How to save money on your turkey this Thanksgiving: budget-friendly alternatives

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There are a few ways that you can fight the good fight (aka save some money on your Thanksgiving main course). Here are some money saving tips (including vegetarian alternatives!)

We’re regular people here at Jow, who have regular budgets and do regular things - like get annoyed at how much the prices have gone up on literally everything since the pandemic started. And according to CNN, Thanksgiving dinner will cost up to 20% more this year.

Inflation is touching every corner of our lives… even our Thanksgiving turkeys - and nobody puts baby* in the corner 😱

(*our turkey.)

Here are our best budget alternatives so you can still enjoy Thanksgiving, without the hefty price tag!

Swap your turkey for a rotisserie chicken

They’re delicious, less expensive than a turkey, and pre-cooked! You can find them in most deli sections of your local grocery store and they don’t require any calling in ahead of time. If you enjoy the act of cooking the bird, you can get a frozen chicken instead and roast it up with our 1-Pan Chicken & Veggies recipe. Keep in mind that prepared hot foods are not covered by EBT programs.

The free turkey program

Though not available in all stores, many grocery stores do a “free turkey” program. The guidelines are specific to each individual store, but typically it’s an offer of “spend X amount and get a free turkey!” Call your local grocery stores to see if any of them are running a program this year (and let your friends know too!). 

Get fancy with Cornish game hens

Game hens are great because they look like tiny turkeys, and that’s precious. They’re also great because they often come in frozen 2-packs and cook quickly. Richer in flavor and texture than the average chicken, game hens instantly take your meal to the next level. You can find game hens in most grocery stores.

Opt for turkey cuts

Though it doesn’t have the centerpiece “wow” effect that a whole bird does, buying turkey cuts can save you a lot of money (and time) around the holidays. The deli section in your local store should have a variety of options for turkey breast, legs, thighs, or wings at a fraction of the cost of a whole bird. Jow has a recipe for them, too!

Butterball roast

Another cost-saving alternative to a whole bird is a Butterball boneless turkey roast. Though a bit unusual looking, these roasts give you a lot of meat at a lower price, and also save you time. 


There are so many delicious tofu options. A couple of our favorites for Thanksgiving are Tofurky slices, Tofurky roasts, and tofu blocks. Tofurky options will taste similar to turkey (of course) while tofu blocks can be roasted and prepared with your favorite seasonings. If you roast tofu, we recommend purchasing extra-firm tofu and draining it as much as possible (it holds a lot of water!). 

Whole roasted cauliflower

Tofu blocks look like… well, blocks. If you’re wanting something a little more visually traditional for the big day, try whole roasted cauliflower! Cauliflower is surprisingly versatile and roasts deliciously. You can even bread-it. Cheapest Thanksgiving “turkey” ever ;-)  Check out our roasted cauliflower recipe here, and adapt it to the amount of people you're cooking for!

Roasted cauliflower steaks on mashed potatoes with green beans

So what will you try? With prices going up all the time, we will continue to bring you ways to save where you can. With that, we wish you a fun, cozy, and delicious Thanksgiving, no matter how you take your turkey!

Check out our whole Thanksgiving menu for new easy ways to make classic dishes :-)