Talkin’ Turkey: Evaluating My Thanksgiving Dinner Scorecard

This year Thanksgiving dinner is at my house. We’ll be serving dinner for 16 people including my sister and her family, my mom and dad and the Honeybee’s folks.

You know, since he came out to visit a few weeks ago, my father-in-law Tony has taken over a lot of the chores around the house, including fixing the water heater (and saving me $400 in the process).

It’s not that I’m lazy, mind you.     It’s just that Tony likes to keep busy, so who am I to stop him if he wants to tighten a few loose screws, paint a bedroom or two, and perhaps even do a major renovation to my bathroom and/or kitchen while he is vacationing here?

Needless to say, that’s why I made my go-getter father-in-law the executive chef in charge of preparing this year’s Thanksgiving dinner.

Hey, what kind of guy do you think I am?   I’m certainly not prepared to ruin Tony’s Thanksgiving by telling him his only job is to sit down all day and do nothing but watch some lousy football games and stuff himself silly with turkey and mashed potatoes – Tony is a guest in my home, after all.

Besides, I’m going to be Tony’s trusty sous chef.   Before you laugh too hard, you need to know that I am normally the family cook – I can more than handle myself in the kitchen.   And although that didn’t sound quite right, I trust you know what I mean.

As for the menu, after much deliberation, Tony and I decided to keep things traditional and settled on the following menu:

Herb stuffing
Mashed potatoes
Green Beans
Dinner Rolls
Dessert (Pumpkin, Apple, and Cherry Pie)
Sparkling Apple Cider

So with the menu in hand Tony and I made a grocery list and then set off to do some grocery shopping.

We brought the Honeybee along with us too because we needed somebody to drive.

Our first stop was at our local warehouse-type store, where we bought the turkey, a monster apple pie, and a couple of other items.   For the record, the turkeys at the warehouse-type store were not only fresh, as opposed to frozen, but they were also about ten cents per pound cheaper.

After that, we went to our neighborhood supermarket, where we bought the rest of the stuff we’d need for the Thanksgiving feast.

Thanksgiving09As you can see, off to the right I have included a breakdown of our grocery bill. Keep in mind that a couple of the items I bought at the warehouse store have been pro-rated to account for the fact that we only use a portion of what we buy for the actual dinner. So, for example, although we bought 48 ounces of canned olives in eight cans, I’m only counting two cans (12 oz.) on my Thanksgiving dinner scorecard.

In total we spent just over one-hundred dollars for our Thanksgiving meal this year, which is very reasonable for 16 people.   We didn’t make a conscious effort to make the meal as cheaply as possible – Thanksgiving dinner is a meal I prefer not to scrimp on.   However, if we did I am certain we could have shaved the total grocery bill by probably 20% by focusing on buying only store-brand items.     Then again, keep in mind that, as my name-brand vs. store-brand taste test experiment showed, you can’t assume anything with respect to taste and quality – sometimes the name brand is better, and other times, the store brand label is actually better.

A Few Observations…

After looking at this scorecard, I couldn’t help but notice a few interesting facts:

1. The biggest expense for the entire meal was NOT the turkey. “But, Len, how could that be?” Maybe it’s because when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, my family considers the meal’s most important course to be dessert.   Sad, I know.   Anyway, after purchasing almost eight pounds of pie and the mandatory whipped cream, we spent a whopping $22.16.   Meanwhile, the 22-pound turkey we bought cost us less than twenty bucks.   I don’t know what is more disturbing: The fact that we bought over $20 worth of dessert, or the little voice inside my head that keeps telling me eight pounds of pie might not be enough.

2. You can get some really awesome deals at your local grocery store. Did you notice the price we paid for those russet potatoes?   Ten cents per pound is an absolutely ridiculous deal to be offered by any grocery store not based in Idaho.   Especially when you compare that to the price we paid for the potato chips, which comes out to $2.79 per pound if you do the math.

3. It’s always cheaper to eat at home. I dare you to find a restaurant that will put out an awesome Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings, plus appetizers, for 16 people in a family-friendly and comfortable atmosphere for just over $102.   And that’s before the tip.

On behalf of my entire family, we’d like to wish you all a very safe and Happy Thanksgiving!   :-)

Oh, and if you find you happen to need a little extra pie on Thanksgiving Day, drop me a line – we’ve got plenty.     I think.   😉

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  1. 1


    I was listening to the radio last night, and the announcer pointed out that the average Thanksgiving dinner in the U.S. for 10 people will be $43 this year.

    My first thought was–are you serious? I can’t even feed two of us for $43. But the host went through the list of items that made up the total, and the source was credible.

    Pretty amazing if you ask me, but I guess you can have a reasonably priced Thanksgiving…

    • 2


      That makes sense, Wojo. I am sure that includes just the price of dinner. My $102 total included appetizers and drinks too.

      I did break my spreadsheet out though to account for this. It shows that the items I spent just for dinner was $73.48 – that was for 16 people. So $43 for 10 people seems to fall in line with my estimate.

  2. 3


    Hey Len,

    I’m cooking too this Thanksgiving.

    My wife is on vacation in Oregon and I decided to man-up and cook a turkey for the kids. This is my first turkey, but I’m a pretty good cook. So, it should turn out OK. I am really looking forward to the turkey sandwiches.

    Happy Thanksgiving

    • 4


      Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, Bret! I love the turkey sandwiches that follow too – and the turkey soup! Let me know if you need any pie. 😉

  3. 5


    Sounds awesome, but one question… why only 1 pound of butter?

    That might be enough for one batch of mashed potatoes at our Thanksgiving dinner. I’m scared to think about how much goes into the mashed yams and walnut recipe.

    Just joking. Have a good turkey day!

    • 6


      There were items we had a home that we didn’t have to buy, like milk and butter. In fact, we already had another whole pound on hand, Matt. My family goes through butter like, um, butter. Hehe. Happy Thanksgiving! :-)

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