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How Much Do You Spend On Thanksgiving Dinner?

spending on Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving budget, Thanksgiving expenses

We became friends with a family that moved into the neighborhood from Kentucky.  They’ve since moved away, but for a few years we had a tradition of spending Thanksgiving together since they didn’t have any family nearby. We would have short conversations about what each family would be preparing, but we didn’t put a lot of thought into it. What happened was that each family made an entire Thanksgiving dinner. We would make typical midwest food, and they would bring what you might call traditional southern Thanksgiving food. The result was a fridge worth of leftovers.  Eventually much of the food was thrown away because nobody could eat that many leftovers before they went bad.

We take a much more minimalist approach to Thanksgiving these days. This year we’re hosting Thanksgiving for my immediate family, my brother and his family, and my parents.  Here’s what our menu looks like this year:

  • Turkey : Nothing says Thanksgiving like cooking a whole turkey. I don’t mind making a bigger turkey than we need, because it’s the one thing that will freeze well. I picked up a 16 pound turkey at $0.93 a pound.
  • Mashed Potatoes: I love buttery whipped potatoes. A 5 pound bag of potatoes cost me $0.99, a pound of butter is $2.97, and I even picked up a jar of gravy as an option for $2.32.
  • Corn: Thanksgiving is the one time of the year that I win the canned vs frozen corn battle. My wife likes canned, I like frozen. Since I spend the morning cooking the turkey my wife lets me have my way. A large bag frozen corn rang up at a miserly $0.99.
  • Bread: Bread is great at finding and filling the corners of Thanksgiving feast participants’ stomachs.  A dozen soft diner rolls from my grocery store’s bakery is priced at $1.99.
  • Dessert: The finisher of any Thanksgiving Day meal has to be pumpkin pie. I could bake one, but with all the hustle and bustle of cleaning, cooking and just generally getting ready for the day, I simply bought one from a local restaurant for $12.99.
  • Cranberries: I don’t like them, but my wife has her heart set on the cranberries from a can. Since it only cost $1.38, it got added to the list.
  • Beverages: My parents and my brother inevitably asked what they could bring. No extra sides, dessert, or appetizers needed. I told my parents to bring their favorite beer, and my brother to bring a bottle or two of wine.

My complete shopping list:

  • Turkey: $15.33
  • Potatoes: $0.99
  • 2 Pounds of Butter :$5.94
  • Jar Of Gravy:  $2.32
  • Frozen Corn: $0.98
  • Canned Cranberries:$1.38
  • Dinner Rolls: $1.99
  • Pumpkin Pie: $12.99

Total: $41.92

There are endless other combinations of traditional thanksgiving food that could be added or substituted. These are the items that represent Thanksgiving to me. No more, no less.

How about you, Clever friends, what’s on your Thanksgiving menu this year?

Brought to you courtesy of Brock


Disease Called Debt

About the author

Brock Kernin


  • A couple of spoonfuls of flour would give you a delicious gravy for mere pennies. You already have the pan drippings.

    Our dinner:
    Turkey $5.00 special from Winn-Dixie
    Stove Top Stuffing (not sure of price, but it’s my kids’ favorite stuffing, they hate it when I try homemande
    Mashed Potatoes and gravy
    Green Beans (we like frozen)
    Sweet Potatoes (from can) with pecan topping
    Blueberry Dessert (probably the most expensive thing on the table–it is a graham cracker crust, cream cheese and whipped cream and blueberry pie filling)

  • We’re really fortunate to only be in charge of sides and desserts. For the past few years, I’ve been attending a pie bake at the local school with my goddaughter. It’s $15 to make two pies from scratch including all the ingredients, the work space, and advice. Store-bought pie would definitely be a bit cheaper, but these are huge 12″ pies that turn out amazing…even for someone who really sticks to mixes. Sounds like you had a great meal plan!

  • I totally lucked out this year that the company I was working for covered our Thanksgiving dinner (since we were out on tour for Thanksgiving day) – they gave us a budget and then we split it up amongst ourselves to make all the sides and desserts.

    I did really miss sweet potatoes this year. The boy who claimed them made some crazy spicy thing full of red peppers. I just like plain old sweet potatoes from a can.

  • @RAnn – I’ve tried to make my own gravy with the drippings…..I’ve never gotten it to turn out very well. But maybe I just have to keep trying. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your menu, and hope you had a GREAT Thanksgiving!

  • @Mel – That’s great! I can’t say I’m a fan of sweet potatoes…but I definitely wouldn’t like them with spices and red peppers! hope you had a great Thanksgiving even without the sweet potatoes!

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