Plant-Based Thanksgiving Menu (Affordable, Tasty & Good-for-You!)

Updated: Jan 5

If you've been keeping an eye on news reports this holiday season, or purchased food at your local grocery store, then you may have noticed the skyrocketing prices of food. Between packaging, distribution, supply chain shortages, labor shortages, severe weather, trade policies, and inflation, food prices are soaring.

New York Times recently published an article with the headline, "This Year's Thanksgiving Feast Will Wallop the Wallet" stating that "Thanksgiving 2021 could be the most expensive meal in the history of the holiday." The largest price increases have been for meat, including poultry, which has increased 10.5 percent compared to other foods, which have increased 4.5 percent according to the Consumer Price Index. The cost of making steel, which is used to make cans that store our beloved pumpkin purée and cranberry sauce, has risen 200 percent! Even the prices of cardboard packaging and containers used to ship food have increased. Drought in the midwest and west coast has caused a variety of food shortages including sugarcane, citrus, and coffee. We know, coffee lovers, this one really hit us to the core, too.

The stress of the food system is like a domino effect, creating stress for everyone from farmers to grocery stores to consumers.

What can you do to minimize the impact of increasing food costs while still providing nourishing, tasty, and festive food for your family this holiday season? We're glad you asked! Below are 5 ways to decrease foods costs this Thanksgiving. (Bonus that the tips also help to support local business, provide more nutrition, and create tastier food!)

  1. Ditch the turkey. Can we all agree that the sides are the true stars of the show for Thanksgiving and throughout the holiday? Hearty stuffing (without the bird), warm homemade biscuits, roasted veggies, and savory soups are enough to fill bellies, soothe souls and foster connections at the dinner table. Start a new tradition with a focus on all of the delicious sides. (Want to take it a step further? Donate the dinner turkey funds to Adopting a Turkey from the Farm Sanctuary this holiday season.)

  2. Shop local or regional. Exclude the cost of transportation by shopping local or regional whenever possible. Bonus that close-to-home produce often has lots more flavor and way more nutrition than produce purchased at the grocery store.

  3. Shop seasonal. If you don't have a local farmers market consider purchasing seasonal from your grocery store. Look for produce that's been grown in your region which will help to decrease shipping cost while also ensuring better flavor and more nutrition. Don't forget to bring your own produce bags which can further reduce costs while helping the planet.

  4. Purchase whole food, not packaged. Whether you've been motivated to cut down on packaged food to reduce waste or boost nutrition, now's a great time to start. For example, purchase whole sugar pumpkin instead of canned. Watch this short video on how to cut a sugar pumpkin. Personally, I would skip the peeling part and roast it first, making it super easy to peel after it has cooled. Roast sliced pumpkin on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes or until tender. Peel off the skin. Cut it into chunks and use in soups or purée it for homemade pumpkin pie.

  5. Grow your own garden. If you've ever wanted to grow your own food, now's a great time to start! You don't need a large space or a backyard. In fact, there are plenty of fruits, veggies, and herbs your can grow in small spaces and indoors. Grab some ideas from The Spruce. My husband, Ricky, used to say, "You were meant to eat plants, not grow them." I was the plant killer, even though I loved them dearly. However, we just scored some beautiful kale, broccoli, butter lettuce and Romaine from our local garden center, planted them last month, and they're (to my surprise) thriving beautifully! (I'm feeling your virtual hi-fives, thank you, friends. :D) Trust me, if I can grow plants, so can you.

We've put together a whole food plant-based menu for you that can be affordable, delicious, and healthy, yet still feel indulgent. The cost of animal-based foods are skyrocketing, more so than plants, therefore this Thanksgiving is the perfect time to make side dishes the star of the show! Select one or two items to try from the menu below or make the whole menu—and please share photos and your experience if you do!


Warm Tempeh and Kale and Radish Salad

You could call this simple-to-make, bursting with flavor dish the "Superfood Power Bowl" because it's packed with some true seasonal superfoods—kale, radish, and red onion. It's easy-to-make and will be a crowd-pleaser.

Cost to make this dish: $11.17

Cost per serving: $1.40

Creamy Apple Slaw

Silken tofu makes the perfect salad dressing base with its plant-based fat and protein content. Pour this slightly tangy and very creamy dressing over top of autumn produce —apples, carrots, and cabbage—to create a crunchy yet creamy delicious slaw.

Cost to make this dish: $6.84

Cost per serving: $1.71


Hearty Minestrone Soup

If you’re looking for a satisfying, hearty, and healthy starter that the entire family will love, then this soup will do the trick! Packed with vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, folate, fiber, and more, you're not only getting big bursts of flavor with every bite, but also plenty of nutrition.

Cost to make this dish: $14.11

Cost per serving: $3.52

Energizing and Healing White Bean and Kale Soup

Stay warm and cozy by making Energizing and Healing White Bean and Kale Soup. This super-healing soup is jam-packed with nutrient-dense ingredients such as garlic, kale, onion, celery, tomatoes, beans and veggie stock. Enjoy it with a sprinkle of nutritional yeast and rustic organic whole wheat or sourdough bread (dunking fun!).

Cost to make this dish: $13.30

Cost per serving: $1.66

Light Bites and Sides

Lentil Quinoa Meatballs

These lentil quinoa meatballs won't last long once they're taken out of the oven. They're perfectly crispy on the outside and moist and soft on the inside. They make a great appetizer and pair so well with your favorite tomato sauce or basil pesto.

Cost to make this dish: $8.97

Cost per serving: $0.90

Creamy Mac and Cheese with Brocc