Gobble Up Savings: How to Host a Thanksgiving Dinner on a Shoestring Budget

Looking forward to a big Thanksgiving Day feast with your family and friends but nervous about the cost? Here are some ways to celebrate Thanksgiving on a tight budget. 

This year, many people are finding themselves in a tight financial situation and need to come up with a way to celebrate Thanksgiving without breaking the bank. Luckily, there are some subtle and easy ways to save while still providing a good Thanksgiving meal.

You can use your frugal tips to help you save some serious money on this expensive day!

Thanksgiving is a special family time. With so many people gathering together, it’s essential to budget your money to have a nice meal.

The best way to tackle the large expenses of the holiday season is to put aside money for holidays all year round. I have an “envelope” for holiday expenses which I try to fill up every month. But even with saving money all year, money is finite, and holidays are expensive. So this frugal mom thought of ways I could make Thanksgiving on a budget and save some money on the Thanksgiving Day Meal.

7 Ways To Serve a Thanksgiving Day Meal on a Budget

Serve Soup

Starting a meal with a nice soup is an excellent way to fill up on something cheap and festive. You want your family and guests to fill up on the cheaper items first so that you can skimp on the more expensive stuff. So don’t get carried away and make a fancy, expensive soup with lots of ingredients!

A simple cream of potato or zucchini soup is a perfect way to start an elegant meal and is also very cheap and filling. Soup is also easily frozen as leftovers.

Serve Bread and Dips

A yummy (homemade) bread or rolls is a good, filling way to start the meal, and use some simple dips to start the meal. You can elevate any plain bread recipe with the addition of some roasted garlic or herbs. A simple tahini or hummus dip (which can be homemade) to dip the bread in will get the meal started.

Lighten up the Sides

Many traditional side dishes are based on pretty cheap items- sweet potatoes, potatoes, stuffing, etc. Cut down on the margarine, butter, salt, and oil to make the vegetables less heavy.

The cost savings may be minimal, but the lighter version will be easier to swallow and encourage guests to eat more of these vegetables. A lettuce salad or tomato salad is another easy, cheap side dish.

Shop Around for the Turkey and Other Main Dishes

While it is not practical to shop around for the best deal on each ingredient- especially if you are cooking all week!- pick the most expensive or most used ingredient and find a deal on that.

For Thanksgiving, this will probably be Turkey. If you save $1 a pound on a ten-pound turkey, you will save $10. That is worth driving a little extra for! Also, keep an eye out for grocery stores offering coupons or deals on other more expensive ingredients like nuts throughout the week.

Cut Down on Drinks

Soda, punch, and juice all cost money and will quickly drive your bill up! Consider serving water homemade lemonade, or sumac juice to reduce costs and make your meal a little healthier.

Some lemon slices or fresh mint in a pitcher of water make a festive addition to your table with very little cost.

Pumpkin vs. Pecan?

While it may not be worth it for you to cut down on all expensive ingredients or dishes (Thanksgiving is one time a year, after all!), it may be worth it to cut down on the more expensive dishes on the menu.

For example, you can serve a smaller piece of pecan pie next to a larger slice of pumpkin pie. The more expensive the ingredient- the more sparingly you should use it.

Use Those Leftovers!

It goes without saying (but we are saying it anyway)- save leftovers. Take the time after your exhausting day to properly pack up and fridge or freeze leftovers.

Don’t leave all food to be eaten the next day. Instead, freeze some dishes to keep for those days when supper is just not happening. Instead of ordering pizza, pull some leftovers out, and you will be grateful you took the time to freeze them!


To have a successful Thanksgiving without breaking the bank, try these simple steps: plan to stick with what you know or love, set a budget for yourself and stick to it, shop sales, and take the time to look for deals at your favorite stores.

A healthy Thanksgiving should be cheap and stress-free!

Do you have any tips for cutting down on expenses so you can have your Thanksgiving on a budget?

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Hi! I am a millennial mom with a passion for personal finance. I have always been “into” personal finance but got inspired to start my blog after a period of extended unemployment. That experience really changed the way I viewed my relationship with money and the importance of accessible personal finance education.

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