Concord, California – Thanksgiving in Concord may not feel like Thanksgiving without the quintessential spread of classic dishes on your dining room table. Turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, buttered rolls, pumpkin pie — the list is long yet delicious.
That list is also expensive.
The cost of a typical Thanksgiving dinner depends on several factors. If you shop around for the best value, a typical Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people could cost as little as $48.91, according to an annual survey conducted by the American Farm Bureau Federation.
But if you figure in drinks, decor, tableware and other necessities, a survey of 1,000 people conducted by Lending Tree indicates you could pay just over $310 to feed a party of 10.
Regardless, even a $50 expense could be too much for some Americans to shoulder this year.
Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, the number of people experiencing food insecurity in the United States is on the rise.
Before the pandemic, 35.2 million people in the United States were considered food insecure, according to Feeding America, the nation’s largest food relief organization. As the pandemic hit and caused layoffs, record unemployment and other hardships for U.S. families, that number is expected to grow to 50 million by the end of 2020.
In Contra Costa County, Feeding America predicts approximately 12.9 percent of people are expected to go hungry by the end of the year. In 2018, that number was 8.5 percent.
The bottom line is millions of families could see empty plates on their Thanksgiving dinner tables.
But cooking Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t have to break the bank, especially if you plan to host a small group of family members over the holiday. While we certainly acknowledge these may not help in every situation, there are tips, tricks and shortcuts available to help U.S. families enjoy a delicious holiday dinner on a budget.
Here are a few:
Watch For Free (Or Discounted) Turkeys
Nationally, some grocery stores are recognizing the challenges facing U.S. families this year and are offering turkeys and other Thanksgiving staples at wildly low prices. Walmart is teaming with savings app Ibotta to put free Thanksgiving meals on the tables of thousands of U.S. families. Safeway, Grocery Outlet, and other stores offer deals, typically discounted turkeys if you spend enough money.
In Concord, find free turkeys by calling the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano. Call this number for help: 855-309-3663. There are food distribution centers throughout the county.
And Monument Crisis Center in Concord aims to provide 1,000 Thanksgiving dinners to Contra Costa residents and families. Call 925-825-7751 for more information.
Buy canned cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie filling and other canned goods the week before Thanksgiving when they typically are on sale.
Deviate From The Classics
Creating your own Thanksgiving traditions can mean just as much, if not more, to your family.
Don’t feel as though you have to cook turkey the traditional Thanksgiving way, especially since not everyone is a fan of turkey. (A survey from Instacart reveals that a lot of people actually dislike classic turkey.) You can roast turkey legs, which are available at a fraction of the cost of a whole bird. Also, instead of a classic turkey, grill turkey burgers.
You can also go rogue and skip turkey altogether. See which meats are on sale the week of Thanksgiving and plan your menu around that. If it’s sausage or ground beef, have an Italian feast for Thanksgiving. If it’s chicken, make chicken and noodles. Don’t feel bad about changing things up.
Tell Your Inner Gordon Ramsay To Sit Down
Don’t spend time considering complex recipes requiring dozens of ingredients. Stick to simple dishes that everyone loves. For instance, you can make a basic scalloped corn that many people enjoy. Or you could do a simple sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes or a green bean casserole. None of these requires extremely fancy or expensive ingredients.
Also, you don’t need a dozen ingredients to make food taste spectacular. Certain ingredients make all the difference: a lemon, an orange and some spices go a long way when it comes to taking roasted vegetables, cranberry sauce and other dishes from ordinary to holiday meal-worthy.
If You Can, Donate
Perhaps Thanksgiving dinner isn’t among your list of worries this year. If so, consider donating a Thanksgiving meal to local food banks. The Feeding America network includes over 200 food banks throughout the United States that work with food pantries and soup kitchens to reach communities. Once you find a food bank near you, be sure to check drop-off information, operation hours and the most-needed items.