Thanksgiving Ingredients Will Be Pricey This Year — Here Are 11 Budget-Saving Tips

Inflation and supply chain issues are affecting the cost of food. But that doesn’t have to ruin your holiday feast.

November 01, 2021

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Photo by: Image Source/Cadalpe/Getty

Image Source/Cadalpe/Getty

If you’ve been noticing the steadily rising cost of groceries over the past year or so, it should come as no surprise that your Thanksgiving meal might cost a bit more this year. Whether you’re planning a feast or an intimate dinner, you’ll notice that nearly every ingredient on your menu costs more than it has in the past.

A recent New York Times article states that turkey prices are likely to hit record highs this year, along with countless other Thanksgiving ingredients. The reasons are multifold: commodities like corn (which many turkeys feed on) have gotten more expensive, labor for packaging and transport is more expensive, domestic steel plants (which provide material for canned goods) are still trying to catch up after shutdowns, energy costs have surged and more.

All of this said, it’s still possible to have a fantastic Thanksgiving meal without totally breaking the bank. Below, two Food Network Test Kitchen staffers share their best tips for a budget-friendly holiday meal.


Photo by: Isa Özdere / EyeEm/Getty

Isa Özdere / EyeEm/Getty

Buy your must-haves as early as possible.

“One thing you can do is buy your must-have items early,” says Alexis Pisciotta, Purchasing and Events Manager for the Food Network Test Kitchen. She recommends loading up your pantry ASAP with any shelf-stable ingredients you’ll need: canned pumpkin, pecans, spices, baking ingredients and other favorites. These items may be harder to find the week of Thanksgiving, because of overall shortages that are driving up prices.

Make your own cranberry sauce.

“Canned cranberry sauce could be one of the shortages, or inflated in price, so making your own might be the way to go,” Pisciotta says. “Buy fresh cranberries ahead as they last a really long time in the refrigerator, but can be easily frozen, too.” She says that frozen cranberries are just fine for making a sauce, and that you can make the sauce in advance and freeze it if that’s easier. Just make sure to cool the sauce all the way before sticking it in the freezer.

Pre-order your turkey.

If you’re set on getting a never-frozen turkey, Pisciotta says that pre-ordering it from your local butcher is a must, since most places will likely run out quickly. If you’re buying a fresh turkey, she recommends making room for it in your freezer now, because even commercially sold supermarket turkeys may be more expensive, or impossible to find, closer to Thanksgiving day.

Bake pies with fresh squash instead.

“​​In place of canned pumpkin, both red kuri squash and kabocha squash, roasted, skinned and pureed, make excellent pies,” Pisciotta says. “In fact, some would argue they are even better!” These seasonal winter squashes are often available at farmers’ markets and many supermarkets, and it doesn’t take long to prepare them as a pie filling.

Consider a mashed potato swap.

We’d never go as far as to suggest you trade luscious potatoes for something like mashed cauliflower, but there are other swaps that are worthy of your holiday table. “Boiled mashed sweet plantains with brown butter and cinnamon make an excellent Thanksgiving side in place of potatoes,” Pisciotta says.

Stock up on day-old bread.

“Look for day-old bread or stale bread at your supermarket,” says Amanda Neal, a recipe developer in the Food Network Test Kitchen. “It's typically marked down from fresher bread-items, and is perfect for stuffing, dressing and sweet bread pudding.” The slightly dried-out bread soaks up more flavor and moisture in recipes and makes for a delicious end result.

Buy generic.

“Generic is typically more cost-effective than name brand food items,” Neal says. “Generic canned vegetables, baking supplies and vegetable broth are typically very similar in quality to name brands, meaning you'll save money and your guests won't even notice the difference.” Sorry, Libby’s, but that store-brand pumpkin is our choice this year.

Roast a chicken (or two)!

“Roasting a whole chicken is less expensive than a whole turkey, perfect for a smaller gathering, cooks quickly and roasts alongside a variety of veggies,” Neal says. She recommends cooking a chicken over roasted vegetables and cubed bread for a more Thanksgiving feel. And if one chicken won’t feed your guests? Go ahead and roast two.

Try a plant-based main dish.

For some people, it’s just not Thanksgiving without a bird. But for many of us, side dishes and desserts are the real star attraction. If that’s the case (or if you’re shifting towards a more plant-based diet), consider a vegetarian main dish instead. Neal recommends a stuffing-filled whole cauliflower, seasonal tofu dish or a mushroom Wellington.

Go with apple and pear-based pies.

“Seasonal produce is sold in bulk and is typically reduced in price throughout the fall,” Neal says. If pecans and canned pumpkin are out of budget, apples and pears are a fantastic alternative for pie baking. “You can also purchase store-bought refrigerated pie dough to cut down on the cost of butter, sugar, eggs and flour.”

Rethink your vanilla extract.

If you get to the store and find that the cost of vanilla extract or vanilla beans has skyrocketed, Neal says that, technically, it’s not a necessary ingredient, since it doesn’t change the structure of your baked goods. So if you want to skip it, that’s an option. “However, it does provide great flavor in a variety of desserts,” Neal says. “Try to find a generic brand of vanilla extract to save money.”

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