How to cook Thanksgiving dinner on a budget


The Thanksgiving table is a celebration of not only togetherness but abundance – and abundance doesn’t come cheap.

A 2019 study by the American Farm Bureau Federation put the cost of Thanksgiving dinner at $ 48.91 for 10 people. Aside from the fact that food prices have increased dramatically over the past couple of years, it looks a bit low. Look at the menu though, and it might be doable. It includes the basics like turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, peas, cranberries, and pumpkin pie for dessert.

Lending Tree did its own analysis the same year and found $ 310.17 to achieve this Norman Rockwell painting ideal. That total included $ 82.75 for decorations, but the dinner itself was $ 227.42 to feed the same 10 people.

Anyone who’s pushed a shopping cart weighed down by all the Thanksgiving accessories probably thinks it’s much closer to the true cost of the holidays. Unfortunately, more and more Americans are food insecure. It’s an issue that was in vogue before the coronavirus pandemic and has not improved as people grapple with insecure jobs and gig jobs.

So how do you celebrate abundance if you don’t have enough money for that stereotypical meal at the crammed fridge and overflowing table?

Check the internet and many people turn to dollar stores for “emergency extreme budget” meals, even for the holidays. YouTube is full of discount ways to put Thanksgiving on the table for as little as $ 10. The side issue here is that Thanksgiving is supposed to be the best meal of the year – and $ 10 dollar store food is unlikely to match that bill.

Does that mean Thanksgiving can’t be both delicious and affordable?

It is not.

I have prepared a dinner that will satisfy the soul and the wallet and that doesn’t take too much time either. I did this weeks before Thanksgiving, which meant I couldn’t take advantage of the discounted prices on holiday staples. I shopped at Giant Eagle for everything. Check retail prices and store websites, and the total could be lower.

I built my dinner around turkey thighs, braising them to make them much juicier than roast breast meat. I have used onions, celery, and carrots in several ways to create great flavor at a low cost. I used my homemade bread to make a stuffing that had better flavor and body than white sandwich bread or canned mix.

I didn’t spend the money I usually make on rich, creamy, cheesy side dishes sprinkled with sausage or bacon, but did make crispy baked turkey skin for a rich substitute and crunchy that was just as satisfying and completely free. Mashed potatoes are always heartwarming and nostalgic without the bells and whistles.

And then there was the dessert. Of course, there was dessert. Caramelized Apple Shortcake sure doesn’t seem like a budget-friendly way to end a meal, but it’s delicious.

My budget menu was around $ 20.50 and feeds at least six plus leftovers. What he didn’t skimp on flavor, tradition, and that special feeling you get when you sit down at the holiday table.

Braised turkey thighs


2 pounds of turkey thighs

½ onion, quartered

1 large carrot, roughly chopped

2 ribs of celery, roughly chopped

2 teaspoons of salt

1 teaspoon of black pepper

1 teaspoon of garlic powder


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the skin from the thighs and set aside. In a casserole dish or a covered casserole dish, sprinkle the vegetables. Season the turkey with salt, pepper and garlic powder and place it on the vegetables. Add a cup of water, cover and cook for 90 minutes. If you have a slow cooker, you can use it for longer, slower preparation. A pressure cooker set at high pressure can reduce the time to 30 minutes. Remove turkey and slice to serve. Reserve the liquid to make the sauce.

Lori Falce | Tribune-Review

Homemade bread cut costs and added flavor to Lori Falce’s stuffing recipe.

Butter vegetable stuffing


6 cups diced bread (I used an easy, no-knead homemade bread, but use whatever works for you.)

1 carrot, finely diced

2 chops of celery, chopped

½ onion, finely diced

½ cup of butter

2 teaspoons of salt

1 teaspoon of black pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder (This is also a good place to add poultry seasoning or other herbs if you have it.)

1 ½ cup broth (make your own by simmering carrots, celery, onion and garlic in water for about an hour)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 2 quart casserole dish. Spread the bread out on a baking sheet and toast for 10 minutes. Put aside. In a large skillet, brown the carrots, celery and onion in the butter until tender. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Add the bread and mix. Pour in the broth and cook for one minute. Pour into a prepared gratin dish and bake for 30 minutes.

Roasted vegetables with crispy turkey skin


Reserved turkey skin

12 ounces frozen cut green beans

1 large sweet potato, cubed

½ onion, diced

Oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder (and other seasonings) to taste


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. On a baking sheet, spread the reserved turkey skin. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until crispy. It should have a texture a bit like crispy bacon. Put aside. On a baking sheet, toss the vegetables with the oil and seasonings. Roast 20 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are tender. Chop the turkey skin and toss with the vegetables to serve.


Lori Falce | Tribune-Review

Caramelized apple shortbread crowns a delicious and affordable Thanksgiving dinner.

Caramelized apple shortcakes


2 apples, chopped

¾ cup butter, divided

½ teaspoon of cinnamon

¼ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla

2¾ cups of flour

¼ cup of sugar and more for the top

1 teaspoon of salt

1 tablespoon of baking powder

Up to 1 cup of milk

Whipped topping (or whipped cream or ice cream if you have it.)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sauté apples in ¼ cup butter and cinnamon over medium heat until tender. Add the brown sugar and vanilla and cook until syrupy. In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Cut in ½ cup of butter. Work in the milk until a paste forms. Divide into 12 pieces. Form flat circles and sprinkle with sugar. Bake on a baking sheet for about 20 minutes or until cooked through. Put aside.

To serve, divide shortcakes, fill with caramelized apples and top with whipped topping.

Lori Falce is a community engagement Tribune-Review writer. You can contact Lori at [email protected]


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