Let's face it — America just wouldn't be the same without the greatness that is Thanksgiving.
After all, it is the one day of the year when it's completely excused, if not encouraged, to be obsessed with food. It's the one day of the year when turkey isn't processed into glistening disks of lunch meat.
It's the one day of the year when we gobble down stuffing, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole and similar foods that are pretty much never eaten any other day. It's the four to five days of the year when we eat the same meal, and its creative variations, for every meal.
Unfortunately, it also tends to be the one day of the year when food expenses become just as hefty as the turkey itself, which is understandable considering the fact that feeding a Thanksgiving party is like feeding a pack of ravenous wolves you know and love.
The average cost of the holiday meal shot up 13% this year from last — the biggest jump in two decades, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. A traditional Thanksgiving meal for 10 will cost an average of $49.20, the AFBF reported.
But don't ditch the dinner just yet. Instead of succumbing to overspending pitfalls, think budget-savvy at the store by taking advantage of holiday savings.
Many grocery stores have free turkey promotions in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. Scoring a free bird is easy. Whether spending a certain amount at the store or shopping a certain number of times, it's very common to come across free turkey offerings.
Likewise, grocery stores are prepped for customers buying Thanksgiving staples in bulk. And luckily, several Turkey Day staples come in a can. From cranberry sauce to pumpkin, keep an eye out for in-store specials that get you more canned goods for your buck. The best part? Even if you overstock your Thanksgiving canned food supply, canned goods can stay just as good as purchased for months after the big feast.
Buying in bulk is the key to saving the big bucks here. When loading up on flour, sugar, butter eggs, milk and other universally useful ingredients, buy in packs to save a significant sum of money in the long run. While this tip applies to any other day of the year, it is especially relevant during the holidays, when big meals are a big deal.
Knowing which fruits and veggies are in season is the most important factor in helping decide when to go fresh vs. frozen. Hit up the fresh produce section for in-season produce. It's simple because the harvest is bountiful and vendors have a large amount of goodies to sell, meaning low prices for consumers. Now, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, corn, potatoes, spinach, cabbage and carrots are in. Otherwise, it's a more cost-effective bet to go frozen.
As a general rule of thumb, the more prepared a food is when you buy it, the pricier it'll be. So as handsome as those premade pies, cookies and cakes may appear in the grocery store, you could save money (and wow your guests) by whipping up a post-dinner treat from scratch. If you have the ingredients (see No. 3) and, more importantly, the patience, give a homemade dessert a whirl. No need to slave away in the kitchen, either. Dessert recipes of all levels and time frames are easy to find online. Some are even printed right on some ingredients' packaging.
Cherish the holiday, and enjoy spending time with your loved ones and those who love you back unconditionally — and that includes holiday foods. And lots of them.
Sheri Alzeerah is a journalist and freelance writer for meal planning service http://www.foodonthetable.com.