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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.

Photo by sxc.hu/pixelbase

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.)


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)

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

Photo by sxc.hu/linder6580

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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