Thanksgiving is one of the most popular holidays, and there’s no question why. Thanksgiving draws family and friends together to have a meal, give thanks, and enjoy time with one another. However, if you’re the one providing dinner and drinks, this fun holiday can get outrageously expensive very fast. 

This article will discuss several tips to help make your Thanksgiving dinner less expensive, especially when you are providing for a crowd outside of your immediate family. Whether you’re hosting a regular Thanksgiving dinner or a “Friendsgiving,” there will surely be tips on this list that will help you prepare without breaking the bank. 

Tips to Save on Thanksgiving Food

Below, we will discuss some of the best tips to help you save on Thanksgiving food. These tips encompass both things you can do on your own and with a bit of help from your guests as well. These tips are designed to save money on the dinner as a whole. 

Set A Budget Ahead of Time

One of the most important things you can do before your Thanksgiving dinner is to set a strict budget ahead of time. Before you even go to the store, have a fixed dollar amount that you will spend to make your entire Thanksgiving dinner happen, and don’t go over it! 

If you have a strict budget rather than just aimlessly trying to “save money” where you can, you will likely be more careful with your purchases. 

Have A Budget Friendly Grocery List

Keeping a tight grocery list is one of the ways to abide by a strict budget. If you’ve ever gone to the grocery store toward Thanksgiving without a list, you know the drill. Often, you get sucked into buying seasonal items that are either highly overpriced or will end up being wasted when you don’t eat them. 

So this year, enter the grocery store knowing exactly what items you need, and don’t buy anything else. This will help you save money and not end up with ridiculous amounts of food that you will end up wasting. 

Larger Turkeys Are Less Expensive

This might seem counterintuitive to our last couple of points, but the reality is that larger turkeys are often less expensive by the pound than smaller turkeys. While you may not think you’ll be able to eat a 22-pound turkey as opposed to a 7-pound turkey, you actually might be quite surprised at what you can do with it. 

For example, that turkey can serve you for more than just Thanksgiving dinner. You send all of your guests home with a to-go plate, but you can also use the leftover turkey to make soup, sandwiches, casseroles, and pot pies in the days following. Once you discover all the clever ways to reuse leftover turkey, you’ll never think twice about buying a large bird again. 

Cook an Alternative Protein 

Another option when considering the turkey is to choose an alternative protein. There is no rule that states you must eat turkey on Thanksgiving! Instead, many people opt for a ham, which can also be popular to freeze half of to use later at Christmas. Additionally, some people with vegetarian or vegan family members opt for a tofu turkey instead of an actual bird. 

Remember that turkeys are often inflated in price during Thanksgiving, so choosing a different protein can often be less expensive. Consider cooking a large chicken instead. If your family isn’t crazy about meat, you can also just make a variety of side dishes instead of a protein. 

Host a Potluck With Friends or Family 

One major money-saving tip is hosting a potluck rather than just making all the food yourself. First, decide what dishes you want to have at your Thanksgiving dinner, and then delegate those dishes to each of your family members, friends, or groups coming to the feast. That way, everyone’s favorite dish will be present at your Thanksgiving dinner, but you’ll only need to cook the main dish, desserts, or whatever else you decide upon. 

Usually, hosting a potluck also means that there won’t be too many leftovers that get wasted. 

Make Instead of Buy

It might seem easy just to buy a premade turkey, salads, side dishes, or pies. It certainly is more convenient. However, it is much more in your favor if you are on a budget to actually make these items. This may seem obvious to some, but even though dinner is labor-intensive, it’s usually much less expensive. 

You might even have many of the ingredients already at home to make recipes like mac and cheese, stuffing, cranberry sauce, or other side dishes. Pumpkin pies from Costco might seem tempting if they are already made, but there’s truly nothing like a dish made with love. 

Don’t Make So Many Side Dishes

Many people overestimate the number of side dishes they actually need to complete their Thanksgiving dinner. While you might want mac and cheese, cranberry sauce, stuffing, collard greens, sweet potato casserole, and even more, you need to consider what you and your guests will actually eat. 

You won’t want to make so many dishes that you have too much food left over because it will probably end up being wasted or going bad before you can eat it. Therefore, you should poll your family or friends to see what the most popular or requested side dishes are and then make those instead of making every possible option. 


For Thanksgiving parties that are primarily adult, there might be a lot of alcohol present. People are having a good time, partying, and enjoying each other’s company, so a few drinks are probably in order. However, the alcohol bill can stack up quickly if you are purchasing all of it yourself as the host. 

Instead, you should let your guests know the event will be BYOB (bring your own beers/booze). That way, you’ll only need to get as much alcohol as you and your family in your immediate household will drink. 

Decorations Aren’t Really Needed

Unlike Halloween or Christmas, Thanksgiving is one of those holidays where decorations aren’t really the event’s focal point. Instead, the centerpiece is really focused around the food, drinks, desserts, and family present. 

Therefore, to cut your bill down, avoid buying expensive decorations and focus on the more essential parts of the holiday. Thanksgiving comes and goes so quickly that, for the most part, decorations aren’t even relevant anyway. 

Remember the True Spirit of Thanksgiving 

In the midst of all of this holiday planning, it’s important to remember what’s at the heart of the Thanksgiving holiday. At the end of the day, you should focus on giving thanks, being grateful, sharing a good meal, and showing love to those around you who care for you. If you have all of those things, you have created a successful holiday. Even if you can’t afford to host some fancy dinner at all, just having the people you love around you and being grateful can be more than enough to make Thanksgiving great.