Although I prefer a homemade Thanksgiving, in some case it may be more frugal or more convenient to buy a Thanksgiving dinner at the grocery store. This is especially true if you don’t have good kitchen or much cookware!
Pros of a Storebought Thanksgiving Dinner
The first advantage is that someone else does most of the work for you. Note, I said most, not all. You’ll still need to do a little work. However, you won’t need to worry about basting the turkey or making the stuffing or any of the major items.
Only minimal cookware is required. Depending on the dinner you order, you may need to bake some par-baked rolls so they have that fresh taste. You might also want to make your own gravy or salad so there’s something fresh on the table. If you buy a whole turkey, you’ll probably need to partially cook it. It may or may not come with the tools to do that.
It’s becoming more affordable. With more stores getting into the act, price competition is steeper. Last year I probably spent about $40 for dinner for six. A grocery store dinner would have been around $50 at my local Ralph’s, and $100 at my local Whole Foods for an organic meal.
Cons of a Storebought Thanksgiving Dinner
Storebought just isn’t the same as homemade. Think about a grocery store roasted chicken vs. a home roasted chicken. Although I like storebought roasted chicken, I often find that it’s much saltier than a homemade chicken. It’s also not as large and usually not as juicy. The same is true of most deli items. I can make a better stuffing myself.
You may still have to do some cooking. Depending on the store you order from, they may not have the necessary equipment to cook a turkey all the way. In most cases, it will arrive partially cooked from a central warehouse. You will then have to finish cooking it (usually at least an hour) on Thanksgiving. You may need a pan for that, although you can pick up a cheap roasting pan at Target or Bed Bath and Beyond this time of year. If it’s a smaller turkey, you could even use a rectangular baking pan.
Everything will still need to be reheated. Sure, it won’t take as long, but you’ll still need to do it.
You won’t get as much food. Usually, home cooks provide more than necessary. With grocery store meals, they usually try to scale appropriately, so you may find that your meal designed for 8-10 just barely feeds 10 and there aren’t much leftovers.
It costs more. With careful shopping and coupons, you can get your grocery costs down for Thanksgiving. That’s how I spent $40 on the meal. Of course, I also had houseguests, so there was also wine, appetizers, breakfasts, lunches, and additional dinners. All told, I probably spent around $150 for those four days. Not bad, considering.
If you’re considering a storebought Thanksgiving, don’t let someone else tell you that you’re being lazy or untraditional. It’s all a matter of time vs. money vs. convenience. I enjoy cooking, so it was fun for me and I had most of the necessary equipment. My mom brought my grandmother’s roasting pan, but I know have my own $5 roasting pan. If I didn’t have the equipment and was still living in my old apartment with the miserably tiny kitchen, Thanksgiving would have been a different story! Buying Thanksgiving dinner at the store may not be the most frugal choice, but it’s cheaper than going out to a restaurant.