Don't let the news of inflation and food shortages deter you from having a fabulous, complete, and inexpensive Thanksgiving meal this year. The price of grocery store food has indeed risen 5.3% in the past 12 months, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But the most jarring double-digit inflation is reflected in meats. Fresh turkey and vegetables, the special guests at many Thanksgiving tables, have seen a modest 1.7% increase. Typical Thanksgiving food is priced lower on average this year than it did the past two years, according to grocery shopping app and analytics company Basket, which handles CR numbers. A basket of root vegetables, as well as brand-name items like Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce, Pillsbury's Chilled Tart Crusts, and French's Original Fried Onions, cost $ 22.31 this year, compared to $ 23.67 last year, and $ 22.52 in 2019.
“Thanksgiving is one of the cheapest meals you can make, says Annette Economides of Phoenix, who, with her husband Steve, runs the therichbaby website. She says the key to saving is treating holiday food shopping like Black Friday: Plan ahead, look for bargains and follow common money-saving tips.
Choose a large turkey
There's no shortage of turkeys, and prices for the largest birds, 16 pounds and up, have fallen about 9% since 2020, Basket reports. (It's the price of smaller birds, an increasingly popular option, which has risen about 7%.) A larger bird is cheaper per pound per serving, and you can have leftover turkey for several days. So assuming it can fit in your freezer, fridge, and oven, buy a large one. A 16- to 24-pound whole turkey averages $ 1.13 per pound, says Basket. An even larger turkey costs an average of $ 1.09 per pound; in contrast, turkeys weighing 15 pounds or less cost an average of $ 1.40 per pound.
2. Buying a small one is another alternative
If you'd rather not keep a ton of leftovers, buy a smaller turkey, rotisserie chicken, or turkey breast, which will cost less than a whole bird. You could even buy some Costco rotisserie chickens for around 3 pounds for $ 4.99 each to share with 4-6 people, and it will save you the time and effort of cooking. “If you cut it up and garnish it on a tray with traditional Thanksgiving side dishes, blueberries, and stuffing, for example, it would look great,” says Amy Keating, a registered dietitian who runs food testing at Consumer Reports. (Buy them before Thanksgiving, as Costco will be closed that day.)
3. Pay attention to turkey promotions
Review promotions and sale announcements. For example, BJ's Wholesale Club offers a free Butterball turkey to members who spend $ 100 or more on qualifying products; you will also receive $ 10 in your membership account. Shopping app Ibotta is promising new users cashback of nearly $ 27 on Thanksgiving items, including turkeys, if you shop at Walmart between November 4-25. In some stores, they will give you a free turkey if you buy a good size ham. Others lowered the prices of frozen turkey; Giant in the Washington, DC area is charging 39 cents per pound (regardless of the size of the turkey). Starting November 11, you must spend at least $ 25 on other groceries for the offer to apply.
4. Act fast.
Stores generally run promotional offers while supplies last, and may not be agreeing to make money back. And don't buy more products just to get the promotion. “Just spend what you had planned in the first place,” says personal finance blogger Andrea Woroch.
5. Keep things simple.
Avoid expensive items like seafood appetizers, sausage stuffing, and ready-made side dishes. “Focus on main dishes instead of a lot of cheeses and crackers, which can be expensive,” says Keating. Also, a side dish with just a few ingredients can be very satisfying. Jacob Pinkham, a consumer from Huntington Beach, California, says he uses only a few common ingredients for the filling recipe, half a loaf of dry bread, parsley, thyme, a small onion, salt, pepper, and butter, which is prepared in a food processor before putting it in the turkey cavity. “Simple and straightforward is always best,” he says.
6. Buy frozen vegetables.
Frozen fruits and vegetables are up only 1.6% from last year, and frozen vegetables are priced 0.3% lower. What's more, frozen foods can be almost as nutritious as fresh fruits and vegetables. Look for deals now, says Burt Flickinger III, CEO of Strategic Resource Group, a New York-based retail consulting firm. Manufacturers are reducing their promotional discounts – that is, display and advertising fees to promote their products – so those lower prices now might not last, he explains. TACTICS THAT WILL SERVE YOU ALL YEAR
7. Look at the newsletters.
Planning well to minimize your trips to the store can save you time and reduce your impulse purchases. “If you can spend $ 30 in 15 minutes looking at food ads, is it worth it?” It is a question that Economides asks himself. “I certainly think it's worth it.” 8. Get a member loyalty card. Most supermarket chain loyalty programs offer special offers for their members. Some, especially Safeway and Stop & Shop, also allow you to accumulate benefits for fuel purchases at affiliated service stations.
9. Use shopping apps
There are 3 that we like: Basket, Ibotta and Flipp. The basket shows real-time prices from online supermarkets and local grocery stores, so you can see where to buy the best deals. This App uses data generated through collective participation, in the same way, that a traffic application like Waze works. Ibotta and Flipp identify manufacturer promotions and coupons and offer direct discounts after purchasing from a participating retailer.
10. Compare the unit prices
The price tags on the shelves under each item can help you better compare the prices of similar items. But if the store doesn't have the tags, download a unit price calculator on your smartphone to do the math: We found several free ones for iOS and Android phones.
11. Choose specific brands of stores
The cost of store-brand food and beverages is at least 20 to 25 percent less than other brands of the same product, Flickinger says. (When CR members were surveyed about their favorite grocery stores and supermarkets, 3 grocery stores got top marks for their store brands: national names Costco and Trader Joe's, and Central Market, which is headquartered in San Antonio and is a subsidiary of the private company owned by the HEB supermarket chain). You can often find store brands right next to comparable brand name items.
12. Use a cash-back credit card
Some offer rewards for grocery purchases. If you're looking for a new one, consider the American Express Blue Cash Preferred card; returns 6% of the first $ 6,000 in groceries each year, among other benefits. The card currently offers a $ 300 rebate for spending $ 3,000 in the first 6 months, and the $ 95 annual fee does not apply for the first year. Keep in mind that you may need a credit score of 700 or higher to qualify, says Ted Rossman, an industry analyst at CreditCards.com. The annual percentage rate on this card ranges from 14% to 24%, so it is best to use it only if you pay the full balance each month.
13. Use digital coupons
Most supermarkets accept printed coupons from manufacturers and can even double or triple their value at the checkout. Some retailers do it every day or weekly; others, less regularly. In the Northeast, Stop & Shop doubles manufacturers' printed coupons every day. Bi-Lo, in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, doubles coupons worth 60 cents or less each day, unless otherwise noted at each store. (Other restrictions apply to both chains).
14. Buy in bulk. When there is a sale of 10 cans of your favorite soup for $ 10, it is always advisable that you take advantage of it. And the larger packages are often priced lower than the unit sale. When you decide to buy in bulk, consider donating a portion to a local food pantry (although they prefer cash because they get bigger discounts); with the pandemic, the need for these organizations increased.
15. Get creative
CR followers on Facebook have plenty of ideas to get your money's worth when shopping for groceries. For example, Linda White of Nevada City, California, hopes to save about $ 100 this year on Thanksgiving for every 4 people by serving lasagna instead of turkey. Her guests are helping her too. “They bring a pumpkin cheesecake for dessert,” he says.