It’s Time to Talk Turkey

thanksgiving-dinnerHosting Thanksgiving dinner and are thankful for your friends and family, but leery of the price tag of this particular meal? Here are some tips to have a fun, festive and frugal holiday dinner.

Think Outside the Turkey

First of all, who says that you have to serve turkey?  A roast turkey, while traditional and delicious, is also an expensive dish (generally a turkey comprises between a third to almost half of your total food cost for a Thanksgiving meal).

Consider another main dish (pasta, fish or chicken) that is less costly. If you still have your heart set on turkey, be creative. Think about turkey burgers, Turkey Tetrazzini or Turkey Pot Pie.

Talk Turkey

If your menu is more traditional and you seek roasted turkey, a little planning and turkey savvy can help you reduce the cost of this meal staple.

Typically, store brand turkeys from chain grocery stores tend to be less expensive than other brands or turkeys bought from small butchers. Don’t be put off by frozen turkey either. Frozen turkeys are still very flavourful and moist (if cooked properly) and tend to be cheaper as well.

Often this time of year, stores give away turkeys as part of a promotion (spend X amount of dollars, and receive a free turkey) so keep your eyes open for such an opportunity.


If ever there was an opportunity to BYO, Thanksgiving dinner is it!  You supply the main dish, and have each guest “bring their own side”.  Make it fun by asking them to bring one of their own traditional dishes or favourites. It’s interesting to see all the different variations on very similar ingredients.

If you are serving alcohol, have guests BYO in that department too. Alcohol can seriously raise your meal tab.

Nature’s Décor

Don’t waste loads of money on fancy centrepieces and décor, when nature is kindly supplying you with all kinds of colorful materials to use- for free!

Collect leaves, and scatter them on the table. Gather twigs and tie them with a fall-coloured ribbon and place in vases around the room.

Cook from Scratch

As a rule, elbow grease= saving money, and this holds particularly true when cooking a turkey dinner. You pay extra for convenience.

By making your own stuffing, cranberry sauce and gravy, you can reduce your overall expenses.

Magic Numbers

Nothing can dent your budget like wasted food. While the inclination for a turkey dinner is to cook massive amounts of food, make sure you are not overdoing it. For instance, instead of making piles of mashed potatoes, peel one medium potato per person.

There are online tools available as well that can help you determine serving amounts and total food costs.

Accept Offers to Help

There is a school of thought that cooking a turkey dinner solo is a badge of honour somehow. However, accepting help when it is offered (supplying items or with cooking onsite) not only could potentially save you money, it makes the experience less overwhelming.

Remember, this is a meal and a gathering of family and friends, not a Herculean task on a reality show.

Stick with Staples

While the lure of trendy, fancy dishes on the glossy pages of a magazine are tempting, if you are sticking to a budget, this is not the time to try them out. They often involve different ingredients that you may not have on hand and require purchasing. Stick with the tried and true basics, like green beans (buttered with salt and pepper), sweet potatoes (sprinkled with cinnamon and brown sugar) and mashed potatoes (it’s a special occasion! In addition to milk and butter, throw in a little cream cheese or sour cream).