Thanksgiving for Under $100 -- Savings Experiment

Thanksgiving for Under $100
Thanksgiving for Under $100

Thanksgiving is a time to see family, give thanks ... and spend a lot of money on food. Here are a few ways to shop smart and host an entire dinner for 10 people for less than $100.

Let's start with mashed potatoes. A 15.3-ounce box of Hungry Jack Instant Mashed Potatoes costs $2.99 and makes 20 servings -- that's about 15 cents per serving. Meanwhile, a 10-pound bag of russet potatoes costs $4.99 and makes 40 servings at only 12.5 cents per serving. So not only is the real deal over 23 percent cheaper, it'll be tastier and healthier, too.

Some of you might cringe at the thought of buying canned cranberry sauce, but your wallet will thank you for it. A 1.5-cup can of store-bought, canned cranberry sauce costs $1.89, or only $1.26 per cup, whereas 3.5 cups of homemade cranberry sauce cost $10.25, or $2.93 per cup. That's a savings of nearly 57 percent.

Next up is gravy. Turkey gravy by the jar or packet ranges between $1 to $2.50. That may seem like a good deal, but if you're already cooking your own bird, you won't have to pay anything at all. Once your turkey is out of the oven, drain the liquid, add back a bit of the fat from the turkey pan, stir in some flour, then add water or, preferably, stock. It's that easy. Delicious homemade, gravy for free.

And lastly, when it comes to pumpkin pie, do you save more by baking your own or buying at the store? Two homemade pumpkin pies will cost you anywhere from $9.67 to $13.09, plus your time and energy in the kitchen. Two store-bought pies will cost you between $7 and $14, but if you buy closer to the holidays, you'll be able to find even better sales, some for as low as $3.99 each. So unless you absolutely love baking, buying pies at the store is the way to go.

This Thanksgiving, don't be afraid to fill up your table. Even when factoring in the cost of a standard turkey, you should come in well under $100 -- and that's something to be thankful for.