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Be thankful —and thrifty!

Larissa Newton
November 1, 2015

Since 1986, the American Farm Bureau Federation has released an informal study showing the cost of a 10-person Thanksgiving Day dinner. That first year, the cost was $28.74; in 2014, it was estimated to be $49.41.

That’s not bad, but I would definitely expect that number to finally hit the $50 mark in 2015. Why? There’s a shortage of both pumpkins and turkeys, thanks to record rainfall in Illinois (the top pumpkin-producing state) and the Avian flu, respectively.

Fortunately, the National Turkey Federation estimates only 3 percent of the nation’s supply of turkeys was lost as a result of the influenza strain. Also, experts say frozen turkeys are plentiful, so it shouldn’t impact your meal too much.

Pumpkin, on the other hand, could be scarce.

“I would not wait until Nov. 20,” Mohammad Babadoost, a professor at University of Illinois, told the Chicago Tribune. “I’d buy it whenever it comes to the store.”

And the corporate and brand affairs director for canned-pumpkin manufacturer Libby said, “once we ship the remainder of the 2015 harvest, well have no more Libbys pumpkin to sell until harvest 2016.”

Here are some ways you can keep the cost down on those important holiday dinners:

Keep it simple. The AFBF’s menu is very basic: a veggie tray, turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, peas, cranberries, rolls and pumpkin pie. It also accounts for various ingredients like milk, eggs, flour and butter. Take a cue from this organization and pare your menu down. The more sides and meats and desserts you add, the more expensive your meal is going to be.

Don’t be shy about potluck. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—there is nothing wrong with asking your guests to provide a dish. This is especially true at holidays when your guests are most likely family, who are probably more than willing to help out. Just remember to coordinate so you don’t have duplicate dishes. And if you have a family of drinkers, definitely institute a policy of BYOB.

Be prepared. Plan your menu ahead of time so you can keep an eye out for great deals at the store. Some of your ingredients will freeze well or come in cans, so they’ll keep for a few weeks, if needed.

Another great tip I found online is to save your old bread for stuffing. My husband is especially picky about the freshness of his bread. So save those old slices by toasting them lightly and then tearing them into pieces. Store them in an airtight container until it’s time to prepare your meal.

Get your meat for free. As usual, both Giant Food Stores and Weis Markets are holding their holiday rewards programs. At Weis, earn 400 points through Nov. 25 to get a free turkey, ham, Tofurky or frozen lasagna. Similarly, Giant offers a free turkey, kosher turkey, turkey breast or frozen lasagna when you earn 400 points. (Full details for the promotions can be found on the stores’ respective websites.)

Since the AFBF estimated the cost of a 16-pound turkey to be $21.65, or 44 percent of your total meal cost, getting it for free is a huge savings.

Use those leftovers. No matter how many people you are feeding, you’ll probably have leftovers. Don’t waste them. There are tons of websites dedicated to recipes using leftovers. I’m a huge fan of making a Thanksgiving dinner sandwich where you pile turkey, stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce onto your bread. My mouth is watering thinking about it.

Larissa Newton is copy/Web editor for Central Penn Business Journal, a sister newspaper of Central Penn Parent. She is mom to a 3-year-old daughter, and loves to get things for free. Email her with comments, suggestions or tips at larissan@centralpennparent.com. Follow her on Twitter @newton_larissa.

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