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Thanksgiving Meal Cost Comparison

Thanksgiving Dinner: Comparing the Cost of Cooking, Takeout, and Dining Out

Posted on 11/18/2013 8:23 EST

Thanksgiving is a time for friends and families to gather, share a big meal, and reflect on their blessings. Along with that comes the expectation of a full-on turkey dinner, not to mention the stress associated with planning, doing, and expense.

So consider the alternatives. Instead of preparing a meal from scratch, you can carry out from a restaurant or grocery, dine at a commercial eatery, or organize a potluck. We can't decide for you which will be the least taxing, but we figured out which will be easiest on your wallet. (Spoiler alert: A home-cooked meal for eight rings up the highest tab at $13.20/person compared with $9/person when dining out.)

Photo by sxc.hu/pixelbase


Many restaurants and grocery stores offer cooked meals that include everything to satisfy your guests' Thanksgiving cravings. A quick survey of takeout menus and prices at several national chains found that the average cost of a meal is about $11.25/person for four and $10/person for eight.
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Takeout Option #1: Restaurant

  • Roasted turkey breast or sliced boneless ham (4 lbs.)
  • Bread & celery dressing (40 oz.)
  • Green beans w/ham (40 oz.)
  • Buttered sweet corn (40 oz.)
  • Mashed potatoes w/gravy (40 oz./32 oz.)
  • Cranberry relish (12 oz.)
  • Rolls (12)
  • Pumpkin bread loaf
  • Pumpkin pie w/topping

Takeout Option #2: Grocery Store (Full Meal)

One national grocery chain offers a Thanksgiving dinner that serves six to eight people for $89.99 ($11.25-$15.00/person).

  • Roasted turkey (13-16 lbs.)
  • Mashed potatoes (two 24 oz. containers)
  • Stuffing (two 32 oz. containers)
  • Gravy (two 24 oz. containers)
  • Broccoli, rice, cheese casserole (two 32 oz. containers)
  • Sweet potato casserole (32 oz.)
  • Cranberry celebration (16 oz.)
  • Pumpkin pie (two 10-inch pies)
  • Dinner rolls (12)

Takeout Option #3: Grocery Store (Essentials)

The supermarket chain also offers just the essentials (again, for six to eight diners), which lowers the price to $44.99 ($5.62-$7.50/person). Remember to factor in a few side dishes and dessert to round out the meal, which will add to the final tab.

  • Roasted turkey (10-13 lbs.)
  • Mashed potatoes (two 24 oz. containers)
  • Stuffing (32 oz. container)
  • Gravy (24 oz. container)
  • Dinner rolls (12)

Photo by sxc.hu/linder6580

Dine Out.

To avoid meal prep and cleanup entirely, simply eat out. It's slightly cheaper than takeout for adults and considerably less so for children. Many restaurants offer a kid's meal that can save you $6 or so compared with the cost of takeout.
  • A Thanksgiving meal at one low-cost restaurant chain costs $8.99 for adults and $4.69 for children. (Tip and tax not included.)
  • Turkey and dressing
  • Baked ham
  • Sweet potato casserole
  • Cranberry relish
  • Choice of vegetable
  • Beverage
  • Biscuits or corn muffins
  • Slice of pumpkin pecan streusel pie

Make From Scratch.

To our surprise, a Thanksgiving meal from scratch is the most costly. Based on our calculations (full price on store brands), four people can eat a complete turkey dinner at home for $65.91 ($16.48/person) and eight can enjoy a similar meal for $105.59 ($13.20/person).
  • Turkey
  • Mashed potatoes/gravy
  • Stuffing
  • Green bean casserole
  • Buttered corn
  • Cranberry relish
  • Pumpkin pie
  • Rolls

Make From Scratch Savings Tips.

Of course, some ingredients will be on sale and some are sitting in your pantry. Either way, your out-of-pocket expenses fall.

Or, you can purchase a pre-cooked turkey and the side dishes that are the costliest to make and prepare the rest of the feast yourself. A takeout meal that includes mashed potatoes saves you from shelling out $10 to boil and mash them at home, and a store-bought pumpkin pie costs about $5 compared with nearly $15 to bake one from scratch.

Then too, you can delegate responsibilities with a potluck. You provide the turkey or ham and let your guests take care of the fixings.

4 People

Per-person price

4 People


8 People

Per-person price

8 People

Restaurant chain
Supermarket chain (full meal)


(feeds 6-8)


(feeds 6-8)
Supermarket chain (essentials)


(feeds 6-8)


(feeds 6-8)
Dine Out
Restaurant chain (tax, tip not included)




(2 adults, 2 children)




(4 adults, 4 children)
Made From Scratch

by Emily Lugg (Google+ Profile)

Filed in: Family, Food, Holidays, Thanksgiving
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