How to Have a Thrifty Thanksgiving Dinner

By Daisy Luther

Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time of gratitude when you get together with the people you love and give thanks for what you have. But like every other holiday, it has become a retail frenzy and a day for which people spend hundreds of dollars on one single meal to host an epic Thanksgiving dinner.

Stop that!

You shouldn’t have to spend an entire month’s grocery budget on a lavish dinner for the folks in your family. The most important thing you can do is set a reasonable budget that won’t leave you strapped for the rest of the month, and then plan your menu around that.

What we’re having for Thanksgiving Dinner

For our own holiday meals, I take cash to the store in order to stay within budget. I adhere to a list that I’ve made and try to use many ingredients that I already have in my stockpile and freezer.

Here’s what our menu looks like this year. The * indicates that it is made strictly from ingredients things we have on hand.

  • Baked Brie with crackers
  • *Topped with homemade hot pepper peach jam
  • Turkey (Our biggest expenditure)
  • *Stuffing (made from homemade cornbread, with onions and seasoning from our garden)
  • Baked sweet potatoes
  • *Green beans with garlic and honey
  • *Cinnamon glazed carrots
  • *Mashed potatoes
  • *Gravy
  • Dinner rolls (from our favorite bakery)
  • *Pumpkin pie (made from pantry ingredients and pumpkin from our garden)

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It sounds great but as you can see, we aren’t going nuts making a whole bunch of expensive things that require specialty ingredients. I plan to spend less than $50 for the things we need to add to our normal supplies. The budget is the MOST IMPORTANT THING if you want to stick to your plan.

Here is an excerpt from the November issue of The Preppernomics Report.  (Click here to get the complete issue absolutely free!)

Excerpt from How to Have a Frugal Feast This Thanksgiving

Contrary to what you may think, you don’t have to sell a kidney on the black market to put together a memorable and delicious Thanksgiving dinner. You can make a lot of it right from your pantry, and other items from reasonably priced items at the store.

If you’ve been building a stockpile, then the food in your pantry contains all sorts of basics for scratch cooking, purchased at the lowest prices available. Because of this, you can focus on purchasing only a few special items, like a turkey or a must-have goodie that is a tradition in your family, while you enjoy delicious yet thrifty treats for the rest of your Thanksgiving dinner.

Break out the vintage cookbooks when looking for creative ways to use your pantry stockpile. My favorite cookbook is my old Fanny Farmer cookbook, which was written in 1896 and updated in the early 1900s. I like older cookbooks because the ingredients are simple and readily available.  With these types of recipes, you won’t be scurrying around looking for some of those crazy Martha Stewart-esque gourmet ingredients like the breath of a yellow garden snail, captured during the 2nd full moon of the month.

Make the presentation lovely, with fancy toothpicks in the appetizers, colorful napkins, and your nicest china. Use some of the fall décor ideas in this issue for a festive table. If served with the proper flair – think candles, cloth napkins, and a beautiful presentation – any dinner seems just a little more festive

Following are some ideas for a festive meal that will make your guests feel well-fed and pampered, without emptying your pockets. You’ll discover that many of the ingredients already reside in your pantry, or are standard groceries that you’ll have on hand, like eggs and cheese.

Thrifty Appetizers and Party Snacks

  • Crackers (Usually on sale during the holidays)
  • Warm up a fruity jam and add some hot pepper flakes. Serve this over cream cheese for a deceptively elegant appetizer
  • Homemade yogurt mixed with herbs to make a dip for veggies
  • Breadsticks with marinara sauce
  • Chex mix made with melted white chocolate
  • Deviled eggs
  • Garlic roasted pumpkin seeds (recipe above)
  • Make hummus from canned chick peas
  • Soup
  • Slice a baguette and toast the slices. Serve with dishes of high quality olive oil for dipping.

Festive Platters

Platters of cheeses and meats are pretty expensive choices. Simply removing things from jars and arranging them on a platter will make them look far more elegant than their humble origins.

  • Place a variety of pickles on a dish for a relish tray.
  • Olives and marinated vegetables create a lovely yet inexpensive antipasto
  • Don’t buy the readymade veggie tray from the grocery store. Instead, peel and slice your carrots and cut up other veggies that you can find at a reasonable price.
  • Instead of a fruit tray with out-of-season luxuries, go with fruits that are well-priced at this time of year, like mandarin oranges, pears, apples, and grapes.

Thanksgiving dinner ideas

Don’t feel obligated to invest in out-of-season delicacies like fresh berries and asparagus in November. Splurge on a turkey and let the side dishes take a backseat.

And if you can’t afford the fanciest of dinners this year, don’t despair.  Roast a chicken instead of a turkey or a ham, or make some homemade stuffing baked with drumsticks.  Things like stuffing (or dressing, depending on what part of the country you hail from) were originally created as a way to use up something that would ordinarily be thrown out – stale bread.

Channel your Depression-era ancestors and make your goodies the frugal, old-fashioned way.

  • Homemade rolls or biscuits
  • Pasta or potato salad
  • Whip butter with a touch of honey- it makes the butter go further but looks fancy
  • Canned or frozen veggies will seem more festive when topped with breadcrumbs, bacon, and/or cheese
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Scalloped potatoes
  • Dumplings (maybe this is a Southern thing, but we always had dumplings with turkey dinner when I was a kid)
  • Stuffing – save up your bread scraps or make a batch of homemade cornbread for the base. Skip the fancy add-ins like water chestnuts and oysters and go back to the basics
  • Mashed sweet potatoes or winter squash with a sprinkle of brown sugar
  • Homemade cranberry sauce (far tastier and about the same price as canned)


Don’t go all out on a bakery-made dessert. Make it from scratch from basic ingredients. Consider these more humble ideas.

Decorate a cake (or cupcakes) with fall-colored sprinkles

  • Pies can be more expensive if you make the crust with pounds and pounds of butter. Try a single crust pie or make it with shortening.
  • Banana bread or pumpkin bread
  • Homemade cookies
  • A fruit crisp
  • Pudding with whipped cream
  • Brownies
  • Ice cream (put it in cones or add some toppings to jazz things up)

The most important ingredient.

Remember, Thanksgiving is a tradition based on gratitude for a good harvest.  We have so many things to be thankful for in this country, even when times are tough. The most important element of your Thanksgiving dinner isn’t on the table – it’s the ones sitting at your table.

from the Preppernomics Report Nov. 2017

The other details.

There are all sorts of details when you host a family get-together that folks spend a lot of money on, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are lots of ways to decorate on a dime, to set a gorgeous table, and to focus on tradition instead of spending. Check out my new monthly publication, The Preppernomics Report, absolutely free to get more frugal and festive ideas.

PS: If you opt to subscribe to the report before the end of the month, you’ll get a PDF of my book, Have Yourself a Thrifty Little Christmas and a Debt-Free New Year, as my gift to you. Your subscription is only $5 per month and if you put the tips into action, you’ll be sure to save more than that.

Please feel free to share any information from this site in part or in full, leaving all links intact, giving credit to the author and including a link to this website and the following bio. Daisy is a coffee-swigging, gun-toting, homeschooling blogger who writes about current events, preparedness, frugality, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, The Organic Prepper, where this article first appeared. She curates all the most important news links on her aggregate site, She is the best-selling author of 4 books and lives in the mountains of Virginia with her two daughters and an ever-growing menarie. You can find Daisy on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

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