Smart Buying

How to Save on Your Thanksgiving Feast

Use these strategies to cut the cost of a big bird for your big holiday meal.

You might pay more for your Thanksgiving turkey this year. The average price per pound of whole frozen turkeys is about 14 cents higher this year than last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest Turkey Market News Report. And fresh turkeys are running about 8 cents more per pound than in 2013.

According to the USDA, the average price of a frozen whole hen (a female turkey that weighs 8 to 16 pounds) has jumped to nearly $1.19 per pound from about $1.03 a year ago. The average price of a frozen tom (a male turkey weighing 16 to 24 pounds) is nearly $1.17 per pound versus about $1.04 in November 2013. Whole fresh turkeys, both toms and hens, are nearly $1.36 per pound, on average, this year versus about $1.28 last year, according to the Turkey Market News Report.

You don't have to pay those prices, however. There are plenty of ways savvy shoppers can get a turkey for less than $1 per pound. Use these strategies to get a deal on the centerpiece of your Thanksgiving meal.

Look for free turkey promotions. There's nothing cheaper than free turkey. Many grocery stores will give customers who spend a certain amount (usually $100) a free turkey, says Cat Alford, founder of the Budget Blonde blog. Some stores offer free turkeys to shopper who buy certain items, such as stuffing, cranberry sauce and other Thanksgiving-related food. Others offer buy-one-turkey-get-one-free deals, which you can then split with a friend to lower the cost. Talk to your store manager now to see what types of promotions will be offered, Alford says.

Take advantage of sales and coupons. During pre-Thanksgiving sales, supermarkets typically cut the price of frozen turkeys to 54 cents to 79 cents per pound, says Teri Gault, CEO of The Grocery Game. (Sometimes you’ll have to meet a minimum purchase requirement to get the discounted price, so shop for your turkey on a day that you planned to stock up your pantry anyway.) Pick up your store’s circular or check it online before you leave home to see what deals are available. Also look for coupons to get the price even lower, says frugal-living expert Lauren Greutman, who has a coupon database on her I Am That Lady blog. Coupons.com also is a good source of grocery coupons, as are supermarkets' Web sites.

Opt for frozen rather than fresh. Frozen turkeys typically retail for 30% to 40% less than fresh turkeys, says Mindi Cherry, founder of the Moms Need to Know blog and a deal expert for Savings.com. Just be sure to allow plenty of time for your turkey to thaw in the fridge (perhaps four days) before you cook it.

Use an app to comparison shop. Both Cherry and Greutman recommend using the free Favado app for Android and Apple devices to quickly check all the advertised turkey prices in your area. You might find that a store other than the one where you typically shop has a better price.

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