×

Turkey tips: How to save money on Thanksgiving

As Americans set their tables to feed a multitude of friends and family for Thanksgiving, they may confront a stiff reality: A Thanksgiving meal this year may cost them a pretty penny.

Families are estimated to spend over $1.05 billion on turkey alone this year, according to Finder.com, a personal financial website. That's an average cost of $23.44 per 16 pound turkey. Because a traditional Thanksgiving feast consists of more than just the bird, it may leave many hosts wondering where to spend and where to save.

"Invest in the main attraction and in this case it's the turkey," Dawn Perry, food director of Real Simple Magazine told CNBC's "On the Money" in an interview. She added there are ways to save on the bird by shopping locally.

"Hook up with a local farmer, sometimes there are great deals right in your area," Perry said.

When it comes to deciding how much turkey to buy, Perry advises buying enough for 1.5 times as many guests as you are serving, so there is enough leftovers for people to take home. She advised that a 12-14 pound turkey should feed between 8-10 people.

The table is set, featuring the finished turkey and brussel sprouts.
Sophie Bearman | CNBC
The table is set, featuring the finished turkey and brussel sprouts.

Meanwhile, there may be money to be saved on side dishes, and the ingredients consumers normally use to prepare the main course.

"This isn't a time you should shell out a ton of money on premium for every step of every recipe. A pound of organic butter could cost you $8, but it's likely getting buried in the stuffing," said Perry. She recommended another way to save money on your sides was to buy seasonal vegetables.

"Lot of us have that classic green bean casserole on the table, but green beans are actually at their peak in high summer, so what we want to do is focus on ingredients that are at their peak right now," Perry said.

Instead, try winter squash, dark leafy greens, like kale and Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes, all of which are in season and likely to cost less. Those seasonal vegetables can create a meal for those who eschew turkey.

One trendy choice this year is Vegducken, a play on Turducken that is made of vegetables stuffed inside each other along with stuffing. Often a Vegducken is butternut squash stuffed with a combination eggplant, zucchini or sweet potato. It's a play on the popular Turducken, another trendy dish consisting of a chicken stuffed in a duck that's inserted into a turkey.


There's an added benefit of being prepared, Perry said. "The first thing you want to do, make a menu and decide how many people you're going to feed. And then you're going to want to make a list and the stick to it," she told CNBC.

Sticking to a shopping list prevents overspending or buying unnecessary items. Perry also advises checking your pantry to avoid spending money on items that may already be in the kitchen.

Another option to save money is to delegate to guests, asking them to bring side dishes, drinks or desserts, she added.


On the Money airs on CNBC Saturday at 5:30 am ET, or check listings for air times in local markets.