Thanksgiving Ingredients Will Be Pricey This Year — Here Are 10 Budget-Saving Tips

Grocery costs are up, but that doesn't have to ruin your holiday feast.

Updated on October 25, 2023

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Homemade Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner with Potatoes Gravy and Green Beans

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Thanksgiving dinner budget tips

Photo by: bhofack2/Getty Images

bhofack2/Getty Images

It’s no secret that food has been getting more expensive over the past few years. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), grocery prices rose 3.5 percent in 2020, another 3.5 percent in 2021, and a whopping 11.4 percent in 2022. They're forecasted to be up another 5.1 percent by the end of this year. That’s a pretty staggering increase, and one that's likely affected your food budget.

The rising cost of ingredients means that your Thanksgiving meal might be pricier this year. Butter, oil, bread, sugar, and processed fruits and vegetables (like canned pumpkin and cranberry sauce) are among the grocery items whose prices continue to climb. There’s some good news, though: the cost of turkey is down 22 percent from last year’s record high, according to the Farm Bureau, and Walmart recently announced that its 2023 Thanksgiving basket would cost slightly less than it did last year.

Fortunately, it’s still possible to have a fantastic Thanksgiving meal without totally breaking the bank. Here, Food Network Test Kitchen staffers share tips for making the most of every Thanksgiving budget.

Cropped shot of young Asian woman shopping for fresh organic groceries in supermarket. She is shopping with a cotton mesh eco bag and carries a variety of fruits and vegetables. Zero waste concept

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How to save money on Thanksgiving dinner at the grocery store

Photo by: d3sign/Getty Images

d3sign/Getty Images

Shop early.

“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 as soon as possible with any shelf-stable ingredients you’ll need, like canned pumpkin, pecans, spices and dry goods for baking.

Make your own cranberry sauce.

With rising prices for canned fruits and vegetables, making your own cranberry sauce is a good way to reduce your grocery bill, Pisciotta says. “Buy fresh cranberries ahead as they last a really long time in the refrigerator," or opt for frozen berries. Either way, you can make the sauce in advance and freeze until you're ready to serve. Just make sure to cool the sauce all the way before sticking it in an airtight container in the freezer.

Pre-order your turkey.

If you’re set on getting a never-frozen turkey, pre-ordering it from your local butcher is a must, since most places will likely run out quickly, Pisciotta says. If you’re buying a frozen turkey, make room for it in your freezer now and get your bird as soon as you can. Although turkey prices are lower now than in 2022, there are also fewer turkeys available than in the years prior to the pandemic.

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’re even better!” These seasonal winter squashes are often available at farmers’ markets and many supermarkets, and it doesn’t take long to prepare them to use as a pie filling.

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.

Many grocery stores have house labels that tend to cost less than name-brand food items. "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,” Neal says.

Thanksgiving Chicken Over Roasted Vegetables

A chicken is a way to make the most of your Thanksgiving budget

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.

Consider a plant-based main dish.

For some people, it’s just not Thanksgiving without turkey. But, for many others, side dishes and desserts are the real star attractions. If that’s the case, or if you’re shifting toward a more plant-based diet, consider a vegetarian main 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. Plus, the USDA reports that fruit prices have actually dropped slightly this year. If pecans and canned pumpkin are out of budget, apples and pears are a fantastic alternative for pies. “You can also purchase store-bought refrigerated pie dough to cut down on the cost of butter, sugar, eggs and flour.”

Spiced apple and pear pie recipe from the Food Network

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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