iReport – Thanksgiving for under $30
November 23rd, 2011
11:30 AM ET
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We're sharing our time-tested Thanksgiving hosting tips and recipes, as well as plenty from chefs, hospitality experts, celebrities, hosts and home cooks we love. Our goal – sending you into Thanksgiving with a confident smile on your face, and seeing you emerge on the other side with your sanity intact.

Economically speaking, it's pretty scary out there, and plenty of people are feeling the pinch at the supermarket. iReporter Ecotraveler submitted this simple and thrifty budget for a full Thanksgiving meal.

"I was surprised that a family of four to six, plus a few friends, could enjoy this holiday dinner together for under $30," she said. "And they were all name brands, which this year were less than generics. Great news for families on a budget and in this economy."

She continued:

It's surprising how inexpensive Thanksgiving dinner could be this year, if you're willing to read the sale ads and shop 'til you drop.

With turkey prices slashed to the bone, even if you like ham on the Thanksgiving table, turkey is the most economical way to go. Armed with a comfortable pair of shoes and this week's sale ads, you can make a 15 pound turkey dinner for Thanksgiving and spend less than $30 - appetizers to dessert.

This size turkey is recommended for ten people, so if your feasters number less, why not stock up anyway and have plenty for leftovers?

It pays to shop around, as grocery stores here in Hampton Roads are slashing turkey prices to $.49-$.69 a pound with an additional $15-$35 purchase to lure customers in their doors.

That means a 14 pound turkey costs only $5.85.

After comparing all the sale ads in the paper, on a marathon shopping spree, here's what else I found:

Potatoes will cost me $2.00 for five pounds plus butter, which was $2.00 for a four pack.

Stuffing (Pepperidge Farm) was $.89.

Cranberries were $2.29, and since this is the only time of year I can get them here, I bought another for the freezer. They freeze well.

Jello was $.59 and they're offering a free Jiggler mold with the purchase.

Marshmallows for your gelatin were $.99 with enough for your sweet potatoes, which cost $.87 for three pounds at $.29 a pound.

Green beans and other veggies were $.49 a can.

Cream of mushroom soup for green bean casserole was $.89.

Pies were buy one get one free, or $3.75 each.

Eggs, one dozen were $1.00, plenty for 20 deviled eggs and cake mix $1.25 - if I choose to make a cake.

Cheese for the appetizer plate was $2.00 per block and Nabisco crackers were $2.00 a box.

If you're a dedicated coupon clipper, you could save even more. And all products were name brands, rather than generics, so this may be a great time to splurge.

Bon appetit and have a blessed and a happy Thanksgiving.

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Got questions? Leave 'em in the comments below and we'll do our best to help you out.

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Filed under: Holidays • HolidayShopping • iReport • It's not Thanksgiving without • Shopping • Thanksgiving

soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. shawn l

    I make my own bread, costs maybe 50 cents a loaf for materials at most. I cube it, dry it out in the oven, toss with the herbs and spices that I want in a bit of oil for m stuffing mix. Turkey is cheap to get this time of year, potatoes and sweet potato are the same. Vegetables in a can? Disgusting for the most part, get frozen or fresh green beans if you have to have that nasty glop people call a casserole. Paying for pie? Make your own. If you are truly lazy, just buy the pie crusts and make your own filling.

    November 22, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  2. Dave1955

    My mother's stuffing was virtually free. All year long, she would take the heels of the bread, and add them to a bag in the freezer. Then, at Thanksgiving and Christmas, she would pull out those heels of bread that no one had wanted, and turned them into stuffing that was far more delicious than anything Pepperidge Farm could hope to accomplish.

    November 23, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
  3. maha

    sandra lee money saving good tv shows too

    November 23, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
  4. D Boyce

    Stuffing from a box? Veggies from a can? Store bought pie? Good golly Miss Molly – can't you people actually cook? If I served this crap to my family here in Canada, they would mutiny!!!!!!

    November 23, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
    • Amy

      Some of us grew up eating that way, and consequently prefer it as tradition.

      November 23, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
      • pdn

        Hence the sorry state of health in this country. Your parents should be put to death for that crime against humanity!

        November 24, 2011 at 8:19 am |
      • Sun

        Amy, that makes me totally sad for you! I hope you will experiment yourself with real food and cooking, nothing out of a can or box is nearly as good. You are eating fat, chemicals and salt, not real food.

        November 24, 2011 at 8:39 am |
  5. Rick Springfield

    Sorry editor, this story can't work in my home state. State law forbids price wars where items sell for less than cost. So Black Friday is not as good as in other states. It affects sales and so far it affects turkey prices. They can't unload them for less than $1.05 per pound in this state. Then other items are strictly regulated like dairy products. So I just got back from the neighboring state where I bought $300 for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Oh, and since it was Texas, the items were tax free. So much for my state benefiting from archaic laws.

    November 23, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
  6. CM

    There's no booze included in this budget so what's the point? And Pepperidge Farm stuffing....GROSS!

    November 23, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  7. Ember

    I got news for all you people with your the way my grandparents did it healthier stories. My grandparents had young busy families when all these convenience foods hit the shelves. To them they were a marvel and as such my parents grew up eating stove top and gravy in a jar for Thanksgiving. It wasn't until my parents had a young and busy family did we start to learn convenience foods weren't all that good for us, and by then people had learned to rely on them so much that it was hard to slow back down and do things from scratch. As for myself I enjoy the process of baking and cooking so my Turkey Day will be from scratch, but I don't chastise those who still rely on what they know.

    November 23, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • Amy

      I actually prefer the flavor of the canned and boxed items, simply because I grew up eating them and holidays remind me of my childhood. I don't eat all that refined stuff every day, but for holidays, I prefer the tradition we had when I was little.

      November 23, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
  8. Carolyn

    Ewwwww...most of this is processed food. I don't care how cheap it is, I won't buy it. Let less and buy organic and non-processed. Your body will thank you.

    November 23, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • CM

      you are preaching to the choir, sista! sounds like cafeteria food to me.

      November 23, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
  9. inspiredhomecooking

    Thank-you! This is a great article and very much needed. It just takes a little effort and good food can be found affordable and made at home. Just effort and planning. There will be leftovers from this meal, definitely soup.

    November 23, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • Skippy

      You're absolutely correct. It takes just a few minutes of planning and a few hours of cooking to make a delicious low cost meal on Thanksgiving. My daughter buys processed and pre-cooked items as she doesn't cook much and I know I can spend less than 1/2 of what she spends doing it the old fashioned way. We are living in a "pre-made" world though, so it's hard for younger people to realize how really very simple and inexpensive it can all be.

      November 24, 2011 at 8:30 am |
  10. name

    90% agree with the article. I am a big fan of parties on the cheap, but this budget would work for excellent turkey cooks or frozen turkey lovers. For me frozen turkey is not the same, even heirloom/free-range/organic. My grandma used to raise turkeys, so for me only the fresh turkey works. It would set you back another $30 or so, but $60 party is a pretty good deal too.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
  11. Emperor Norton

    Your grandparents also probably spent a lot more time out of doors, didn't have as many chemicals or preservatives in their food, didn't have computers, didn't have to worry about genetically modified foods, didn't shoot their cattle full of antibiotics, and didn't watch much television if they had one at all. Doing whatever you like because it worked for them is pretty stupid, as it ignores the substantial differences between two generations ago and now.

    Nicole's right. You'll really taste the difference if you do your best to avoid prepackaged foods whenever you can. Farmer's markets are great for that.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • MCM

      Hate to break it to you, but that argument is becoming out of date.

      My grandparents grew up in the 40's and 50's, which means they were smack dab in the middle of processed foods, man-made fabrics, and while one set did grow their own food; they used petrochemical fertilizers (and still do).

      The whole "our grandparents didn't do X" is just rose-colored glasses. They used DDT, gave birth to the genetically-engineered crops, and were the ones to originally bloat livestock weight via antibiotics.

      How about instead of spouting what's become a very worn argument about things that never happened (standards for animal treatment on farms have increased dramatically since my grandparents' time, as another example), just list a few things to watch out for?

      -Try not to buy canned soups, as not only do off-brands have MSG, but Bisphenol-A (BPA) concentrations are very, very high due to the coating on the inside of the can.

      -Try to buy turkey brands that raise their turkeys on vegetarian feed or free-range type diets, since this translates directly to higher nutritional content and better taste.

      -Making your own stuffing is much, much cheaper if you do a lot of home-cooking and already have the flour around.

      -Don't buy canned veggies, not only for the BPA concentrations again, but also because fresh veggies retain more of their nutrition and taste.

      -If you prefer, the vegetables most notorious for harboring pesticides in the store are leafy greens like spinach and lettuce.
      Dirty Dozen: Foods to Buy Organic
      1. apples
      2. celery
      3. strawberries
      4. peaches
      5. spinach
      6. nectarines, imported
      7. grapes, imported
      8. sweet bell peppers
      9. potatoes
      10. blueberries, domestic
      11. lettuce
      12. kale collard greens

      -Be VERY diligent about trans-fats, or any ingredient listed as "partially-hydrogenated oil." Trans fats are terrible for the body, as they persist in the blood longer than other fats and are more difficult to process. This rules out most frozen rolls and pre-made pies, but you can still find a few that don't have it.

      -The same for High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS, or "Corn Sugar", etc.). Fructose that enters the body must go through an additional pentaphosphate pathway to be utilized by glycolysis, and the pathway isn't as tightly controlled as other metabolic processes. Again, this will rule out the cheapest pies and desserts you find.

      So, if you take a gander at the list above, you should probably splurge on the following:

      By simply making your own dessert or buying from a place that doesn't use HFCS or trans-fats (Whole Foods, local bakeries, some frozen brands), you eliminate a lot of the heart and diabetes related threats that you would otherwise have.

      Also, by not buying canned soups/veggies, you eliminate practically all of your BPA.

      I'd really start there, and then if you can spare the cash, buy organic veggies on the Dirty Dozen list. After the HFCS/Trans-fats/BPA is gone, all you really have to 'worry' about is the calorie content! He he.

      November 23, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
      • Megan

        I love your reply and agree with the vast majority of it, but I have yet to see any evidence that MSG is bad. It's naturally occurring, not a chemical. In studies, people who claim to have "MSG insensitivity" only have symptoms if they are told that something has MSG, regardless of whether there's any MSG in the food they've eaten.

        November 23, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
      • Sarah

        Your information about fresh vegetables is incorrect. After vegetables are picked, they begin to lose their nutritional value. If you have your own garden and eat the vegetables that fresh, yes, that is the best way to eat them (except for tomatoes, which get a boost in lycopene from the canning process). However, when we buy produce from the grocery store, there is the time for processing, transportation, sitting in the store and then in your refrigerator until used. Some are stored in warehouses or are picked and then allowed to ripen after, further extending the length of time until the vegetable hits your plate. That entire time, the nutrition is seeping out.

        On the other hand, when a vegetable is canned or frozen, it is picked at the peak of freshness and the nutritional value is fully intact (or very close to fully) when you open the can or thaw the vegetables.

        There are some concerns with canned vegetables regarding their sodium content and chemicals in some cans that can seep into the vegetables. Through low sodium varieties and some research, you can avoid a lot of those problems. Frozen vegetables are usually an excellent choice.

        November 24, 2011 at 4:45 am |
  12. Liqmaticus

    Under 30 bucks? Easy. SPAM with TANG to wash it down!!!

    November 23, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  13. Brian

    @Nicole... WOW! You must be a real treat to spend the hollidays with! You sounds like a real bundle of laughs and full of fun.

    November 23, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • Amy Richman

      BRAVO BRIAN!!! What really kills me about all these so-called "healthy eaters" . .look at how young they die. People of my grandparents era ate whatever they wanted, tons of meat and potatoes, didn't belong to AnytimeFitness, didn't give a hoot about MSG and lived to be 100 . . I'll take tasty yummy food over Nicole-gate re: food anyday!

      November 23, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
      • Travis

        Ah....but people of our grandparents era grew their own food, cultivated and picked their own food from their large gardens or need for joining gymns, when they are working on their feet most of the day. Plus they did eat what they wanted, but they completely created fresh and cooked this fresh food. They did not buy a premixed stuffing full of crud that our grandparents would never have put into their food or buy the premade bread or such. They made it on their own and that's why they ate what they wanted. Today we have way too much toxins in these premade foods, I don't believe in totally going to Nicole Gates type of food, but do believe we need to do a better job of eating better like our Grandparents used to.

        November 23, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • Nicole

      We enjoy cooking from scratch, using such novel ingredients as real butter, milk, eggs, sugar, etc. We put the focus on the meal and the guests we are serving. Part of having guests over though is that if some are gluten-free, as some of our guests are, I do my best to accommodate them and prepare side portions for them while still making traditional recipes. We also have guests with other food sensitivities which is becoming more and more common. I really truly enjoy cooking. Although I do not have such food sensitivities, it's part of being a good host.

      November 23, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  14. Jerv

    Now that's what I'm talking about.

    November 23, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
  15. Nicole Clark

    This is all true however I found that name brand does not necessarily mean healthy. I could have paid .69 for the least expensive turkey in the store, but the tradeoff was that it was plumped up through chemical injections and preservatives. I ended up getting a mid-grade turkey listed as "natural" with nothing injected, but I couldn't splurge for the free-range organic ones. The popular name brand soups and stuffing mixes all have loads of msg so one has to shop carefully to avoid that. Part of the obesity problem in America is the cheap, fast, and over processing culture of our diet. If you're willing to put in a little elbow grease to prepare casseroles and stuffings from scratch, you can get by fairly inexpensively while eating better. Real ingredients, portion control, and exercise beat processed foods and chemicals any day!

    November 23, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • Amy

      I can understand eating healthily most of the time, but on holidays? Eat what you love. I personally prefer the flavor of the processed stuff, so I do indulge for holidays. The rest of the time, I try to eat homemade as often as possible, which is most of the time.

      November 23, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
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