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How to cook Thanksgiving dinner on a budget

wine at dinner

It is completely possible to host a beautiful and abundant dinner on Thanksgiving Day that will make every one of your guests truly grateful.

According to American Farm Bureau Federation, the average cost of a 16-pound turkey is $21.65. Add to that your stuffing, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, creamed corn, mashed potatoes and gravy, salad, dinner rolls, cranberries, a relish tray, pies, and beverages and you’re looking at a pretty hefty price tag to feed a crowd of ten on Thanksgiving Day.

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year and on a budget, there are creative ways to cut costs and save money without your guests even noticing. While the holidays are normally about excess, it’s okay to get back to the basics this year, and not succumb to the gluttony.

6 tips for cooking Thanksgiving dinner on a budget

1. Host a potluck

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner, that does not mean you’re obligated to provide all the food and drinks. Instead, host it potluck-style. Most likely, your guests will be more than happy to be involved and will look forward to helping out.

If you’re hosting more than 10 people, ask half the group bring food, and ask the other half to bring their favorite beverage to share. You can simply assign dishes ahead of time so you don’t end up with duplicates, and so that you are in charge of your desired recipes. This will leave you extra room in the budget to splurge on decor, too.

MORE: How to organize a Thanksgiving potluck

2. Simplify the appetizers

It’s usually standard to set out appetizers when hosting dinner guests so that people have something to nibble on before the big meal. But on Thanksgiving Day, when everyone is about to eat their weight in food, it’s totally okay to skip the fancy hors d’oeuvres and just set out some bread and butter, veggies and dip, or simple crackers and cheese so people don’t starve. There’s really no need to fill up before the feast.

3. Cook “just enough” turkey

Step by Step directions to carve a turkey from

Last year, my husband insisted we cook a 20-pound bird for just the two of us and our two toddlers. I’m pretty sure we were eating turkey well into the New Year.

Instead of buying the biggest turkey available, decide to purchase a reasonably-sized one. You’ll need roughly one pound of turkey for every adult, assuming you don’t want leftovers. If you do want leftovers, plan on one and a half pounds per adult.

4. Shop in advance

Thanksgiving shopping list

Lack of planning and last-minute shopping are surefire ways to spend more money than you need to. Why? Because you won’t have time to shop around for the best deals, and you might end up buying things you don’t need.

You should start planning your recipes and writing your grocery list about three weeks ahead of time, so you have extra time to find the best deals on your ingredients, use coupons, and can spend as little money as possible.

5. Keep recipes simple

Pesto mashed potatoes are an amazing modern Thanksgiving mashed potato recipe |

Pinterest is full of elaborate Thanksgiving recipes featuring too many ingredients for us to count. While those recipes can be incredibly tasty, they’re also time-consuming and (usually) expensive—the more ingredients, the higher your grocery bill!

The best way to save money this Thanksgiving is to stick to Thanksgiving classics — like these four-ingredient pesto mashed potatoes or these easy roasted green beans. It’s possible to have a delicious and lovely traditional Thanksgiving feast that won’t cost a fortune.

6. Bake “just enough” pie

Pumpkin pie recipe

One standard pumpkin or apple pie serves eight people. If you have 15 guests, you shouldn’t need more than two pies. While that might not seem like enough, remind yourself that your guests have just finished feasting on the biggest meal of the year. Serve coffee and/or wine with your pies, and consider having a tray of homemade cookies to munch on, too.

By preparing in advance, asking guests to bring dishes and drinks, and sticking to classic recipes, you are certain to come out ahead on the cost of Thanksgiving dinner this year… meaning you can get even more pleasure from the holiday itself!

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