Don’t overspend on Thanksgiving meal

The pressure to create the perfect Thanksgiving meal can escalate quickly. Lots of guests, housework and cooking an unfamiliar main dish can overwhelm many, causing us to overspend to make things “just right.”

Here are some expert tips on creating a budget dinner that would impress even Martha Stewart.

Kitchen tools

If you don’t have a proper carving set, an electric knife can cost you less money, says Davida Hogan, home editor at “We discovered that you’re actually able to slice closer to the bird, so you actually get more meat off your bird with an electric knife.”

You also don’t need a fancy pie pan, she says. “Sure, there are really pretty things that come in great colors, but actually glass is the best conductor of heat.”

Instead, Hogan recommends a “plain, old basic Pyrex, and that only costs $10.”


Your table doesn’t need to look like Six Flags over Turkey. Keep adornments, if any, simple and stress-free.

“In terms of doing a centerpiece,” suggests Hogan, “you can go outside, gather some pine cones, get a metallic craft spray, spray some of the pine cones gold and put them in a glass bowl.”


Personal chef Amy Churchill suggests avoiding recipes with obscure herbs and instead make the ingredients you choose work double duty.

“There’s a lot of things that you have recipes for where they just need one ingredient and you never use it again,” she says. “So it helps to use recipes that all use the same ingredients, and it drives the cost down.”

Churchill, who runs À la Chef in Alpharetta, also recommends buying any spices from bulk bins and using the squeeze-tube herbs from supermarkets (they last longer in the fridge).

She even suggests dialing down the main dish if you don’t have many guests — turkey breasts or cutlets are just as festive as a whole bird, and less expensive.

Hogan points out another good reason to downsize: “Let’s say your family likes white meat. Maybe you don’t have to get a whole turkey; you just get the turkey breast, and that’s a lot cheaper because then you’re not paying for all the bones and the whole bird.”

If you’re worried your table won’t look like the cornucopia you’ve seen on the magazine covers, remember that planning for proper portions — and giving people smaller plates — will give both your wallet and your waistline a break.

“I know that it’s fun to eat,” Churchill says, but “I think portion size is something we need to be aware of and teach our kids about, too.”

Focusing on the reasons we come together on the holiday — meaningful conversation, an attitude of giving thanks and love of family and friends — can keep you from a downward spiral of spending, she notes.

“If we remember to be grateful for what we have, and not try to be the biggest or even the best, it helps keep things in perspective.”

(Sample some of Churchill’s double-duty recipes here.)

Also, check out food critic John Kessler’s Thanksgiving food oddities.

– By Lauren Davidson, Atlanta Bargain Hunter

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7 comments Add your comment


November 15th, 2011
8:41 am

Hey, ya’ll, I made 4 dozens pints of applebutter at the cannery Thursday. Very good on biscuits. MJG, I will bring you some when I see you again!

[...] approaching, and now is the time to prepare. Check out Bargain Hunter’s post on how to avoid overspending on the Thanksgiving meal. Do you have any other tips for fellow readers on how to create a Thanksgiving feast on a budget? [...]


November 15th, 2011
12:36 pm

LOVED the article Lauren – thanks for allowing me to be apart! Have a blessed Thanksgiving!


November 16th, 2011
5:04 pm

Dang, I want some apple butter too…love that stuff!


November 16th, 2011
6:30 pm

Amy thanks for all that help! Where not to buy any thing & the the detail is great!

Seana Shannon

November 18th, 2011
3:30 pm

I match coupons and sales to bring the price of my Thanksgiving Feast down. There are always good sales happening as well as great coupons to use.


November 19th, 2011
12:24 pm

I know some are intimidated by cooking a whole bird and/or don’t think their guests could eat all of that turkey, but one of our large chain grocery store chains currently has whole frozen turkeys for 59 cents a pound. You can’t get much better value than that. You get a whole bird for less that the cost of a breast. Brine and use a meat thermometer and you’ll be fine. Freeze what you don’t eat for later and use the bones to make a stock for soup. Nothing is wasted.