Ask the Readers: How Do You Save On Thanksgiving?

By Ashley Jacobs on 15 November 2011 (Updated 22 November 2011) 106 comments
Photo: Peter Galvin

Editor's Note: Congratulations to Diane, Monica, and Jason F for winning this week's contest!

Thanksgiving is right around the corner which means it’s time for the three f’s: family, feasting, and football. Putting together a delicious Thanksgiving meal can cost quite a bit of money. Throw in the need for some festive decorations, and the cost of Thanksgiving can really add up! Luckily, many people have their tried and true tricks to make their Thanksgiving celebrations affordable.

How do you save on Thanksgiving? Do you have guests bring a dish? Is there a special market you go to in order to save on Thanksgiving necessities? How do you make your home festive without breaking the bank?

Tell us how you save on Thanksgiving and we'll enter you in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

Win 1 of 3 $20 Amazon Gift Cards

We're doing three giveaways — one for random comments, one for random Facebook "Likes", and another one for random tweets.

Mandatory Entry: 

  • Post your answer in the comments below 

For extra entries (1 per action):

  • Go to our Facebook page, "Like" us, and leave a comment telling us you did, or
  • Tweet your answer. You have to be a follower of our @wisebread account. Include both "@wisebread" and "#WBAsk" in your tweet so we'll see it and count it. Leave a link to your tweet (click the timestamp for the individual URL) in a separate comment.

If you're inspired to write a whole blog post OR you have a photo on flickr to share, please link to it in the comments or tweet it.

Giveaway Rules:

  • Contest ends Monday, November 21st at 11:59 pm Pacific. Winners will be announced after November 21st on the original post. Winners will also be contacted via email.
  • You can enter all three drawings — once by leaving a comment, once by liking our Facebook update, and once by tweeting.
  • This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered, or associated with Facebook.
  • You must be 18 and US resident to enter. Void where prohibited.

Note: Due to recent changes in Facebook's promotions guidelines, we have restructured the entry format of our giveaways.

Good Luck!

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Guest's picture
Victoria Dunbar

I only buy Thanksgiving / Harvest decor AFTER the season is over. Everything is discounted! I put it in a storage container and save it for next year.

Ashley Jacobs's picture

Great tip! :)

Guest's picture
Heather Speaks

To save money for Thanksgiving, we go the "pot luck" route. Each guest brings a dish for the feast and everybody saves.

Ashley Jacobs's picture

My family does the same thing!

Guest's picture
Liz

I buy seasonal veggies and look for deals on turkey and frozen veggies for sides - there are a ton of great sales in the weeks preceding the big day!

Guest's picture
lostAnnfound

Everyone chips in. We provide the main course. Dad brings wine. Mom makes the stuffing. One sibling brings appetizers, another dessert. Decorations are kept to a minimum: festive tablecloth and candles. Napkin rings & place cards handmade by the kids.

Guest's picture
Christie

Get things in advance, plan a menu, have others bring things to the feast, and make as much as possible from scratch. We eat well on Thanksgiving, probably too well! :)

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Keith

I save money by making everything from scratch. It's a little extra work, but it's worth it!

Ashley Jacobs's picture

Wow! That's impressive!

Guest's picture
Dan

Two things:
1. Have family bring a dish. Our family takes turns hosting Thanksgiving, so we're all used to cooking something. We divide up with the host tackling the turkey and a few other dishes, while the guests bring a side or two.

2. Homemade pumpkin pie. Plan ahead to use your Halloween pumpkin as part of your Thanksgiving meal. Cooking it in the oven is a breeze, then you can use a cuisinart/blender to puree the flesh. Freeze it until you need pumpkin pie filling. This year I am also trying pumpkin ice cream.

Guest's picture
Carson M.

A potluck style dinner with friends and family members bringing one or two of their specialty side dishes is usually the way we save on Thanksgiving. We may even plan the Thanksgiving dinner a week earlier or later to avoid escalated holiday flight fares.

Guest's picture
Trezlen

My family saves for Thanksgiving by eating together potluck style. The host will cook the main meat and other pitch in with sides and trimmings.

Ashley Jacobs's picture

That's how my family does it too!

Guest's picture
Trezlen

I liked you on FB.

Guest's picture
Bryan

I save by eating at someone else's home. ;-)

Liked of Facebook

Guest's picture
Adry

Everyone brings something! It's potluck!

Guest's picture

We save on Thanksgiving by saving everything. This is a meal that lasts for many many days. Turkey sandwiches and pumpkin pie for breakfast are both awesome and frugal!

Ashley Jacobs's picture

Yes! Definitely always eat the leftovers!

Guest's picture
judyyy

We do potluck with Mom (me) doing the turkey and dressing and a couple of sides. Others bring other sides, breads, deviled eggs and desserts.

Guest's picture
judyyy

I like you on facebook

Will Chen's picture
Will Chen

That's an amazing picture Ashley. Peter Gavin (the photographer) is lucky to have such a wonderful, multi-generational family.

Ashley Jacobs's picture

Thanks Will! It reminds me of my family a little bit. :)

Guest's picture
Aaron Lin

Get a bunch of friends together and cook together to make it fun. And make sure everyone brings some ingredients or dishes.

Guest's picture
Alex

I save on Thanksgiving expenses by sharing meal preparation throughout the family. Each member has a certain dish they traditionally bring.

Guest's picture
NJJ

I usually buy Thanksgiving decor the on Black Friday and I buy turkey the week before when there are the buy a turkery save XX amount of money and I get the trimmings at the Dollar store or at the grocery store if its on sale!

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Cat

Sounds like we all pretty much do the same thing here, because it works! I always get together with my family and we cook from scratch! =]

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Tracy

I make cheap turkeys last by buying several, then freezing them for use in the months after Thanksgiving and Christmas. I also only buy decorations when they're at their cheapest and with a coupon!

Ashley Jacobs's picture

That's an idea I've never heard of before! Thanks for sharing!

Guest's picture
Tracy

I liked you on Facebook

Guest's picture
Jason Evans

I just go to family members' houses and bring small things such as pop, paper plates, or simple side items. They always understand if I am not able to bring the big items such a s turker.Enjoying the company of others and enjoying the true reason for the season makes the difference, not how much I spend.

Guest's picture
kathleen

... I go to my parents' house! And I bring a bottle of something. Total cost is under $20.

Guest's picture
Brandon

How my family save on Thanksgiving is that everyone that attends brings a dish that can be shared with everyone. My family usually makes the turkey since it is our house but our relatives bring beef, ham, sides, and desserts! We save so much money by splitting who makes/bakes what type of food. Another way our family save is by using coupons to get the small sides out of the way. Whether it is for canned cranberries, corn, stuffing seasoning, or gravy mix, we use coupons to save a few dollars.

Guest's picture
Lisa

I always host the Thanksgiving Dinner for our family. I purchase foods on sale ahead of time then cook the entire meal from scratch. People can bring a dish if they want but aren't expected to. I don't do a lot of decorating...just make sure that the house is clean. The table is decorated with a seasonal tablecloth or runner and cloth napkins. Simple!

Guest's picture
Diane

We look for a good sale price on turkeys, potatoes, etc. We always share the cost by having each family bring a couple of dishes. This divides the work, as well as the expense. Everyone is welcome to bring along anyone they'd like to invite... boyfriends, girlfriends, friends, anyone. Guests are not expected to supply food.

We don't spend additional money for decorations~ just not a priority for us! Having the family eating together is the important thing!

Guest's picture
Diane

I *like* you on facebook!

Guest's picture
Guest

My family does potluck. Since no one person is making everything, we can make more dishes from scratch.

Guest's picture
Betty

I plan in advance, and buy in advance using sales and coupons.

Ashley Jacobs's picture

Sales and coupons are always a great way to save!

Guest's picture
Nancy B from Many LA

We stock up on onions and celery when it's cheap and freeze it, stock up on butter when it's cheap, use foods from our garden/canned, and buy on sale w/coupons!

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Nancy B from Many LA

I've been "Liking" you on FB

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Nancy B from Many LA

Tweeted
http://twitter.com/#!/goonyburd/status/136517251191943169

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michelle

Potluck means everyone chips in a little for a fantastic meal!

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Lisa

I look for coupons to combine with sales about a week or two before Thanksgiving. This saves us lots of money! Friends and family help out with paper products and drinks.

Guest's picture
Betty

Responded on Twitter. https://twitter.com/#!/1bets1/status/136522048955621376

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Betty

Liked you and your post on Facebook.

Guest's picture
Tina

We save by stocking up on fall/winter staples early when they are on sale. This helps to avoid last minute trips to the store as well as paying a premium. Cooking from scratch is fun, rewarding, and also helps save money.

(I also liked the fb page)

Ashley Jacobs's picture

Planning ahead is a great way to save!

Guest's picture
Bryan

My family lives close, in-laws too. It's easy to potluck with both of them and we each bring a dish or two for everyone. People love my wife's homemade crescent rolls and my caramel peanuts.

Guest's picture
Jason F

In terms of saving I am not concerned with the monetary value of saving but rather the savings of calories. I use turkey injection and use healthy marinates, I also only make one side, and one desert. Usually save me one pound during the holidays.

Ashley Jacobs's picture

Fantastic point! Gotta watch out for calorie intake as well!

Guest's picture
Jason F

http://twitter.com/#!/turok64/status/136526987484340226

Guest's picture
Guest

Like lots of other folks, we go the pitch-in route. I also use pre- and post-Thanksgiving food sales to stock up on staples for my pantry, like baking supplies. This year we're also having Thanksgiving a week ahead of time, which will save travelers some money on fuel (since it tends to go up the week of the holiday). I also make a lot of my stuff from scratch. For example, it may only cost $3 for a dozen dinner rolls at the supermarket, but I can make 3 dz. from scratch and have enough for both sides of the family for half that. And our Celebration decor? All made by the kids! We've had handprint turkeys, cornicopias made of plastic food, and stand-up pilgrims.

Guest's picture
Kristy OT

I save money by not hosting a party! I still have like 6 relatives fighting over who gets to host, so the only money I end up spending is on gas. (We offer to bring food, but they always say no, because we "eat weird things.")

Guest's picture
KarenJ

I think Thanksgiving is one of the cheapest meals to make! We get the turkey for free by spending $300 on groceries the weeks prior. The sides are always on sale this time of year. We make everything from scratch which saves money. We also cut back on the desserts.

Guest's picture
Hollie

When we all lived in the same state, we'd do a potluck to share costs and workload. Now we live 8 hours away and some of our family drives to us that morning. I don't feel like they should have to make food with that long of a drive. So, we make everything ourselves from scratch and check out flyers for the 3 grocery stores that are 5 minutes away to get the non-perishables at the cheapest price available. The veggies and such are bought on Tues/Wed at the farmer's market. Maybe not cheaper, but so tasty and fresh.

Guest's picture
Chris

We are going to save money by not being the hosts this year. We are heading to our families house and will help with bringing stuff and making stuff but this way the entire burden for everything won't fall on us!

The benefit of this is we just volunteer for some things, and don't have to stress about arraigning everything!

Guest's picture
Shannon

We do potluck every year to save money. As one of the younger members of the family, I usually volunteer to bring some sort of alcoholic beverage :)

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Tim C.

For you runners out there if you look around for races on or near Thanksgiving Day you can sometimes find that they will give out a turkey to the winner and/or certain age groups in addition to the trophy and tshirt you get at most races. Several years ago my mother, brother, and I all won our age groups and each got a Turkey. We had more turkey than we knew what to do with and had to freeze one so we didn't get sick of turkey leftovers!

Ashley Jacobs's picture

That is a fantastic tip!

Guest's picture
Selene

I save money by visiting my daughter, so I don't have to cook for the whole family.

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Monica

We all bring a dish, and all decor is recycled, upcycled or found at a garage sale!

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Stefanie

1 - I don't host the holiday, and if I do, we make it potluck.
2 - Buying food little by little in the weeks leading up to the holiday, taking advantage of weekly sales and coupons (i.e., this week fresh cranberries are on sale at one store and yams at another; last week flour was on sale at one store and chocolate chips at another).
3 - Similar to #1 above, but I keep it quiet and intimate, usually just my partner and I, with only our favorite holiday foods.
4 - Leftovers!

Ashley Jacobs's picture

Awesome list of ways to save! :)

Guest's picture
Raina

I save on Thanksgiving by celebrating at my parents' house, where they've already taken care of everything, ha.

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Terri

For decorations, I go to the dollar store or Big Lots. They have wonderful things for very little money.

Guest's picture
Terri

I like you on Facebook

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Garon

We like to spead the load of cooking. We get a bunch of people together and divvy up the sides.

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Guest

We have Thanksgiving at the Elks Lodge every year and part of the cost goes to charity. The food is great and we get to share it with several hundred people from the community, and the cause is worthwhile.

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Carvis

Make your dinner from scratch as much as possible, you'll save money and get more food for your dollar. And to top it off with planning, practice, and patience you'll have better tasting healthier(well maybe) food.

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Lynda

we go to our parents for dinners and are not ashamed to pack leftovers ;)

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Lynda

i like wisebread on facebook

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Lynda

tweeted http://twitter.com/#!/oshkoshbgosh123/status/136615796091793408

Guest's picture
Ally

Definitely potluck style!

Guest's picture
Ally

Liked on FB

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Laura

Well this year my husband and I are temporarily living in Australia so I guess we're cutting costs by not being around to celebrate.

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Robin

Pot luck - definitely the way to go!

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tonya rader

I use coupons to save money during Thanksgiving. Works every year.

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kristina

I make everything from scratch.

Ashley Jacobs's picture

That is really impressive! :)

Guest's picture

I shop around at a few of the local grocery stores to hit all the food sales and stock up. I usually buy more than one frozen turkey becayse they're so cheap. There are some great deals around this time of year.

Guest's picture
Lisa

Watch for sales and coupons. Also, I cook a full meal for just the two of us and live off the leftovers for a few days then freeze the rest.

Guest's picture
Julie

LIKED WB on FB!

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Julie

We'll save on Thanksgiving by going to friends where everyone brings something wonderful to share! We won't be traveling far this year either.

Guest's picture
Julie

https://twitter.com/#!/julesann/status/136847243570446336

Guest's picture
Stacy

We save by keeping dishes simple--sauteed green beans instead of green bean casserole, for example. Also, we get together with friends and do things potluck style. Everyone brings some tupperware and we split up leftovers so we all go home with another few meals. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Guest's picture
Gil

A simple thing is just have a Thanksgiving Potluck. For those not cooking inclined, they can bring drinks, desert/desert topping or even some paper goods. Not only will this save you money, but save you time and everyone can feel like they participated in Thanksgiving preparations. Just don't get forget to divy out leftovers!

You could also have people "potluck" Thanksgiving decorations... they can bring one favorite things to help make your home a little more like their home. Just remember to have them take home their home decor!

Ashley Jacobs's picture

Love the idea of potluck decorations! I've never heard of that before. Very creative!

Guest's picture
jenn

I still go home for thanksgiving, this year I will be bringing pumpkin cheesecake along.

Guest's picture
KelR1

"Like" you on FB.

Guest's picture
KelR1

I save money by not hosting Thanksgiving! My grandmother and mother-in-law both really enjoy having us over to their homes, so we just bring a dish and go over there (and they both live close, so there's really no travel costs).

Guest's picture
Guest

My families do potluck dinners. My dish is a bit more expensive, but this year I have been looking for sales through grocery websites. I tried looking for coupons, but there were none to be had.

Guest's picture
Rebecca B. A. R.

My husband makes everything from scratch, and since we celebrate with only his parents we only use a turkey breast, not a whole bird. We also stay at home for the meal, and don't travel. We also ask his parents to bring a dish (usually noodles) and drinks.

Ashley Jacobs's picture

Wow, it sounds like you picked a winner if your husband makes everything from scratch! That's awesome!

Guest's picture
Keri Ritenour

Since my family is out of state, we go to my In-Laws for the holidays. I take the turkey and my delicious sweet potato casserole. We usually get the largest turkey we can even though there is only 4-9 people attending. But, the occasion would not be complete without leftovers. So, I leave some turkey with everyone attending and have plenty at home. I make a few extras like stuffing, green beans, home-made macaroni & cheese and an extra pan of sweet potato casserole for home and we have leftovers for a few days. All in all, I spend more on this meal than I do any other time of the year.

Guest's picture
Lindsey

We buy turkey as cheap as possible (.59/pound!), then use every bit of it. Cubed turkey freezes great and can be thrown into casseroles or soups instead of chicken (saving cooking time too). We also make turkey stock and freeze in 1/2 cup pucks (use your muffin tins), once frozen throw them in a ziplock and you don't have to buy chicken stock for a while.

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Keri Ritenour

I liked the page and post and left a comment on FB.

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Keri Ritenour

@KeriRitenour tweeted her response http://bit.ly/u7ilaO

Guest's picture
Kimberly

Start buying what you need early. Most times stores have the things you need on sale up to a month early. Use coupons to increase your saving. Get recipes for what you can do with those leftovers. That is the biggest savings tip. Everyone gets tired of the basic thanksgiving fare but if you change it up you can use those leftovers and they will be enjoyed by all.

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Elizabeth S.

We are saving by going to a friends :)

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Elizabeth S.

I like your FB page!