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In past years, Thanksgiving AND Christmas dinners for my family of five, plus two or three guests, has cost as much as an entire week’s groceries any other time of the year. My family’s menu for these two holidays is set in the stone of tradition. Variation is cause for uproar. So, each year we have the same meal twice: Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, yam casserole, corn, Brussels sprouts, rolls and homemade cranberry sauce, with pumpkin pie for dessert. This year I planned ahead. With a little strategy, each dinner for eight with all the trimmings comes to $26.


  • I found grocery stores that offer a free turkey with purchase and planned a couple of shopping trips around these deals. In my area, more than one store offers a free turkey with a $50 purchase for at least two weeks in November and two weeks in December. I have a small stockpile of turkeys in my freezer. Turkeys will last at least a year frozen. COST PER MEAL: Free
  • At the end of summer, when fresh corn was at its peak, I headed to a farmer’s market and purchased 40 ears when they were 8 for a dollar. I cut the kernels off each ear and froze them in two equal batches to use for my holiday meals. COST PER MEAL: $2.50
  • When a local grocery store had a case lot sale last spring, I stocked up on canned pumpkin, frozen pie crusts, and enough chicken broth to make brine for two turkeys. COST PER MEAL: $5.00
  • This summer I found bags of fresh cranberries on sale and picked up two for homemade cranberry sauce. They freeze well. COST PER MEAL: $1.00 
  • I’ll make my own rolls from ingredients I have already stockpiled at great prices, including flour, sugar, salt and yeast. COST PER MEAL: $1.00
  • I’ve also purchased brown sugar and cans of yams at deeply discounted prices over the course of the year. These go into yam casserole. My mouth is already watering! COST PER MEAL: $1.50
  • Grocery stores have regular sales on traditional holiday meal ingredients in November and December. I’ll pick up fresh potatoes, onions, lemons, celery, apples, and Brussels sprouts when they are on sale closer to the holiday. COST PER MEAL: $10.00
  • I have a stockpile in my pantry or freezer of butter, bacon for the Brussels sprouts, frozen orange juice for the cranberry sauce and yams, and tea bags for fresh iced tea to drink. These were all purchased at rock-bottom prices. COST PER MEAL: $5.00

That brings us to $26.00 for each of my family’s Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. The difference between preparing all year for this meal and buying everything the week of the holiday is as much as $75. The best part is that we’ll save the money without compromising any of the recipes that have become part of our family tradition. At a cost of just $5 for eight servings instead of $20, we’ll still even get my mom’s famous Bacon Roasted Brussels Sprouts.

This has been a guest post by Shaunta from Reno, NV
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