer Marisel Salazar.

Stretch this part of your budget by picking up party goods at the dollar store and decorating with kids’ art or outdoor seasonal items like pinecones or leaves.

Do: Skip the Giant Turkey

For many families turkey is one of the most expensive items on the table, and prices have been pushed even higher as bird flu has pushed supply down on top of the inflationary pressures of transportation and labor costs. A simple way to blunt the impact of that increase is to buy a smaller bird and let guests load up on appetizers and side dishes.

“It seems wild when it comes to Thanksgiving, but the meat does not need to be the center of the table,” says Leanne Brown, author of “Good Enough: A Cookbook.”

Don’t: Do Everything Yourself

Even if you don’t want to go full potluck, consider asking some of your guests to bring some food or drink. “There’s nothing wrong with asking a guest to bring a favorite side dish,” says budgeting expert and former US News contributor Andrea Woroch. “Now more than ever, with inflation hitting everyone, it’s OK to do that. People like to contribute and share their family recipes.”

Not only will this reduce your Thanksgiving dinner costs, but it can also make the meal prep and cleanup easier, allowing you more time to enjoy the day with your guests.

Do: Get Creative With Cocktails

Alcohol is another huge factor in the cost of holiday meals. Stretch your booze a little further by making a punch or other creative cocktails that can require less alcohol per drink. You could also ask your guests to bring drinks to share.

Don’t: Ignore the Frozen Aisles

Flash frozen produce is frozen at the peak of ripeness, so it often has higher nutritional content than nonfrozen items. Frozen produce is also significantly cheaper, and it’s great for Thanksgiving staples like casseroles or stuffing.

Do: Get Creative With Leftovers

Use an app like Dinner Spinner or Side Chef to come up with recipes using the items that you have on hand, including leftovers or unused ingredients.

“I love looking at Pinterest for leftover recipes,” says financial advisor Jessica Weaver, author of “Strong Women Stronger Assets.” “You can donate leftovers or put them in the freezer for your own family. I’m a busy mom with two kids, so we love a good frozen dinner once a week.”

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