Tips for a financially fit Thanksgiving

Have a delicious Thanksgiving Day meal without breaking the budget.

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Keep your Thanksgiving meal costs on budget by looking for ways to cut costs. Hosting Thanksgiving dinner for your family and guests can be costly. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, last year’s average cost of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner was close to $50.00 for 10 people. The menu for their cost analysis consisted of turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, coffee and milk. If your menu includes additional items, the cost for your dinner may be even higher. Here are some suggestions for keeping down the cost of your Thanksgiving dinner.

Allow guests to bring a part of the dinner. Good ideas for guests to bring that will stay safe while being transported include:  fruit pies, rolls or a beverage such as bottled water or soda. 

Shop the sales that are being offered by your local grocery stores. Many popular Thanksgiving menu foods are on sale for the holiday. Michigan State University Extension recommends having a menu planned ahead of time which will allow you purchase these items when they are on sale. It’s a good time to also stock up on items that can be used later in the year such as fresh cranberries, turkey, canned pumpkin or brown sugar if you have the freezer or shelf space. 

Take advantage of foods that are in season right now as you plan your menu. Pumpkins, squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and apples are plentiful right now and are traditional foods on the menu for Thanksgiving. Apple salad, roasted squash and pumpkin pie are budget friendly and tasty too! 

Planning the menu and making a shopping list can help to avoid making impulse purchases that may not fit into your budget. Look into your cupboards and plan items you already have on hand. A good place to look for low cost recipe ideas is the SNAP-Ed Connection. They have a section of low cost holiday meals

Keep food safety in mind too as you plan and prepare your holiday meal. Allow plenty of time for thawing the turkey in the refrigerator. If you find yourself short on time, thaw the turkey under cold running water, thaw in the microwave (and then cook it immediately after), or cook from frozen or partially frozen being sure to allow extra time for it to be done (165 degrees F. in the thickest part such as the breast, leg or in the center of the stuffing if the bird is stuffed.)

Wash countertops and make sure all cooking utensils are clean. Frequent handwashing is important especially before cooking, after handling raw poultry or meat, and after using the restroom. 

Prevent cross contamination by keeping raw meat separate from ready-to-eat items such as produce at all times (in the grocery cart, in the refrigerator, and during preparation). 

Use up leftovers within 3 to 4 days. Check out more about using leftover at USDA food safety resources. Above all, have a safe and healthy Thanksgiving Day no matter what you have to eat! 

Michigan State University Extension offers financial literacy and homeownership workshops throughout the year to help you become financially healthy. For more information of classes in your area, please visit either the MSU Extension events page or MI Money Health website.

This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visit To have a digest of information delivered straight to your email inbox, visit To contact an expert in your area, visit, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

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