Your Thanksgiving Turkey Might Be Twice as Expensive This Year—Here Are Some Alternatives to Help You Save

Read more on the findings of a new report, then score our 6 best budget-friendly tips to save money on the rest of your holiday menu.


Yes, we know the iconic Norman Rockwell "Freedom From Want" painting, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and most American Thanksgiving tables would feel incomplete without a turkey. But if you're keeping an eye on your budget, or even looking for supply of turkeys, you might face some hurdles this year.

Pictured Recipe: Traditional Herbed Roasted Turkey

Due to inflation, a turkey shortage and increased demand on food production systems, a whole turkey might be tough to find this year. The New York Times reports that the avian flu has already killed more than 3.6% of the country's turkeys this year, decreasing the number of birds available for consumers to buy. Plus, many turkey farmers decided to trim their total production levels back in 2019 when the price of turkeys fell drastically. (Ahh, those were the days of more affordable hosting!)

If you can find a turkey, it's going to cost you: Turkey prices are currently soaring to record levels, per USDA reports. The national average price for a frozen, Grade A, 8- to 16-pound whole turkey reached a record price on September 3, 2022: $1.72 per pound. Last year, this same size of bird was $1.44 per pound. Fresh, boneless, skinless turkey breasts are where you'll experience the most severe sticker shock. In 2021, this boneless turkey breast clocked in at $3.16 per pound. As of September 17 this year, the same option will cost you $6.70 per pound, a 112% increase in price. (The previous record-setting price was $5.88 per pound back in November 2015, during a previous avian flu outbreak, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.)

Depending on your preferred format—either fresh or frozen, breast or whole, boneless or bone-in—and regional pricing variances, your holiday turkey might cost more than twice as much as last year.

6 Ways to Save Money on Your Thanksgiving Menu This Year

If turkey is a must at your table, since supplies are so slim, we recommend that you start searching now via online retailers like Instacart (so you don't have to run from store to store physically). Or check out protein delivery services like Organic Prairie, keep your eyes open during any IRL supermarket stock-ups and consider reaching out to local farms to inquire about their supply. Then pop the poultry in the freezer, and use our guide for how to thaw a turkey the week of the feast (it can take up to 6 days, so remember to plan ahead).

Our feature about how to make an amazing Thanksgiving meal for only $50 (based on last year's prices) will help coach you through how to round out the meal in a budget-friendly way. Or if you have a little wiggle room with your Thanksgiving menu and are open to a more flexible format, try these money-saving holiday tips.

1. Swap in a chicken.

The USDA confirms that whole chickens are currently about $2.36 per pound, up about 52 cents over last year. That's a steal compared to the turkey breast cost and most chickens are significantly smaller than turkeys (think 3 to 5 pounds rather than upwards of 10), so consider choosing chicken this year if you're serving a smaller crowd. Our Roast Chicken with Cider Gravy is most definitely holiday-worthy.

2. Consider featuring a plant-based main dish.

What's pretty much guaranteed to always be more affordable than poultry, regardless of the economic or farming conditions? Plants! If you're not quite ready to host a fully vegan Thanksgiving, that's fine. Our Quinoa-Stuffed Delicata Squash still calls for a bit of butter, and is a welcome vessel for crumbled goat cheese or blue cheese, and Mac and Cheese with Collards is a fan favorite. Or go 100% animal product-free with a hearty entree like Moroccan Chickpea-Stuffed Acorn Squash, Sweet Potato Hash Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms or Vegan Cauliflower Steaks with Mushroom Gravy.

3. Stoke your menu with budget-friendly sides.

Affordable canned stocks and vegetables, seasonal produce and pantry staples are featured in many of our favorite classic Thanksgiving sides already, like these Slow-Cooker Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Onions. For something thoroughly modern yet easy on your bank account, add Hasselback Sweet Potatoes with Garlic-Yogurt Sauce to your menu. A fully loaded side dish spread will likely mean that everyone will be more satisfied with a smaller portion of whatever protein you choose to serve, too.

4. Go DIY with dessert.

Amidst the hustle (and limited kitchen real estate) of Thanksgiving, we fully confess to outsourcing the dessert course to a local bakery during many years past. But to save dough this holiday season, we're planning to make something from scratch, like this set-and-forget Slow-Cooker Apple Crisp, make-ahead Frozen Pumpkin Mousse Pie or casual-yet-craveable Pecan Pie Dip with Crunchy Pie-Crust Dippers.

5. Opt for budget-friendly beverages.

Tap water is essentially free, so that's your best bet. For something a little more festive, though, we've rounded up the best Thanksgiving wines under $20 (which works out to about $4 per serving). A big-batch drink like Cranberry-Orange Punch, Apple Pie Mimosa and Herbal Chamomile Health Tonic are also budget-savvy sips.

6. Make the most of leftovers.

No matter the season, limiting food waste is one of the best ways to control your overall grocery budget. Keep our most genius recipe ideas to use up your Thanksgiving leftovers handy so you can make the most of any extras from the big day.

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