WILL COUNTY, IL — Thanksgiving in Will County 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 Will County, Feeding America predicts approximately 10.8 percent of people are expected to go hungry by the end of the year. In 2018, that number was 6.1 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. 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. Budget grocer Aldi is offering a cut-price Thanksgiving dinner option this year — you can buy ingredients for an entire Thanksgiving Day spread for under $30. Also, Walmart is teaming with savings app Ibotta to put free Thanksgiving meals on the tables of thousands of U.S. families.
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.
Make It BYOS (Bring Your Own Side)
As long as you let guests know in advance, most won’t mind bringing something to dinner. This leaves you with turkey as your sole responsibility while potatoes, vegetables, cranberries and dessert can be assigned to family.
If you absolutely enjoy cooking the entire meal, consider cost-sharing. Ask family members to pitch in toward the overall cost of dinner.
Not Sure What To Cook?
Here are some helpful roundups of budget-friendly Thanksgiving recipes:
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.
Find your local food bank
Patch has partnered with Feeding America to help raise awareness on behalf of the millions of Americans facing hunger. Feeding America, which supports 200 food banks across the country, estimates that in 2020, more than 50 million Americans will not have enough nutritious food to eat due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. This is a Patch social good project; Feeding America receives 100 percent of donations. Find out how you can donate in your community or find a food pantry near you.