Easy Thanksgiving Meal on A Budget Tips

Thanksgiving Meal on a Budget

This year save money by planning your Thanksgiving meal on a budget.
These simple tips will make your Thanksgiving meal more affordable and lessen the pressure on you!

Thankful board used on The Frugal Housewife Easy Thanksgiving Meal on a Budget blog post.

Thanksgiving in the United States will be celebrated in a couple of weeks. One of the main focuses of Thanksgiving is the food!

Preparing a Thanksgiving meal can get expensive (especially if you have a big family).  You may be stressing because your monthly food budget may already be stretched to the limit. We completely understand and have been there!

Firstly, get rid of those stressful thoughts, and don’t let it ruin your Thanksgiving holiday! You may not can do anything about your financial situation but you can still have a wonderful Thanksgiving meal on a budget!

We want to help you have a great meal without breaking the bank. By using our tips, you can have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day (on a budget) and make lots of new memories with your family.

Basically, it’s just becoming organized and having a plan! You’re going to want to plan your meal. Then, set your budget for the meal. Next, get to work shopping smart for the ingredients for your Thanksgiving meal!

Our tip for all this: Don’t wait until the last minute! It will only add stress and we don’t want that to happen!


Here are some tips that I have used to help me with my budget Thanksgiving menu.

These easy tips will help you plan a Thanksgiving meal on a budget.

1. Estimate how many people will be eating the Thanksgiving meal with you.

The first step to planning a Thanksgiving meal on a budget is to get an estimate of the amount of people you are going to have sharing the Thanksgiving meal with you.  If you are planning on 15 people being there for the meal, then plan for a few extra.  There may be some that change their minds and show up at the last minute.

2. Make a meal plan.

Once you have an idea of how many people are going to be there for your Thanksgiving meal, then make a meal plan.  By making a meal plan, you can make sure that you don’t go overboard when you are shopping for food.

When you are making your meal plan, choose foods that you can turn the leftovers into something else later in the week.  This way you have multiple days of meals that you can prepare out of your Thanksgiving meal.

Save money on the Thanksgiving meal budget by picking dishes that don't have a lot of ingredients.

3. Pick Thanksgiving recipes that are easy to make and don’t require a lot of ingredients.  

Don’t try extravagant new side dishes that have a lot of ingredients.  Think simple!  Recipes such as this one for green beans are cheap plus it uses a slow cooker and you can make it the day before Thanksgiving.

You can give simple dishes a little upgrade. For instance, in the recipe we mentioned above, you could cook the green beans the day before, and then on Thanksgiving Day you could remove the ham from the green beans and turn it into a green bean casserole. Carefree Mermaid takes green bean casseroles up another notch by adding carmelized bacon on top of the casserole. Yum!

Another easy and delicious dish to make is Green Bean Almondine by The Recipe Well. This recipe has 8 ingredients with one of them being an optional ingredient. It is one that you can make ahead of time and put together on Thanksgiving Day.

Mashed potatoes are simple to make and can be upgraded in a lot of different ways. Strength and Sunshine has an easy and yummy recipe for Rustic Rosemary Thyme Mashed Potatoes that will look awesome on any Thanksgiving table!

There are also a lot of shows, Pinterest posts, and Facebook posts that feature fancy multi-ingredient dishes.  It’s very tempting to want to try all of them. 

Do yourself and your wallet a favor and “Think simple” and look for the cheap and easy Thanksgiving recipes!

4. When you start shopping for ingredients to make your budget Thanksgiving meal, shop your pantry and freezer first.  

You may have items that are on your list already.  Couponers and stockpilers usually will already have most of the ingredients on their list.

Don’t forget to check your spice rack to see if you have the spices you need or if any of the spices you have need to be replaced.

Be sure to check the spices. According to McCormick, some spices actually do have a shelf life. What that actually means is “the length of time they are most aromatic and delicious for cooking.” Don’t let your dish be ruined because of spices with no flavor!

5. Research which stores have the best sales. 

In October and early November, the stores will already start featuring sales on the items people will need for their Thanksgiving meal.

The dollar stores in our area usually run sales on soft drinks and canned goods in early October. Some stores will have coupons that you can clip to go with the sales.

If you live in the State of Texas, watch the H-E-B store ads.  Each week they feature “Meal Deals”.   Often these “meal deals” will have ingredients that can be used in other recipes.

Watch the store sales for turkeys that are on sale.  A whole turkey is usually cheaper than a turkey breast.  Also, the stores will usually drop the price of turkeys a few days before Thanksgiving.   Just make sure if you purchase a “frozen” turkey that you give yourself enough time to thaw it in a safe manner.

Pumpkins, acorn squash, greens and other vegetables can be found at fall farmer's markets.

6. Check the local fruit stands, orchards, and farmer’s markets for the fruits and vegetables for your side dishes.

This can save you money on the Thanksgiving meal side dishes. In the late spring and summer when the produce is abundant, think ahead to your Thanksgiving and can or freeze vegetables that you can use in your Thanksgiving side dishes.

Autumn fruits and vegetables are usually pretty cheap.

Sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, butternut squash, cabbage, pumpkin, cranberries, and apples are all delicious autumn fruits and vegetables that can make tasty side dishes to help stretch your Thanksgiving meal budget.

Try serving sweet potatoes this year instead of mashed potatoes.

Sweet potatoes don’t have to be mashed or used in a casserole. An easy and delicious recipe to make is Simple Cinnamon Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Apples. Ashcroft Family Table has an excellent sweet potato recipe that doesn’t require a lot of ingredients!

Another sweet potato recipe that would look great on your Thanksgiving table is this delicious recipe for Cheesy Sweet Potatoes Gratin by Emma Eats and Explores! It’s delicious and easy to make.

At our house, no Thanksgiving meal would be complete without a Sweet Potato Casserole. We are going to try and change it up a bit this year. Vintage Kitty has a recipe that uses Greek yogurt. You can make most of it ahead of time. Check out this Lighter Southern Sweet Potato Casserole. It looks delicious!

Use fresh cranberries and make your own cranberry sauce. You may think it is hard to make but really it is not!

This Homemade Cranberry Orange Sauce recipe by Tastes of Homemade literally takes about 5-7 minutes to make! I think it takes longer to get all the ingredients together than it does to make the cranberry sauce!

Change up the taste of the cranberry sauce by adding wine to it! Vikalinka by Julia Frey shows you how to make this beautiful Port Cranberry Sauce that will be a GREAT addition to your Thanksgiving table!

Maybe you don’t want whole or pieces of cranberry in your cranberry sauce! No problem! You can still make your own cranberry sauce! Get out the pressure cooker and make this Instant Pot Cranberry Apple Sauce by The Short Order Cook!

7. Host a “potluck” meal for Thanksgiving.

Asking others to help with the meal takes the burden off you, your stove, oven, and wallet and will help you host an affordable Thanksgiving meal on a budget.

Pick which meat that you want to serve as the entree. 
Then make a list of dishes that you can suggest to others to bring to go with the entree. 
Make a list of who is supposed to bring what so that you do not overlap and have all the same type of dish.  If you don’t you could end up with all sweet potato dishes instead of other vegetables to go with the turkey.
If you have someone that doesn’t cook, ask them to bring plates, forks, napkins, rolls, a beverage, or even ice.

I hope that our tips will help you with planning your Thanksgiving meal on a budget.

Please have a Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy being with your family and friends! 

Don’t think that you have to put yourself in a financial bind to have a wonderful holiday.  Make lots of new memories with old traditions and even start some new traditions.


Check out these posts by The Frugal Housewife for more Autumn and Thanksgiving inspiration!


We’d love to hear from you.  Leave us a comment and let us know what tips and recipes you have to keep the Thanksgiving meal on budget and save money.


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Written by Jen T. Locke

Owner/Writer The Frugal Housewife

Jen T. Locke is a God fearing, Jesus loving wife, mom, and grandmother
who loves to share her love of Jesus and money-saving tips and ideas with you.

18 thoughts on “Easy Thanksgiving Meal on A Budget Tips”

  1. These are all great tips! We are on a very tight budget this year and will be following several, if not all, of these. Though, with things the way they have been, I am not sure we will be celebrating with anyone outside our home this year.

  2. Glad my tips will help! I’m pretty sure that we won’t be having a big Thanksgiving dinner with anyone outside our home either.

  3. Definitely takes the pressure off the hostess if others bring dishes! Plus, you get to taste different takes on side dishes!

  4. Veronika Sykorova

    I’m cooking my first Thanksgiving dinner this year so these tips come in handy! Thanks!

  5. “Shop your freezer” – Love this. I can’t count the times I have gone to the store for a holiday meal and found duplicates in my pantry/freezer when I returned!

  6. These are some great ideas. I always love to save! We usually have Thanksgiving with my parents and I always try to buy food on sale.

  7. Thanksgiving is such a wonderful time, especially if we can prepare our meal on a budget. Too bad we don’t celebrate it here in Poland. 🙂

  8. A really great plan here, could be applied for Christmas too. Love that expression shop your pantry. We don’t have thanksgiving, so not sure when it is, but Happy Thanksgiving!

  9. We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving holiday here in the Philippines, but I always see this in the movies. It’s such a hearty event for friends and family. It would be nice to be able to experience this in either the US or Canada someday.

  10. I really love that you have broken it down like this! It can be so overwhelming to plan a Thanksgiving dinner for others. All that food can get crazy expensive too – even when it’s a potluck style. Great tips!

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