Save Cash on Thanksgiving Dinner Despite Higher Food Costs

Try these substitutes for food products that have gone up in price.

ByABC News
November 24, 2014, 2:47 PM

— -- The price of Thanksgiving dinner might be going up, but that doesn't mean you have to break the bank to get turkey and all the fixings on the table.

This year, various foodstuffs popular around the holiday are more expensive -- including sweet potatoes, cream, milk and pumpkin pie mix. Cooking Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people will cost $49.41, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation, up 37 cents from last year.

Chef Candice Kumai told ABC News that when it comes to deal-hunting around the holidays, she turns to her mom, Miho Kumai Gwiazdowski, to find out how to cut corners without sacrificing taste. If you're pinching pennies but also hosting, here's how to get the most bang for your buck:

Skip the Sweet Potatoes

The price of sweet potatoes is up this year, but most guests will be plenty happy with an alternative starchy side: garlic mashed potatoes or potatoes au gratin, for example.

"Look in the ads and see which place has the best prices. Usually, you can get a 10-pound bag of russet potatoes during the holidays for a couple dollars!" Kumai said, noting that it's one of her mom's favorite money-saving tricks.

If you're really craving the sweet potato side dish, consider mixing them with regular potatoes.

"You could take the sweet potatoes and combine them with a little bit of russet as well, and make a sweet potato mash," Kumai said. "If you're really on a budget you can combine things like that to bulk them up. And that way, you can still incorporate a little cinnamon and sugar, and do a sweet mash."

PHOTO: Candice Kumai's garlic mashed potatoes are a cheaper alternative to sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving.
Candice Kumai's garlic mashed potatoes are a cheaper alternative to sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving.

Get Creative With Dairy

Dairy is also more expensive this year, but there's a clever shortcut if you don't already have cream on hand.

"So everybody today usually has Greek yogurt or regular yogurt in their fridge," Kumai said. "And I typically put a little Greek yogurt in my mashed potatoes to keep them creamy, without adding extra milk or cream. So it saves on calories and you won't actually have to go out and buy milk."

Sure, yogurt might be more expensive than cream, but it's always cheaper to use what's already in the fridge.

"That can take the place of everything from sour cream to milk and heavy cream," she added.

Stock Up On Turkey

Turkeys are actually cheaper this year, so no need to skimp on the main part of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. In fact, Kumai recommends stocking up on the birds.

"Most shopping centers have this deal where if you spend $25 or $50 at the store, they give you a discounted turkey," she said. "They basically want you to buy your whole meal there."

"My mom got a 20-pound turkey for $12 this year by doing that! She loves the deal so much that she buys two turkeys during Thanksgiving, because it's always cheaper, and then she freezes one for Christmas."

PHOTO: A peach cranberry sauce is shown in this Oct. 8, 2012 file photo in Concord, N.H.
A peach cranberry sauce is shown in this Oct. 8, 2012 file photo in Concord, N.H.

Delegate Desserts

The price of pumpkin pie mix is up this year, but another popular sweet - cranberries, is cheaper. So keep that in mind when making desert.

You might swap pumpkin pie for ice cream or sorbet topped with leftover cranberries, or cranberry cheesecake, Kumai said.

Or, you can always ask someone else to bring the pie.

Dilute Booze, But Don't Skimp on Coffee

If the American Farm Bureau Federation's price estimate sounds cheap to you, it's probably because the group doesn't take alcohol into consideration.

Drinks could end up being the priciest part of hosting dinner, Kumai said. She suggests offering wine spritzers instead of wine to save cash and stretch your supply. Plus, you'll reduce your risk of drunk guests.

"Especially because you don't want to drink and drive during the holidays," she added.

The AFBF notes coffee prices are up this year, too, but that doesn't mean you can get away with only serving post-dinner tea.

"It's a personal preference thing," she said. "It's best to have both on hand. You can offer tea, but don't push."