THE BLOG
11/24/2014 12:24 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Walmart, Sandra Lee and Others Reveal Their Best Thanksgiving Dinner Savings Tips

Photo credit: Felipe Neves

Thanksgiving is nearly upon us, which means it's time to enjoy the three F's: football, family and food! If you're in charge of preparing some good eats this year, but are working with a smaller budget than you'd like, you are not alone. The good news is you can still have a great Thanksgiving on a budget. So before finishing your food list, take a look at some dishes and cooking secrets from professional chefs and food experts that can help you save money on dinner.

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Sandra Lee


"The price of turkey went up 14 cents this season due to shortage, so serving a turkey breast would be a good and healthy option," said Sandra Lee, host of four culinary shows on Food Network and the Cooking Channel. "Check circulars and shop retailers to see who has the best value and maybe the most coupons -- it's even better if they'll double them. Loyalty members sometimes get special shopping incentives, also buy generic instead of brand names, many times they come from the same manufacturer. Many times, throughout the season, retailers will offer free delivery -- take advantage of those services."

Joe Nartowicz of Walmart


"As the largest grocer in the U.S., we're committed to helping customers find low prices on grocery items every day, especially during the holidays when our customers are planning for multiple meals and celebrations," said chef Joe Nartowicz of Walmart. Start your meal planning by shopping smart - a 10-person traditional Thanksgiving dinner at Walmart is $32.64, which is more than 30 percent less than the national average. Diversify your menu at a low cost by incorporating new ingredients like honey bourbon bacon and flavored hams. And, shop with confidence knowing you can get the best price by taking advantage of savings tools like Walmart's Savings Catcher tool, which is a great resource that allows customers to enter their receipts and if there was a lower price on any items - including holiday turkey and ham - elsewhere at the time of purchase, they will receive the difference on a gift card."

Judy Joo

Photo courtesy of Judy Joo

"Start saving leftover bread in the freezer a few months before Thanksgiving," said Judy Joo, host of "Korean Food Made Simple" on the Cooking Channel. "Hold onto end pieces and stale bread -- it doesn't even matter what kind (brown, white, multigrain, pita, baguettes). Use what you save to make stuffing for the big day. Not only can you avoid buying a boxed version, you'll have an interesting, varied mix with different textures, seeds and colors. The medley makes it all a bit gourmet -- and since you're using leftovers, nothing goes to waste."

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Danielle Walker

Photo courtesy of Danielle Walker

"Quality turkeys can be really pricy, so I always recommend buying a smaller bird and stretching it by offering other protein sources alongside the turkey," said Danielle Walker, author of New York Times best-sellers "Meals Made Simple" and "Against All Grain." "Whole roasting chickens are a great alternative or a ham roast can also accompany it nicely. Also, don't be afraid to let others help with the food. If you are hosting the event, you can take one or two dishes and let others bring the rest to help offset the cost for everyone."

Kelsey Nixon

Photo courtesy of Kelsey Nixon

"One of the easiest ways to save money on food for your Thanksgiving meal is to ask for a little help from your guests -- like a holiday potluck," said Kelsey Nixon, host of "Kelsey's Essentials" on the Cooking Channel. "I don't think anyone expects one person to make an entire Thanksgiving meal on [his] own and by having each guest contribute one dish, you'll have your celebratory dinner table filled in no time. This cuts down on grocery costs, energy use -- and most importantly -- stress. Sharing recipes also makes for great conversation around the dinner table."

See Why Americans Throw Away $165B in Groceries Every Year

Faith Durand

Photo courtesy of Faith Durand

"The turkey is the most expensive item on the Thanksgiving grocery shopping list," said Faith Durand, executive editor of The Kitchn. "So don't just grab the biggest bird you can find; calibrate the turkey to the size of your party so you don't overspend. We use a rule of thumb of 1 pound per guest, which is plenty for Thanksgiving with minimal leftovers. If your guest list is small, skip the whole bird and buy a turkey breast instead."

Erin Chase

Photo courtesy of Erin Chase

"Tip No. 1: Thanksgiving is the most couponable holiday when it comes to feast ingredients," said Erin Chase of 5DollarDinners.com. "There are so many fantastic sales on these ingredients and when you use the coupon with the sale price, you get the maximum discount, so be sure to stock up.

"Tip No. 2: When it comes to holiday feast shopping, wait until the week of the feast to get the very lowest prices on all your ingredients. If you're worried about braving the crowds, sneak into the store early in the morning or late at night to take advantage of all the great sales.

"Tip No. 3: Use my $5 concept for your holiday feast. [Spend] $5 per person, if you are hosting and preparing the meal, or $5 per side dish that you plan on bringing to the feast. If you are having 12 people around your table, plan what you can make for $60 and then ask others to bring the other parts of the meal so you don't have to take on the total cost ... If you are bringing a side dish, play the sales and coupon game to get the ingredients you need to make the side for under $5."

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Mary Ann Allen

Photo courtesy of Mary Ann Allen

"Turkeys are inexpensive at Thanksgiving," said Mary Ann Allen aka The Frugal Chef. "Buy a big and juicy one, feed all your family and friends and stretch it out for a few more meals. You can make a delicious turkey tortilla soup, turkey enchiladas or turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce sandwiches, among other things. Make sure to use the bones to make some delicious turkey stock. What a great way to get your money's worth!"

Jehangir Mehta

Photo credit: Rodney Bedsole

"Since the home cook finds it difficult to estimate portion size, there is a lot left over after the Thanksgiving meal," said Jehangir Mehta, "Iron Chef" contestant as well as chef and owner of Graffiti, Me and You and Mehtaphor. "Planning a meal based on portion size will save money as there will be much less leftover. On average calculate 8 ounces of turkey per person with six sides of 3 ounces; or 10 to 12 ounces of turkey with four sides of 3 ounces. So buy your turkey and prepare your sides accordingly."

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