Thanksgiving food prices: Get more bang for your buck with these affordable dishes

Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate family, not complain about turkey prices and politics. Here, a road map to more a more affordable holiday meal

Mackensy Lunsford
Nashville Tennessean
  • Avian flu, inflation are combining to drive up food costs
  • Consumers will feel the pinch at the grocery store this holiday season
  • Southern Kitchen provides some tips and tricks for saving money and sanity

If 2022 has taught us one thing beyond the fact that winter might be an endangered season, it's that we haven't yet seen the end of the food supply chain wobbles and woes.

Inflation, avian flu and market-shaking employment shifts have all combined to make your supermarket trips a bit dicey.

And yet, it's time for the holiday season, when your budget seems stretched thinner than the feathers on a turkey neck.

Speaking of necks, we hear those are affordable this year, though a platter of off parts might not scream "holiday spirit."

Linton Hopkins basting a turkey with drippings and butter.

If you're dead set on the turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, your options might look somewhat limited. In a normal year, a smart consumer might get a small turkey, serve it with plenty of sides and guard the meat with the carving fork. You're out of luck there. That's because smaller turkeys may be harder to source in the grocery store this year, a result of lingering processing bottlenecks.

Bird is the word:7 methods for serving your very best bird this year

Thanksgiving turkeys of all sizes may be harder to find and more expensive this year thanks to the spread of the avian flu and inflation, USA Today reports.  As food prices soar across the nation, a recent Consumer Price Index report showed the cost of uncooked poultry, including turkey, rose 17% in September from the same month last year.

Think you'll spring instead for turkey breast this year? Think again if you're pinching pennies. The retail price for fresh boneless and skinless turkey breast reached a record high of $6.70 per pound in September, 112% higher than the same time last year, according to an American Farm Bureau Federation analysis. USA Today says avian flu is also a factor, with poultry producers in 43 states reporting impacts.

None of that is particularly cheery, so we'll focus on the solutions. Those include ordering pizza (we kid, but some news outlets have suggested it) and giving meat a supporting role on your Thanksgiving table. Here are some ideas:

How to save money at Thanksgiving

  • Try main dishes where meat is used as a condiment or mixed with other ingredients. Think shepherd's pie or chicken pot pie for elegant but affordable mains. 

Recipe:Chicken pot pie

  • Try smaller cuts. If you can find affordable turkey breast, for example, you can brine and roast it until it's perfectly tender. No dried bird breast this year. 

Recipe: Low Country boil-brined turkey breast

Recipe:Big Green Egg smoke-roasted chicken

  • If it's not going to spur an outright revolt at dinnertime, consider skipping meat, period. Vegetarian "roasts" and other plant-based proteins abound in the freezer section of most well-stocked grocery stores. 

Recipe:Try this vegan quinoa 'meatloaf' as the centerpiece of your meat-free Thanksgiving

Anne Byrn’s macaroni pie

Recipe: Rufus Estes’ fried chicken is deeply flavorful and juicy with a thin, golden crust

  • Think outside of the box and mix and match economical proteins, such as sausages and deep-fried chicken. It's physically impossible to complain when the smell of fried chicken is wafting through the air.
  • Fill them up: carbs, carbs and more carbs. Load the table with comforting casseroles and perfect mashed potatoes, and you can get away with serving much less meat. As an added bonus, you'll get a zip of energy to help combat the turkey tired phenomenon.

Recipe:Classically trained chef shares the secret to making the best potato salad ever

Recipe: Anne Byrn’s old-fashioned macaroni pie

Chicken pot pie recipe

The formula is pretty simple for this dish: cooked chicken, a roux of butter and flour, chicken broth, chopped carrots, peas and other vegetables baked with pastry crust. You could even use turkey or a store-bought rotisserie chicken if you wanted. 

Chicken pot pie.

This recipe, from Southern Kitchen contributor Anne Byrn, takes a few shortcuts but still relies on a homemade sauce to bring it all together. Cut larger vegetables into uniform-sized pieces so they cook evenly. Feel free to use leftover cooked chicken or store-bought rotisserie chicken. Both white and dark meat work well.

Serves: 6

Hands on time: 45 minutes

Total time: 1 hour and 25 minutes


2 rounds pie crust, fresh or frozen

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups chopped fresh or frozen vegetables of your choice

2 cups cooked, shredded chicken

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups chicken broth


Place a rack in the center of the oven, and heat to 450 degrees.

Place one pastry round in a 9-inch pie pan that is 2-inches deep or a small casserole dish. (If you use a casserole dish, you may need to use additional pastry to line the bottom and sides of the pan. Use enough pastry to overlap an inch over the sides.)

Crimp the edge of the pastry with a fork, then prick the bottom a few times. Bake the pastry until it is well browned, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

While the crust for the pie bakes, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the vegetables and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the chicken, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute more.

Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and chicken, then season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the flour is incorporated, about 1 minute longer. Add the broth to the skillet, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly, 1 to 2 minutes.

Pour the chicken mixture into the baked crust. Cover the top with the remaining pastry. If you’d like, you can cut the top pastry into strips and weave it into a lattice. 

Press down around the edges, crimp the two together with your fingertips, and press around the edge of the pie with a fork to seal the top and bottom crusts. Make several vents in the top pastry with a sharp knife.

Place the pie in the oven, and bake until the crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbling, 20 to 30 minutes. If the pie seems done but the top is not brown, run the pie under the broiler briefly. Let rest for 10 minutes, then serve.