Host a Budget-Friendly Thanksgiving With These Thrifty Tips

Last Update: December 21, 2023

It’s no secret that this year, budgeting is a big concern for many people. You likely notice inflation affecting your everyday grocery shopping, so when it comes to an indulgent meal like Thanksgiving dinner, it may feel impossible to keep costs low. 

Luckily, we have a number of money-saving tips for planning Thanksgiving, from recipes that do a whole lot with very little to an under-$100 Thanksgiving grocery list that prioritizes only the essentials. Read on for more cooking hacks for making a Thanksgiving feast without the hefty price tag. 

How to Save Money on Thanksgiving Dinner 

Avoid buying more than you need. For many American families, overindulgence is an unintentional Thanksgiving tradition. While you want to enjoy yourself and eat lots of delicious food, you don’t want to end up paying for more than you and your guests can eat. Instead, reframe your Thanksgiving dinner planning by limiting the number of dishes on the table and making only as many servings as you need. 

Choose ingredients that can play double-duty. Instead of planning a menu full of very different dishes and a wide variety of ingredients, try to choose recipes that include similar ingredients so you only have to buy them once. For example, use the same herbs and spices in the stuffing that you do in the gravy, or prep enough pie crust to make two different types of pies instead of multiple desserts. 

Buy in bulk. If you know you’ll be using a lot of one ingredient, such as flour or broth, buy it in bulk to cut down on costs. 

Make it a potluck. Make the main course(s) yourself, but invite each guest to contribute a side dish or dessert to cut down on dinner costs. 

Skip the meat. If you’re vegetarian, vegan, or plant-based, you’re in luck: because turkey, ham, and other meats are often by far the biggest culprits when it comes to Thanksgiving spending, this type of meat-free Thanksgiving dinner is naturally cost-effective. Focus on colorful vegetables, plant-based protein alternatives, and savory sides for a budget-friendly Thanksgiving meal. 

Encourage BYOB. If you don’t feel comfortable asking guests to contribute a dish, it may be easier to ask everyone to contribute their beverage of choice. Alcohol gets pricey very quickly, so this is a great way to ensure that everyone gets to sip what they want (and you don’t get stuck with the bill!).

Save your scraps. Keep food scraps out of the landfill by using them in other dishes. Vegetable peels and ends go well in a stuffing, while turkey trimmings and bones can be used to make broth or gravy. 

Make leftovers last. Instead of letting Thanksgiving leftovers go to waste, plan how you’ll use them ahead of time. You can only eat so many turkey sandwiches, so be prepared for at least a week’s worth of Thanksgiving leftovers by planning to make turkey grilled cheese, pot pies, bone broth, hearty stews, or even cranberry sauce cocktails

How to Plan Thanksgiving Dinner for Under $100 

If you’re hosting a small gathering of 2 to 4 people, it is certainly possible to keep your shopping list under $100. We’ve mapped out an approach that covers only the basics, assuming that you have things like cooking oils, spices, and other pantry staples on hand. Here’s how to shop for all your Thanksgiving groceries at Thrive Market — for just under $100. 

  1. Turkey – About $50 
    Whether you choose to brine, deep fry, or roast it, a high-quality, ethically raised turkey will take center stage at your feast. The turkey is also by far the most expensive element of any Thanksgiving dinner table, so if you’re trying to stick to $100, allot about half your budget. 
  1. Gravy – About $5
    While you can make your own gravy using turkey drippings, herbs, and spices, this premade version will save you quite a bit of time, effort, and money.
  2. Mashed potatoes – About $3
    Another Thanksgiving cooking hack: these affordable boxed mashed potatoes, which are a whole lot healthier and tastier than premade mashed potatoes of years past — but just as affordable.
  1. Cranberry sauce – About $3
    Canned cranberry sauce is one of the easiest and most affordable elements of your feast: just pour it into a bowl and voila!
  2. Green beans – About $6
    You’ve gotta have some green on your Thanksgiving table, so serve these organic green beans solo with some spices, or use them in a green bean casserole recipe.
  3. Sweet potato puree – About $4
    Sweet potatoes, made easy (and affordable!). Just heat, serve, and top with…
  4. Pumpkin marshmallows – About $3.50
    …these pumpkin-flavored, vegan marshmallows!
  5. Bread – About $5
    A loaf of hot, fresh bread from the bakery may set you back a bit, but heating up this Italian loaf at home gives you the same effect for less than $5. 
  1. Pumpkin – About $2.50
    Here’s a money-saving backing hack: you likely already have just about everything you need to make a pumpkin pie at home. If you can scrounge up a few basics like butter, flour, spices, and eggs, all you’ll need is a can of pumpkin (and maybe some sweetened condensed milk if you don’t keep it on hand).
  2. Pinot Noir – About $17
    With this just-the-basics Thanksgiving shopping list, you even have enough left over for a bottle of wine! 

Total: About $99

Budget-Friendly Thanksgiving Recipes 

Making Thanksgiving dinner from scratch is a great way to get the whole family together to cook a meal, and it doesn’t have to cost your whole paycheck. Here are some tasty, impactful Thanksgiving recipes that use affordable ingredients. 

Thanksgiving Turkey Recipes (and Vegan Alternatives)

Garlic and Lemon Roasted Turkey 
This turkey recipe proves that it just takes a few basic ingredients to make a flavorful Thanksgiving turkey. 

Coconut Oil Basted Turkey 
This 2-in-1 turkey recipe cooks the bird on a bed of root vegetables, so you get a turkey and sides in one easy step. 

Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Vegan Herb Gravy
If you’re planning a plant-based Thanksgiving feast, it doesn’t get much more affordable than roasting a whole cauliflower in place of a turkey. 

Thanksgiving Stuffing Recipes

Gluten-Free Mushroom Stuffing
Freeze the ends of your favorite bread loaves to make this easy, flavorful mushroom stuffing. 

Caramelized Leek, Onion, and Mushroom Stuffing with Hazelnuts
It looks (and tastes) fancy, but this simple-as-can-be stuffing is quick and affordable to make. 

Pear and Caramelized Onion Stuffing 
Slow-cooking the onions brings out a depth of flavor that’s balanced by the sweetness of the pears.

Thanksgiving Cranberry Sauce Recipes 

Laila Ali’s Cranberry Sauce
With just six simple ingredients, this cranberry sauce recipe comes together in no time.

Superberry-Ginger Cranberry Sauce
Three types of berries make this cranberry sauce tart, sweet, and full of nutritional benefits. 

Thanksgiving Sides Recipes 

Olive Oil & Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Lighten up your usual dairy-heavy potatoes with this equally creamy recipe for mashed potatoes sans the cream and butter.

Vegan and Paleo Green Bean Casserole
Tasked with making a Thanksgiving dinner that works for vegan, paleo, Whole30®, gluten-free, and keto eaters? Miraculously, this affordable, updated take on the classic green bean casserole fits the bill! 

Parsnip-Apple Purée 
A slightly sweet, vegan alternative to traditional mashed potatoes, this whipped side dish centers on parsnip, a root veggie similar in taste to carrots. 

Samah Dada’s Massaged Kale Salad with Sweet Potato & Tahini
Chef and television personality Samah Dada’s autumnal kale salad is a Thanksgiving side salad that guests will actually eat (no food waste here!).

Pumpkin Swirled Mashed Potatoes With Vegan Rosemary Gravy
All it takes is a bag of russet potatoes, vegetable stock, and a few pantry staples (hint: you likely already have them on hand) to make this festive take on mashed potatoes.

Thanksgiving Dessert Recipes 

Paleo Maple Pumpkin Pie With a Walnut-Pecan Crust
Store-bought pies are expensive — and paleo ones are usually even pricier. Make your own in under an hour with this sweet, spicy, nutty pie recipe. 

Cranberry Pecan Apple Crumble Recipe
A crumble is a dessert that’s great for a group, which makes it a smart money-saving option for your Thanksgiving feast.  

This article is related to:

Holiday Recipes, Money Saving Tips

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Amy Roberts

Amy Roberts is Thrive Market's Senior Editorial Writer. She is based in Los Angeles via Pittsburgh, PA.

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