8 Affordable Alternatives to Costly Holiday Foods

People Celebrating Thanksgiving Holiday Tradition Concept.
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Do you know how much more your Thanksgiving dinner will cost this year? CBS reported that historically, food prices have risen only 2% annually. This year, the United States government estimates food prices will be up 9.5% to 10.5%. 

With double-digit percent increases anticipated for holiday staples including turkey, potatoes, stuffing and canned pumpkin, many households are looking for less expensive ingredients to help keep holiday dinners on a budget. Check out these alternatives to more costly holiday foods.

Instead of Baked Ham, Buy Smoked Ham Slices

The price of a baked or spiral-sliced honey ham can cost anywhere from $25 to $75 or more. Families purchasing ham for holiday meals often end up with much more than they need.

Instead of purchasing an entire ham, buy smoked ham slices in the quantity you need, said Matt Johnson, founder of Cook Like a Master. Johnson said Simple Truth quarter sliced uncured ham is currently $1.25 per pound at Kroger. Opting to purchase smoked ham slices inside of a whole ham can help slice your costs in half.

Find a Discount Turkey

If you shop at the wrong time, or at a grocery store or supermarket not offering any deals, turkeys can be really expensive. Households don’t necessarily need to swap out the turkey if they truly want it for Thanksgiving. Rather, they need to look around and find promotions.

Make Your Money Work for You

Johnson uses the example of Kroger turkeys, which are currently 60% off with the purchase of $25 worth of groceries. Grocery Outlet Bargain Market is also offering a free turkey with the purchase of $50 worth of groceries.

Don’t live near either of these supermarket chains? If you’re a Costco member, consider picking up a Butterball boneless antibiotic-free turkey breast during your next shopping trip. Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst at DealNews.com, said while this isn’t the cheapest Thanksgiving item — about $20 for a little under 5 pounds of meat — it is a solid choice for families seeking smaller turkeys. 

Instead of Holiday Roasts, Buy Beef Stew Meat

Christmas roasts often use high-quality cuts of meat like tenderloin or sirloin, said Kelsey Lorencz, RDN, dietitian and nutrition advisor for Fin vs Fin. However, these cuts can run between $10 and $30 per pound. 

Instead, consider serving beef stew meat that has been slow-cooked all day or pressure cooked. “It will be just as tender at a much nicer price point,” Lorencz said.

Swap Out Charcuterie Board Ingredients

They’re an instant crowd-pleaser with guests ready to snack before the big meal, but charcuterie boards can easily eat up $50 to $100 of your budget if you decide to splurge on expensive cheeses and artisan meats

Johnson recommends getting financially savvy with the items you add to your charcuterie board. Swap out pricier board staples with these alternative, inexpensive items that allow you to keep the snacking experience.

  • Skip artisan meats and go for hard salami ($3.85/8 ounces at Aldi), Genoa salami ($3.75/8 ounces at Aldi) and Salame Italiano ($4.39/3 ounces at Aldi). 
  • Swap cheese balls in lieu of fancy block cuts. “A sharp cheddar cheese ball and port wine cheese ball will only set you back $2.19 each at Aldi,” Johnson said.
  • Instead of crostini, pick up a cracker assortment like Savoritz Assortment ($3.85/13 ounces at Aldi). 
  • Cut up some apple slices ($2.50 for two apples at Aldi) and space them around the board for filler.
  • Add honey-roasted peanuts ($2.15 at Aldi) as a final complement to the entire board. 
Make Your Money Work for You

“The total is $24.87 for a board that can provide five to six people with happy snacking before or during dinner,” Johnson said.

Instead of Mixed Nuts, Make a Snack Mix

Dishes of mixed nuts not only go quickly with hungry guests, but they cost around at least 60 cents per ounce. 

Lorencz recommends making a salty snack mix instead. Pair mixed nuts with budget-friendly ingredients like store-brand rice crisp cereal and chocolate candies.

Go With Frozen Berries Instead of Fresh

Making a dessert that requires fruit as a topping? Consider swapping out fresh berries in favor of frozen berries. Frozen berries are already prepared to make the cooking experience easier and tend to be more affordable than fresh berries.

Skip Fresh for Frozen Vegetables as Well

Similar to purchasing frozen berries over fresh berries, see how many frozen vegetables you can stock up on for nutritious holiday side dishes. Walmart, for example, sells Great Value frozen green beans for 88 cents per bag. 

Swap in Some Sparkling Apple Cider for Alcoholic Beverages

If you’re worried about alcoholic beverages hiking up the cost of your holiday dinner budget, consider picking up a few bottles of sparkling apple cider. 

Ramhold said shoppers can get four 25.4 fluid ounce bottles of sparkling cider for less than $13 at Costco. This festive drink can be enjoyed by everyone at the dinner table and makes a nice alternative to wine or soda options.

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