Food Shortages Could Impact Thanksgiving Dinner — Prepare Now and Save in 3 Ways

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Thanksgiving Day feasts may look a bit different this year. Ongoing food shortages due to supply chain issues, climate change and the war in Ukraine are affecting some staple dishes normally on the table — and planning ahead will be key to minimizing holiday stress and avoiding a grocery scavenger hunt.

One of the big issues in 2022 is a short supply of turkeys. As previously reported, the prized bird may cost up to 112% more this year, topping more than $6.70 a pound. And that’s if you can find one at all. Per Eater, there’s a big poultry shortage that has many providers scrambling. Part of the problem is a bad year of avian flu that has claimed 6 million turkeys, and the number continues to rise as the disease rages on.

Farmers have also struggled with the increase in cost of feed, fertilizer and other essentials over the past few years that have hampered their ability to bring a good stock to the market.

But turkey isn’t the only part of the Thanksgiving meal in jeopardy; so are flour and butter — two essentials in nearly every baked good, pie and dinner roll on the menu. In the case of flour, the shortage is an effect of the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia. This part of the globe is known as the “breadbasket of Europe,” according to Saveur, as the two countries are the biggest exporters of wheat. The impact has forced the price of flour up 44.8%.

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Butter is another area where the war and cost of dairy products has affected supply, as the price of the condiment and baking ingredient has gone up a dollar per pound since January of this year, per Eater. Fearing a full-blown butter shortage, the USDA has asked consumers not to rush or panic buy, but simply secure what they need at a given time, per Best Life.

While it might be tempting to stockpile and hoard supplies for Thanksgiving and the winter holidays on its heels, there are some better options that can help the situation and allow you to save money in the process.

1. Look for Deals

Even amid rising prices, some major grocery chains are offering deals to draw in shoppers. Both Walmart and Aldi are instituting “roll back prices.”

Walmart is advertising turkey, ham, stuffing and potatoes available at last year’s prices through December 26, according to Fox Business. And Aldi has a Thanksgiving Price Rewind offer, matching pre-pandemic prices in 2019, or up to 30% off current market costs, according to the same source.

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If you’re in the region where BJ’s Wholesale Club has locations, they have a “free turkey” promotion — spend $150 on items the club sells and you’ll get an e-coupon for a gratis Butterball.

2. Think of Substitutions

All hope is not lost if you can’t find your traditional Thanksgiving staples. There are always options for substitutions, and they’ll probably cost less if they are not as in demand. In the case of flour, Saveur talked to an expert baker who said that spelt flour is a great option if you can’t find the regular wheat product, as is rice flour — just make sure it’s finely ground to avoid a textural issue.

The blogger behind Bake It With Love also has ideas for swapping out butter. Vegetable and coconut oil, applesauce, mashed avocado and Greek yogurt can all work with some planning and ratio adjustments when it comes to baking. For smearing dinner rolls, margarine and vegan butter like Earth Balance have a great taste and melt well on warm bread.

For turkey, you could consider a roast or ham instead if you want a meat protein to be the centerpiece of your meal. Or, there’s always the famous Tofurky or a roasted cauliflower option if you want to try a veggie-centric swap. Fish could be great, too, but don’t count on crab legs — Eater points out there’s some issues in supply with that crustacean this season, as well.

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3. Eat Out

If all else fails, you can make a reservation and take the family out to dinner on Thanksgiving. USA Today said it could be a great idea considering the Consumer Price Index’s “food away from home” is actually less expensive than the “food at home” category.

You’ll want to check ahead to ensure the restaurant is open and accepting reservations, especially if you have a large gathering. And of course, be sure to leave a good tip, as the waitstaff and kitchen are working on the holiday and it would be a great way to show your gratitude.

Some restaurants even offer catering options which can ensure you get the staples you want and usually at a bundle price. Not only that, but the time you’ll save prepping the meal can be spent with family instead.

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