Turkey Prices Are Going Up — Where to Get a Free One in 2021
Turkey is the time-honored centerpiece of most Thanksgiving Day meals and we’ve gotten used to it being an economical buy, especially as the holiday (Nov. 26 this year) grows closer.
But this year, a perfect storm of climate-related disasters, labor shortages and general supply chain issues have pushed the price of poultry up 10.5% over the past year.
The average turkey cost roughly $1.21 per pound last year, which came out to $19.36 for a 16-pound bird, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual survey.
That was the lowest it had been since 2010. But you can count on 2021 being much more expensive.
According to the New York Times, the price of corn — which is what we feed most commercial turkeys in the United States — has doubled in 2021. Truckers who transport our food are able to demand higher wages in the current economy, all resulting in an estimated 25 cents price per pound increase.
How to Get a Free Turkey This Year
Luckily, there are a number of grocers who offer free turkey promotions to bring more hungry holiday shoppers into their stores and to help keep budgets in check.
In general, it’s not worth it to spend $300 on random items just to score a bird you could get for $20 to $30. But if you’re going to spend that money anyway, why not get the turkey on the house?
Think about some of the food you’ll be making for December celebrations and if you need to stock up on spices, dried herbs or other shelf-stable ingredients, you can buy those now. Stock, flour, sugar, canned goods and more will keep through the next cooking cycle.
One word of warning on our list: All of these offers vary by store, so you’ll want to call ahead to make sure your favorite location is participating.
Here are stores that have announced their free turkey promos for 2021.
1. Acme Markets
Then, you’ll have to spend $300 or more while shopping in store through Nov. 25. After you’ve met that minimum spend, you can claim your free turkey at the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states chain.
An exception is made if you shop at locations in any of the following areas. When you shop here, your spending between October 22 and Thanksgiving day will count towards the $400 minimum spend:
- New Jersey
- New Hartford, Connecticut
- East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania
If you don’t want a frozen turkey, you can pick a free Stouffer’s lasagna (there is a vegetarian option) or a $10 store gift card instead.
If you can bank 400 Giant Choice Reward e points by Nov. 25, you can redeem your points for a certificate for a free turkey. If turkey isn’t your thing, you can also redeem your certificate for a free Stouffer’s family-size lasagna or a free tofurky roast. You can also redeem your certificate for a free kosher turkey.
Certificates are good from Nov. 12 through Nov. 25.
Purchase a Hormel Cure 81 ham during the month of November, and Hy-Vee will reward you with a free,10 to 14 pound Honeysuckle white turkey.
Earn points on purchases through Nov. 25 — Thanksgiving Day — with your Price Plus club card.
Once you spend a certain amount (check your local store’s circular for the amount), present your Price Plus club card to the cashier to receive a free turkey, ham, turkey breast, kosher chicken, lasagna or tofurky.
You can pick up your free item any day up to and including Thanksgiving Day.
6. Weis Market
If you’re part of Weis’s rewards program, your reward points could get you a Thanksgiving turkey for free.
It’s pretty simple: You earn one point for every dollar you spend, and it takes 400 points to receive a free turkey, tofurky, tofurkey ham or a Weis-brand frozen lasagna.
That might seem like a lot — and it is! — but it includes purchases now through Nov. 25. If you spend $50 per week on groceries and have been shopping at Weis each week since then, you’ll be more than covered by Thanksgiving.
It’s important to note that your points do have an expiration date, which is printed on the bottom of your receipts. You can claim your free turkey between Nov. 4 and Nov. 25.
7. BJ’s Wholesale Club
When you purchase $100 worth of qualifying items at BJ’s Wholesale Club, you’ll be eligible for a free Butterball turkey. To claim your turkey, you’ll need to be a BJ’s Wholesale member and clip the free turkey coupon before checkout. You can claim this offer through Nov. 24.
In addition to the free turkey, you’ll also receive a $10 BJ’s Award which will be loaded onto your account on Dec. 2. You’ll then have until Dec. 16 to claim your $10.
From Nov. 8 through Nov. 24, Fareway customers can get a free turkey up to 14 pounds when they spend at least $50 at Fareway’s fresh meat counter. This promotion should be automatically applied when you bring your meat counter purchase and turkey to the checkout line.
In years past, Winn-Dixie has offered a free turkey when you get a flu shot during the Thanksgiving season.
This year, the grocery chain is offering a $10 gift card to everyone who gets their flu or COVID-19 shots, and another $10 gift card if you get both.
While these promotions are no longer linked to a free turkey, getting your vaccinations this year could still yield you a free turkey depending on how large of a crowd you’re feeding.
For example, in Montgomery, Alabama, you can get a 10-pound turkey from Winn Dixie for $1.99/pound, which can feed five to eight people. (If you want leftovers, figure on 1½ pounds per person.) Using your vaccination gift cards, you could get your turkey for free.
If you’re feeding a larger crowd, you might not get a free turkey, but getting your vaccinations will significantly reduce the cost of Thanksgiving dinner.
Where to Get a Turkey for Cheap
With the numbers we currently have, we can assume the price of frozen turkey is currently about $1.46 per pound. This number will vary greatly by region.
Shoppers at two of the nation’s largest grocery chains — Safeway and Publix — should keep an eye on advertised sales as Thanksgiving gets closer. Prices were not advertised at the time of this writing but these stores generally have some of the lowest prices around because of the volume of sales.
But here are some stores coming in under that average number, and some stores where we can reasonably expect prices to go down during Thanksgiving promotions over the next few weeks.
At an Aldi’s in Pittsburgh, we found Butterball turkeys for $1.39 per pound.
This is lower than the average, but Aldi is known for offering even lower prices during the week of Thanksgiving. In years past, these specials have featured prices under $1 per pound.
Currently, the cheapest you can get frozen turkey at City Market is for about $1.24 a pound.
Keep an eye out for even better deals throughout the month of November. In the past, City Market, a Kroger store in the Rocky Mountains region, has offered deals under $0.50 per pound for shoppers who met a minimum spend of $25.
Currently, the price per pound for frozen turkeys at Cub Food is higher than the average: $1.79 per pound.
But keep your eyes on the Cub Food weekly ads in the coming weeks. Last year, turkeys were going for 99 cents per pound in the two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. Good news for folks in Illinois and Minnesota, where the Cub Food stores are located.
Currently, you can get a frozen turkey at the Midwestern chain Meijer for $1.39 per pound.
However, this is another store that tends to offer great promotional pricing during the month of November. Last year, mPerks members could get their turkeys for 31 cents per pound during the nine days leading up to the holiday.
Shaw’s has a wide variety of turkey choices at different price points. The cheapest currently available is $1.29 per pound.
Last year during the week of Thanksgiving, Shaw’s offered turkeys for 39 cents per pound to customers who made a $25 purchase. We can expect to see those numbers go up this year, but there may be another like deal that saves you a lot of money at the Northeastern food chain.
Shaw’s also tends to price match during the holiday season, so if you see a lower price elsewhere be sure to talk to your cashier.
At the time of writing, Tops turkeys are a little expensive at $1.69 per pound for an air fry turkey.
However, in the past Tops has come down under 50 cents per pound in the two weeks leading up to the holiday. They have also offered a price-match guarantee if you could find a turkey cheaper elsewhere.
As the holiday gets closer, you’ll want to keep an eye on Tops weekly ads for its stores in New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont.
Walmart offers great deals on turkeys. Even weeks out from the big day itself, you can get a Honeysuckle white frozen turkey for just 87 cents per pound — the lowest price currently offered by any store on this list. This price may go down even further in the coming weeks.
Wegmans and Tops work hard to be competitive with one another. Currently, you can get a Shady Brook Farms frozen turkey at Wegmans for $1.69 per pound — the same price as Tops’ cheapest turkey.
In years past, the beloved Northeast food chain now in some Mid-Atlantic states has offered turkey for as low as $0.48 per pound in the two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, and also offers a price-match guarantee.
Maybe earning 400 points to get a free turkey isn’t reasonable for your household. But if you rack up at least 200 points prior to Thanksgiving, you can get a serious discount on your turkey at Weis, a Mid-Atlantic states chain.
Redeem your points between Nov. 4 and Nov. 25 to secure the low price of 59 cents per pound.
Free Thanksgiving Turkey and Meals for Families in Need
If you or someone you know can’t afford to spend the money to get a free turkey from the grocery stores above, you can look to your community for help.
Food banks are hard at work hosting turkey drives and fundraising events to help put Thanksgiving meals on the tables of those in need. Food bank turkey distributions are usually held during the weekend before and days leading up to Thanksgiving. You can search by state or ZIP code for your local food bank.
United Way chapters also host turkey drives to help families in need. You can search for your local United Way chapter.
Meals on Wheels
Meals on Wheels has a program specifically for the holiday season: Thanksgiving Meals on Wheels.
These meals consist of turkey, dressing, potatoes, peas, corn, cranberries, rolls, pumpkin pie and milk. They are delivered directly to your home, and available to all families and individuals in need — not just seniors.
You can sign up for this program by contacting your local Meals on Wheels program.
The Salvation Army also gives free Thanksgiving dinners to those in need. Each program is administered locally, so you will want to look up your local chapter.
Churches and Charities
Local churches and charities have also been collecting donated items to provide low-income families in their communities with Thanksgiving meals. Check with your church or local charity if you need help providing your family with a Thanksgiving meal.
Jamie Cattanach and Brynne Conroy are veteran contributors to The Penny Hoarder writing on a variety of topics including lifestyle and career.