Thanksgiving costs: 4 ways to save

Clone Milkmen's photostream on Flickr

The rising cost of turkey meat has families shelling out more to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the average holiday meal for 10 people is expected to total $49.20, up $5.73 from last year. The survey takes into account a 16-pound turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, and all the usual fixings fit for a family of 10.

The most expensive item will likely be the turkey, which saw the biggest percentage increase compared with other foods, the survey says. The AFBF says a 16-pound turkey averages $21.57 this year -- an increase of about $3.91, or 25 cents per pound, from 2010. Biggest reasons for the increase: higher demand and a jump in fuel costs.

That's still a pretty good value at $5 per person, I think. But many of us will likely spend far more to feed and entertain our big families this Turkey Day.

Here's my advice on how to keep costs down:

1. Buy a frozen turkey

If Emeril says it's OK, then I feel confident suggesting this tip. Frozen turkeys are cheaper and just as good as fresh turkeys, according to the celebrity chef. Just make sure you plan accordingly and leave yourself enough time to completely defrost the turkey. Emeril suggests thawing the turkey in the refrigerator and allowing one day in the fridge for every 5 pounds of meet -- so a 20-pound turkey would take 4 days to defrost, for example.

2. Get help from your guests

As the host, suggest guests bring something such as a dessert, side or beverage. Send out a group email to guests about a week prior to the dinner with a "wish list" of menu items for your dinner and kindly ask guests to respond, so you can plan accordingly. Don't be shy -- people like to feel involved!

3. Co-host

Split costs 50/50 by co-hosting Thanksgiving dinner with another relative. That may mean double the guests, but there will more likely be some overlap -- and buying in bulk will help you save. Divide up the shopping list and either grocery shop together or separately. If one of you has a Costco or Sam's Club membership, make sure to take advantage!

4. Consider canned and frozen options

While it's best to go fresh with most of your foods, the experts at Epicurious say it's actually better to use canned pumpkin ($1.79) for pies, as opposed to a fresh cheese pumpkin ($5) -- the canned pumpkin is not as runny. Also, frozen vegetables "can be both superior to and cheaper than out-of-season fresh ones," says Epicurious. They use the example of a 10-ounce bag of Cascadian Farms flash-frozen baby peas for $2.99, compared with $5.99 a pound or more for fresh snow peas.

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Photo credit: Cloned Milkman's photostream on Flickr

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    Farnoosh Torabi is a personal finance journalist and commentator. She is the author of the new book Psych Yourself Rich, Get the Mindset and Discipline You Need to Build Your Financial Life. Follow her at www.farnoosh.tv and on Twitter at @farnoosh.

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