As the holidays creep closer and food prices rise, this year’s Thanksgiving feasts require an extra focus on finances. Many hosts are tightening their budgets by trimming the guest list, thinning the menu, reducing portion sizes, or even asking for contributions. Others are skipping the holiday altogether.
A new study by Personal Capital found that many people plan to skip Thanksgiving or dramatically cut back this year.
More than half of those polled plan to make fewer dishes keep gatherings small, and ask guests to bring something to the table. Another 42% were open to the idea of inviting visitors to contribute to the cost of the dinner.
Not surprising, Baby boomers were the least likely generation to ask guests to donate money, food, or beverages. At the same time, Gen Z was most likely to adopt all four cost-cutting techniques.
When asked what guests should bring, 75% said alcoholic beverages. With the rising cost of alcohol and the expectation that it will be included in the menu, hosts may be wise to ask guests to bring their own alcohol.
Despite inflation and job uncertainty, 52% of Americans plan to spend the same amount of money on Thanksgiving this year as they did last year. Only 33% of respondents expected to spend less this year, while 15% expected to pay more. Most Americans planned to spend between $101 and $200 on Thanksgiving.
Baby boomers were most likely to break the bank with a budget of $201 or more (20%), while Gen Xers were most likely to keep a tight budget of $100 or less (40%).
The good news is you do not need to ask your guests for money to host Thanksgiving. There are several hacks to fight food inflation this Thanksgiving.
Over a third of respondents said they plan to pay attention to deals and coupons to stretch their grocery budgets this year. Nearly 1 in 3 planned to compare prices or buy in bulk. Another 36% said they’ll shop early, hoping to avoid food price hikes as the holiday draws closer and supplies run low.
Make Smaller Portions
Reducing the amount of food on the table is another way to fight food inflation this year. Casandra of Savoteur explained, “Every year, I buy a bigger turkey than I need for our family dinner with the intent to use it for leftovers. Inevitably a good portion of that turkey goes to waste, so this year, I’m planning to only order a turkey that will feed the number of guests at the table to prevent any food wastage”
Cassandra is not alone. A surprising 89% of respondents said they usually buy too much for Thanksgiving to have leftovers. That is despite the jaw-dropping amount of food that never gets eaten. It is estimated that Thanksgiving leads to 172 Million pounds of Turkey thrown in the trash can. How much is 172 million pounds of turkey? It’s the equivalent weight of 510 Boeing 747s!
That doesn’t even include the wasted 14 million pounds of dinner rolls, 40 million pounds of mashed potato, 38 million pounds of stuffing, 30 million pounds of gravy, etc. Reducing food waste is an excellent option to combat food inflation.
Reduce the Number of Menu Offerings
Another popular budget-saving strategy is menu reduction. 88% of Americans plan to eliminate at least one traditional dish from their menu this year.
Turkey costs are nearly twice as much as a year ago, partly due to bird flu. Despite soaring food costs, some Thanksgiving dinners won’t be complete without a few core items. Turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, rolls, and green beans made the top twelve dishes Americans would never have cut from the menu. However, most vegetables were far less critical.
Baby boomers, Gen Xers, and millennials were the most traditional. Each listed turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, and rolls as the top dishes they would never cut from Thanksgiving dinner. Gen Z preferred a lighter meal with soup, salad, and sweet potatoes as their top three must-haves.
Emily Herrig of Hello Sensible is one of those hosts looking to cut back. She explained, “With food costs spiking, I’m trying to cut more expensive things from the menu without sacrificing variety for our Thanksgiving meal.”
Emily added, “One of the big ticket items is meat, and I typically serve the traditional turkey along with other options. I plan to trim the menu down this year and only offer turkey as the main dish. For side dishes, I will scout deals and buy as many ingredients as possible from discount stores like Aldi and Costco.”
Homemade vs. Prepackaged Meals
The study also found that many hosts expect to save this year by preparing their own meals instead of buying prepackaged options.
Monica Fish of Invested Wallet shared, “In previous years, I’ve relied on store-prepared items for many of my appetizers and sides, but they’re premium priced. This year the price is just too high to justify the convenience.
For Monica’s family, a shrimp cocktail is a must-have appetizer. This year she said she will make shrimp cocktail instead of buying a ready-to-go tray from a store. She explained, “To make it easier on myself and my wallet, I’ll grab a bag of frozen shrimp that’s already deveined, peeled, and prepared, so it’s ready to be cooked.”
Try these simple recipes to try this Thanksgiving:
- Easy French Bread Recipe: Only 5 Ingredients! Low Knead
- Easy Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Maple Syrup And Soy Sauce Recipe
Don’t Let Food Inflation Spoil Your Thanksgiving
Regardless of how you plan to spend Thanksgiving, remember that the holiday is about being thankful and spending time with loved ones. No matter how you celebrate, holidays are a time to be with those you care about. No amount of inflation can take that away.
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Greg is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) with 22+ years experience in Financial Services. He has held numerous FINRA Securities licenses (series 7, 63, 65, and 66), and is an expert on Investment Products and Financial Planning. Greg has 22+ years experience as a real estate investor and degrees in Psychology and Philosophy.
Greg has been quoted/interviewed in Yahoo Money, Yahoo Finance, USA Today, Authority Magazine, Realtor.com, Business Insider, and others.
Greg is an avid runner, and the father to identical twin girls and their awesome brother. His love of budgeting and his kids led him to join The Great Resignation in 2021.
Disclaimer: Any Financial Tips on ChaChingQueen are general and informational. Speak with a professional about your specific situation.