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Tuesday, October 29, 2019

My Strategy For Finagling Those Grocery Store Turkey Deals This Thanksgiving Season

Grocery stores now make shoppers spend a certain dollar amount in order to qualify for a super-low price per pound on their Thanksgiving turkey. I call this marketing strategy the "turkey deal." 

As grocery shoppers have become more savvy in their pre-Thanksgiving shopping with hopes of spending the least to get the most for their dollar, grocery stores have had to change their game plan in order to garner a larger slice of the spending pie. Gone are the deals when turkeys were a simple loss-leader item, and shoppers didn't need to make a special purchase to get the great price per pound for their bird. There are now hoops through which to jump if you want to save a few bucks on your Thanksgiving turkey. In addition, if the last two years are any indication of grocery store trends, gone also are the days where most of the items for your Thanksgiving meal are sale items. Since I don't want to overspend on everything else just so I can get a great price on a turkey, I've had to up my own game. This is my strategy for finagling the grocery store turkey deals.

Step 1. Make my list of what I want to buy at each of my regular stores. These are items that I routinely find at their best price for each store.

  • milk, gallons -- up to a 6 week supply
  • chicken leg quarters in 10-lb bag
  • decaf instant coffee
  • bathroom tissue, 20-roll, Great Value, 1000 sheet/roll
  • bananas
  • Great Value garlic powder
  • sparkling cider (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and Easter)
  • house brand vegetable shortening
  • frozen orange juice concentrate
Fred Meyer
  • house brand non-dairy milk, up to 2-month supply
  • bulk bin nuts -- almonds and pecans
  • house brand hot dogs
  • house brand butter
  • house brand confectioner's sugar
  • house brand milk -- up to a 6-week supply
  • clearance sections
  • shoes/some clothing items
  • kitchen gadgets (wanting a pizza wheel)
  • batteries
  • small gifts -- cosmetics, bath/spa items
  • house brand feminine hygiene
  • house brand automatic dishwashing detergent
  • sparkling cider (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and Easter)
  • house brand cream cheese
  • vitamins
  • OTC meds
  • epsom salt
  • hydrogen peroxide
  • canned vegetables, including green beans, corn, pumpkin, and yams
  • chocolate chips
  • flaked coconut
  • marshmallows
  • confectioner's sugar
  • maple syrup
  • kielbasa sausage
  • butter
  • bananas
  • bulk bins -- lentils, powdered milk, powdered coffee
    creamer, cocoa powder, onion powder, chili powder
  • sparkling cider (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and Easter)
  • tangerines
  • frozen apple juice concentrate

    I can use these lists to make 2 or 3 turkey deals (one at each store), or I can buy my turkey at the store where I can get the best deal, then buy just what I need from the other stores without thought to making a minimum spend. I can even split one store's list in half in order to buy a second turkey in that same store later that week or during the next. 

    I try to make sure that I have enough items for each store, with some as back-up items to cover a shortage of something that I'd planned on buying. As I make my lists, I think ahead to the other special occasions in the coming months. I know that I will be baking for birthdays, Christmas, New Years, Valentine's Day, and Easter, so I include ingredients that I anticipate wanting at those times, too. 

    We also have Safeway, Albertsons, and QFC as grocery stores in our area. However, the marketing strategy for these stores has been to have a small handful of loss-leader items with considerably higher prices on everything else. I've found it difficult to spend enough (at rock-bottom prices for items) at any of those stores to qualify for their turkey deals. Even if their turkey price per pound was exceptionally low compared to my other stores (free even at some stores), it still might work out to my advantage to grocery shop at Walmart, WinCo, or Fred Meyer for the items that I truly need and just pay the regular price per pound on our turkey. This will be a matter of doing the math to see which route is the one where I come out ahead.

    I also keep in mind that these lists are not necessarily everything I will buy, nor will I buy everything on each list. The lists simply give me ideas of what I could purchase at a great price to bring me up to the minimum spend amount for a store's turkey deal. Once the turkey deals are announced, I'll be able to fine tune my shopping lists for each store.

    Step 2. When I am at the store where I'll make my turkey purchase, I will track my spending as I load my cart. Depending on which stores have the best turkey deals, I may need to buy a three or four-month supply of some items to bring my spending up to the minimum amount required. For example, I buy our bath tissue at Walmart each month. A 20-roll package costs about $10. If Walmart requires a $50 purchase to qualify for a discount on my turkey, then I may need to buy as many as 5 packages of bathroom tissue. 

    Step 3. My lists have one last purpose. Should I get to the checkout and discover that I have underspent by an amount enough to bar me from receiving the turkey deal, I will have a quick list to consult for adding an extra, last-minute item to the transaction to bring me up to that minimum spend amount. I will hopefully have an additional pair of feet with me to go and grab any last-minute items.

    It's just the end of October. Why am I planning my Thanksgiving shopping now? I need to plan all of my November grocery shopping before the first of the month so that I can take advantage of all of the special sales as well as the Senior shopping which falls on the first Tuesday of the month. And you know me, I plan, plan, and plan some more. That's part of my overall strategy to staying within our small grocery budget.


    1. Those were the good ole days when turkey was a loss leader at Thanksgiving. I miss them. You have so aptly demonstrated that getting the good deals is a very complicated process these days.

    2. Hi Live and Learn,
      There are a lot of hoops to jump through with Thanksgiving purchases. But, if someone is willing to do that work, then they can save a lot of money and stock their fridge, freezer, and pantry for the months ahead (where there are fewer grocery deals to be had.) So, I guess it depends on a person's priorities, as to whether or not they're willing or able to do the extra work. I do miss those days when I could buy turkey for something like 17 cents per pound, no extra purchase necessary.

    3. There are lots of other items I used to stock up on but no longer need to and I can no longer find deals on and that is canned veggies. When the kids were young, I would buy cases of veggies at really good prices and use them all winter long. Those sales are long gone. I used to buy several turkeys and hams and freeze them but I don't need as much anymore and my mom now gives me a turkey every Thanksgiving season. Now my son gets his choice of several items from his work that he contributes to the family freezer. Writing all this makes me realize how abundantly blessed we are!

      I also see my large freezer is full to the brim with all kinds of good things. And I love having a freezer full this time of year knowing that winter is upon us and I won't have to go shopping for things I already have. I do have the gift of being to pull together a meal without thought and without a recipe (most of the time). My mom is the same way but not so much for my two daughters! One of them is showing signs of being able to that.

      I meal prep on Saturday or Sunday and this week is a big pot of wild rice/chicken creamy soup. This is for all of our lunches whoever wants it, and it is low carb. Tonight I'll pull together a meat loaf with butternut squash mash and the guys get to choose their veggie from the freezer. MIL brought over spaghetti for the men but I took out of the freezer a spaghetti squash with meat sauce for me.


    4. Hi Alice,
      I know what you mean about the sales disappearing. One of our stores, WinCo, used to have a great sale on canned veggies each year, with no limits. I would buy several cases of veggies and use them all winter long. Last year, the sale was not so great and I was limited to 12 cans. I'm hoping for better this year, but preparing for the same or worse. I will still buy an extra turkey and ham, as I can use those in winter and early spring. I like cooking a whole turkey once, then having cooked meat for 20 nights or so. Same with whole hams. Although cooking that large of a piece of meat is a bit of a hassle on one day, it leads to a lot of convenience later on.

      Your freezer sounds wonderfully full. And you're right, if you're able to throw together meals with minimum planning, you can make a feast out of just about anything. For me, this has been a learned skill, years of trying new ways to prepare old favorites and finding what combinations we enjoy. I am trying to pass this on to my daughters. I was less successful teaching my son this, but hope he is now able to do okay in the kitchen if he has to.

      Your meals for the week sound delicious and suiting to all of your different nutrient needs. The creamy wild rice and chicken soup sounds so yummy. you're set to eat well for the whole week! Good work, Alice!

    5. A local grocery store had canned veggies (Food Saver, what used to be Western Family brand) last week for .25 per can if you bought in cases of 12. I bought 6 cases of green beans and one of corn. Our boys' Scout troop collects food at Christmas time to give to a couple of needy families in the area. I will give 1 case of green beans & 1 case of corn to that effort. I also bought a case of Top Ramen (24 ct.) for that (.17 each) and a couple of jars large jars of Skippy peanut butter. This particular store is on the more "gourmet" end of things, so I don't buy much there on a regular basis. But they do have "Fresh Friday" sales that a quite good and the occasional loss leader sale (such as this last week's "case sale").

      I'm also going to be on the lookout for turkey deals. I do the same thing, Lili. I calculate the items in my cart as I shop so that I don't overspend. The last couple of years, the turkey deals have not been very good. Hopefully this year will be better! Frugal Living Northwest & Queen Bee Coupons usually give good updates on the best turkey deals in the PNW. For me, Winco seems to be the best price in town. Melissa

    6. Hi Melissa,
      I am so glad for you that you could stock up on some canned veggies at that price. i haven't seen 25 cents/can for years and years.
      Thank you for the heads-up on Frugal Living NW and Queen Bee Coupons. I will be watching those sites.
      Have a lovely day, Melissa!


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