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Thanksgiving dinner costs more. Here are tips on how to save and ways to find a free turkey

Kelly Tyko
USA TODAY

Your Thanksgiving meal will be one of the most expensive with inflation at a 31-year high.

Nearly every ingredient in your holiday meal has a higher price tag this year, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation's annual Thanksgiving dinner cost survey. This can be blamed on inflation and supply chain disruptions.

The average cost of this year’s classic Thanksgiving feast for 10 is $53.31, more than $5 per person, the federation's survey shows. It's the priciest meal in the survey's 36 years and up 14% from $46.90 in 2020. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates a 5% increase in prices for select Thanksgiving essentials selected for a similar comparison, similar to the 5.4% increase in the price of food at home, which was reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Nov. 10. 

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“We know that even small price increases can make a difference for family budgets, and we are taking every step we can to mitigate that,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement Wednesday, adding that the price of a large turkey will cost $1 more than last year.

Some retailers say consumers can get their full Thanksgiving meals for less than the national average. Other stores have promotions to get a turkey for free when shoppers load up the cart with other items.

Walmart shoppers can save more than $14 or nearly 28% of the national average price reported by the Farm Bureau, the world’s largest retailer said, adding the meal would cost an estimated $39.

Discount grocers Aldi and Lidl both said shoppers can get the ingredients for under $30.

And there are also other strategies to combat the rising prices. Here's how to save.

Check store ads, websites for free turkeys

Layla Kasha, chief marketing officer at Grocery Outlet, a chain with more than 400 stores, recommends checking digital ads, store circulars and social media before heading to stores.

“Many retailers are using social media to promote exclusive promotions or offers for their followers, so it’s a good idea to check those before hitting a store,” Kasha told USA TODAY.

Kasha also suggests shopping at multiple stores.

”This is not the meal to try and do a one-stop shop,” Kasha said.

Numerator, a data and tech company, found  38% in its small survey of 350 consumers planned to shop earlier than past years because of inflation and that 36% would go to multiple stores to find the best prices.

BJ's Wholesale Club has a promotion through Nov. 24. Spend $100 on qualifying items and get a free turkey and a $10 award to redeem in December. Learn more at BJs.com/FreeTurkey.

At H-E-B, get a free 12-pound turkey with the purchase of a store-brand spiral-sliced bone-in half or whole ham.

Shopping tip: While many consumers have started shopping early with concerns over turkey shortages, if you haven't bought the bird yet, you should be able to find one at a lower cost than the Farm Bureau average.

Ibotta’s free Thanksgiving dinner promotion

Ibotta brought back its "free Thanksgiving dinner" promotion for the second year and is offering 100% cash back on 10 select items purchased at Walmart, the popular cashback app and rewards platform told USA TODAY. 

New and existing Ibotta users can shop for the rebate items, worth a combined $26.99, in Walmart stores and online for curbside pickup or delivery. (Learn how to redeem the deal, available while supplies last or through Wednesday, here.)

The offers include a free turkey up to $15 (or $15 back on a turkey that costs more), mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, cranberry sauce, a two-liter bottle of Coca-Cola and corn muffin mix. But in order to get the free turkey, existing users must refer a friend. New users do not need to.

Several items are no longer available and Ibotta told USA TODAY that more than 3.3 million Thanksgiving offers have been redeemed with nearly $8 million paid out.

♦Shopping tip: Prices can vary by store, so it's possible that the free items might each cost a few cents after the rebates. Shoppers may also find themselves walking away making a few cents.

Bake the pie yourself

According to Numerator, 16% plan to switch from traditional Thanksgiving recipes to more affordable options. Consumers also are cutting items, with 25% saying they expect to cut alcoholic beverages from this year’s shopping list.  

Michael Swanson, chief agricultural economist at Wells Fargo, says consumers can save money by baking the pie or cooking the appetizer.

"I guarantee you that apples and the flour and the shortening, you can make a pie for a few dollars in your house," Swanson said. "There's a lot of work, you have to clean up, but you can save yourself a lot of money but that's because you're doing the work."

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Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @kellytyko