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Oct 29, 2012 01:53 PM

Help me do Thanksgiving on the cheap!

I've got about 8 adults and 4 children at my house for Thanksgiving. There may possibly be 1 or 2 more adults. I can have my one daughter bring something but other than her, no one else is able to bring anything.

What should I start buying now so I can spread the cost out over a few weeks?

Any menu plans and/or recipes you could share with me? One person is a vegetarian.

ANY ideas you have would be great!


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  1. The best advice I can give you is to watch your circulars and DO NOT try to spread out the cost. Every store near me offers a free turkey with a $100 purchase around Thanksgiving - you will save yourself the cost of the turkey if you do all your shopping at once. My stores also usually put T-day related items (cranberries, sweet potatoes, etc.) on sale in the week prior to the holiday. As for the actual menu, there isn't anything on a traditional T-day menu that is terribly expensive - how "foodie" do you want to be?

    9 Replies
    1. re: biondanonima

      Wow! Around here you only have to spend $25 in one trip to get a turkey for $8-9 or under (depending on what size you get.) I think you can get a free one some places if you spend $50.

      I agree about all at one time, though- everything is on sale the week before Thanksgiving.

      Instead of spreading out the cost, just set some money aside each week and spend it when you can save the most.

      1. re: biondanonima

        If you can get a free turkey, then I would definitely go for it. None of the stores around here offer that - just a highly discounted price with a $25 purchase.

        If you have one near you, I would recommend checking out Aldi for the staples. I got a lot of my basics there for last thanksgiving (potatoes, celery, onions, cranberries, etc.) and they were just as nice as the regular stores and about half the price.

        1. re: jw615

          This week Aldi has on the vine tomatoes at $.99 for 24 oz. Last week yellow onions were $.59 for a 3 lb. bag, the big stores they are $1.49 lb. Butter is currentlly $1.99 lb. These prices are from 25 yrs. ago. Also $.35 avocados, thats practically Mexico price.

          1. re: robt5265

            Aldi's is not what it was 30 years ago. I have to keep reminding myself a lot happened between 1976 and 2006.

        2. re: biondanonima

          The two main stores near me are Giant Eagle and Acme. I don't think they ever have free turkeys with purchase. I'll keep an eye out, though.

          1. re: anniam

            I thought most of the Giant brands did the free store brand bird with 300 grocery points. I think this is true of the Giant Landover, Giant Carlisle, and Stop and Shop brands and perhaps Peapod as well.

            1. re: melpy

              Giant Eagle is different from Giant. Giant Eagle is based in Pittsburgh and extends into Ohio and WV.

              1. re: dmjordan

                If looking at Giant Eagle, I purchase my turkey now! Even at $0.78/# instead of $0.59 it *may* go like last year.

                The reason why is so I can find reasonable size turkeys now as in 14# and under. A week before, you are forced to buy 20#+ in size turkeys.

        3. If you're happy buying a frozen turkey, you can do dinner very affordably! Roast turkey, mashed potatoes, roasted carrots, cranberry sauce. You don't NEED ten side dishes, you know? For the vegetarian, I'd do some rice pilaf stuffed acorn squash, which could be a side dish for other people as well.

          1 Reply
          1. re: katecm

            Make a copy of a substantial vegetarian side (that rice pilaf stuffed acorn squash sounds wonderful!) that will go with the rest of the meal and ask the vegetarians to make it and bring it along to share with everyone. When a couple of my friends were vegans they always brought their own food - they just wanted to join in with everyone else at the table. It was a little bit of a pain since they also then monopolized the microwave, but a relatively small sacrifice for us to have them with us for Thanksgiving. Now, thank god, they've gone vegetarian and include poultry and fish, as well as dairy, in their brand of vegetarianism. They can eat everything now!!!

          2. Buy stale bread now cheap and cut into sort-of cubes and dry in the oven, then load into plastic bags to wait. Get shabby/bruised vegetables (celery/carrots/'shrooms/onions), cut the ones that look ok at least in spots into thin slices and freeze. Cook the bad-but-not rotten or moldy bits slowly in broth after caramelizing with butter/olive oil. Pour the broth into trays and freeze to make out-of-the bird veggie dressing with salt and pepper and thyme and maybe parsley. Rest of homemade stuffing into bird.

            Make your own crusts for pies, your own filling (I make sweet potato pie rather than pumpkin as it's richer tasting and more filling so people eat less.)


            People just like traditional foods for Thanksgiving. Salad, green bean casserole (I hate but if it isn't on the table there's a chorus of why nots! And that's from Bay Area foodies!), brussels sprouts caramelized in the oven, mashed potatoes, homemade applesauce.

            Apps: slightly stale french bread cut into slices and made into bruschetta or goat cheese and homemade caponata (buy iffy tomatoes, eggplant, cook down with onions, etc.)

            Sorry it's not more creative but...

            3 Replies
            1. re: rccola

              Great ideas, especially making broth from discounted veggies. I think appetizers can safely be omitted. If people will have to wait around for the meal, a crudite tray with some ranch dip, and perhaps a bowl of spiced nuts or party mix are all that's needed. Folks don't want to fill up on apps so don't offer something for which you can't use the leftovers. You can make smaller amounts of mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes than you ordinarily might, because with the choice of those two starches plus stuffing, people won't each have a full-sized portion of each.
              You can never have too much stuffing, but go easy on the spuds unless you have a lot of fridge space for leftovers. America's Test Kitchen had the good idea of buying extra wings and roasting them atop the auxiliary dressing in the casserole dish, so it gets flavored like the in-cavity stuffing.

              1. re: greygarious

                The out-of-bird experience was for the vegetarian--hence the veggie stock with caramelized onions.

                I make sweet potato pie for dessert--more filling than pumpkin! Just mashed with the meal as gravy (turkey or vegetarian) goes better with them than with sweets.

                The idea of the extra wings is great but not for vegetarians. =(

                I like apps to keep people noshing in the living room instead of bothering me in the kitchen.

                1. re: rccola

                  rccola - I love sweet potato pie! Good idea!

            2. For the vegetarian. You can make the stuffing with veggie stock instead of chicken stock. And if you stuff it into the turkey save some and put it in a small casserole dish and bake separately. I don't eat meat but I'm usually happy with the side dishes which was always my favorite part. Best to ask the vegetarian if they need anything special or they may even be happy to bring a dish that they can eat.

              1. If you have a Costco nearby, I would suggest one of their pumpkin pies--maybe your daughter could bring that along with some whipped cream. As for the rest, stick with the basics and do some checking around on prices. Turkey, potatoes, stuffing, squash and frozen peas would be fine with me.

                1 Reply
                1. re: escondido123

                  Agree, that's all most of us really care about. Oh and cranberry sauce.