culinary review

Holiday Meal Planning - Menu Costs

Last Modified: 11/22/08
First Published: 11/22/08
Views: 1595
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Views: 1595

The holidays are here, and Thanksgiving and Christmas are usually the biggest food events of the year. Millions of families are getting ready to fly here or there, or drive long distances to be together - and eat, usually too much. But this year the economy is foremost on peoples mind.turkey

With record declines in the stock market, and the threat of job losses many people will likely be concerned with not over-spending on cakes and cookies, and turkey and ham.

So we thought that it would be a good idea to go over the costs of preparing an entire meal. Since most are looking to be economical we thought we should go over the many costs involved in hosting either Christmas or Thanksgiving meals.

We wanted to start by assuming eight adults, but you can easily modify the amounts if you have fewer, or greater numbers of guests.

A typical Thanksgiving dinner includes the turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, deviled eggs ...etc. Here are our estimates.

Total Estimate Holiday Meal Cost - $49.31 ($6.16 per person)

These prices are based on our food database, which are US averages, and may be different in your area. This is meant as a guide only.

The following meal item choices are just the basics as many families have many different pies, cakes and cookies, as well as many vegetable dishes. The menu we provide below is for cost analysis only.

Main Course


Total Cost: $15.35
Cost Per Serving: $1.92

Total Cost: $0.43
Cost Per Serving: $0.05



Total Cost: $4.63
Cost Per Serving: $0.58

glazed sweet potatoes
Glazed Sweet Potatoes

Total Cost: $3.48
Cost Per Serving: $0.43

Cranberry Sauce

Total Cost: $3.43
Cost Per Serving: $0.43

Deviled Eggs
Total Cost: $2.26
Cost Per Serving: $0.09

Mashed Potatoes
Total Cost: $3.37
Cost Per Serving: $0.42


Pumpkin Pie
Total Cost: $6.40
Cost Per Serving: $0.80


Cranberry Juice Cosmopolitan
Total Cost: $9.96
Cost Per Serving: $1.24

Tips to save money on holiday meals

  • Have guests bring something (wine, dessert etc). Often wine or drinks and dessert can really add up, so dividing this cost between your guests can really help out.
  • To save even more money, make Thanksgiving or Christmas a potluck. Assign each guest a different dish to bring along (to make sure that you don't end up with four sides of cranberry sauce, but no mashed potatoes).
  • If you are having a lot of guests over for Thanksgiving or Christmas, instead of purchasing two turkeys (which would be difficult to cook in a single oven anyway), purchase one large turkey and additional turkey legs. You can easily find reasonably priced turkey legs in the grocery stores right now which would be a great way to make your turkey go further.
  • Make a menu plan, write a grocery list, and stick with it. The more times you have to run to the grocery store to pick up last minute items, the more money you will spend.
  • Don't cook too much food unless you will eat it all or you're planning to send your guests home with leftovers.
  • Make sure you actually eat your leftovers, otherwise freeze cooked turkey and other dishes. No food is more expensive than what you throw away.
  • Make your leftovers last for several days by incorporating them into other meals (soup, sandwiches, fajitas).