Hosting Thanksgiving On A Tight Budget


November 21, 2013 – By Juliette Fairley

A Thanksgiving meal has traditionally been the time to celebrate what life has to offer with family members. Yet with rising food prices, the American holiday can put a stress on finances.

Fret not, though: there are many ways to express gratitude without breaking the bank.

An average Thanksgiving feast for 10 people will cost $49 this year or about $4.90 per person, according to a recent study from the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF).

“Several poultry and dairy product items increased in price during the second half of the year, accounting for much of the increase in the marketbasket,” said John Anderson, deputy chief economist the AFBF.
The AFBF’s Semi-Annual Marketbasket Survey found that on average chicken breast is up 61 cents to $3.93 per pound, whole milk is up 25 cents to $3.71 per gallon, russet potatoes are up 49 cents to $3.18 for a 5-pound bag and bacon is up 43 cents to $4.71 per pound.

“The holidays can be stressful as well as a financial drain on the pocketbook,” said David Flores, a financial counselor with GreenPath, headquartered in Farmington Hills, Mich. During the holidays, about 41% of Americans expect to spend between $100 and $300, and 22% expect to spend between $300 and $500, according to the Discover Annual Holiday Shopping Survey.

“It’s easy to get carried away with your spending over the Thanksgiving holiday,” said Steve Trumble, president and CEO of American Consumer Credit Counseling. “Between the food, the football and visits with extended family, your checkbook might be the furthest thing from your mind.”

For those on a budget, there are a few inexpensive ways to set a table. The USDA says frozen turkey can stay good for a year when stored in a freezer. “Consider buying a frozen turkey on sale ahead of the holiday,” Flores said. It may take some perusing, but there are promotional opportunities to obtain a turkey at no cost.

“If you shop regularly at one grocery store and use their club card or savings card, you might be eligible for a free frozen turkey,” said Amanda Willis, blogger with The Sisters’ Soiree.

Instead of serving a full meal, offer small bites that guests can fill up on.

“Make the veggie, fruit and cheese platters yourself instead of buying the pre-made crudite platters sold by grocery stores,” said Maureen Welsh, a consumer expert on grocery savings at KC Strategic Shopping. Buying a chicken or other inexpensive meats as an alternative to the traditional turkey is another way to save but speak to a butcher first.

“At Whole Foods Market, we have classically trained butchers in every store and they are the experts on getting the best bang for your buck,” said Theo Weening, global meat buyer with Whole Foods Market in Austin, Texas. “Whether your focus is flavor, size, price or preparation, they can help customers make the best choice for the right price.”

Consumer Finance Expert Kevin Gallegos advises saving on electricity and gas by using the oven all at once rather than heating and cooling the oven many times over the days ahead of the meal.

Discover’s holiday shopping survey found that 62% will invite guests to bring a dish to share and 39% will ask guests to bring a beverage to share.

“Reach out to your extended family for assistance,” said Flores. “Many people are happy when asked to share a dish to pass around because they get a chance to show off one of their favorite recipes.”