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How to Find a Free Turkey for Thanksgiving

Of all the bits and pieces that go together to make a great and memorable Thanksgiving, nothing is more important than the turkey. Each Thanksgiving, Americans consume an average of 46 million of the big birds.[1] But if you take a trip to the grocery store after the holiday, you'll see that there are often piles of frozen birds still left in the frozen food section. They're almost always on sale as well. With such a surplus each year, it should come as no surprise that with some effort, you can often find a free Thanksgiving turkey before the holiday begins.

Although many donations go to those in who are in desperate need, there are so many turkeys donated or available each year that pretty much anyone can find a free one. If you're up for the challenge, finding your free bird this year might involve one of the following proven methods.

Grocery Store Promotional Coupons
Many grocery stores offer promotional coupons each year to help push the sales of other popular holiday food items. Your local grocery store may well have such a promotion going on this year as well. Here are some national grocery stores that are running these promotional programs in 2016:

ShopRite Supermarket

Safeway

Acme

Your local grocery store may also have deals advertised only in the physical store. Local chains of different national brands can often run independent deals and promotions. If you do not see any deals advertised, ask someone at customer service. They may know of upcoming deals closer to Thanksgiving. Additionally, you may want to check the Catalina Coupons. These are the coupons printed out at the machine next to the receipt machine at the grocery store (named after the most common brand of printing machine), and they often offer brand-specific discounts.

Occasionally, however, these coupons will offer significant deals from your specific grocery store or significant deals from different brands. That includes getting specific items for free, or getting a certain amount of money off after you've spent a specified amount of money on groceries (e.g., $25 off your bill of $100).

Ask Your Local Grocery Store
If you can't find a coupon deal at your local grocery store, it never hurts just to ask. Many grocery store owners and managers are often more than happy to donate to needy families for a holiday. As this is considered charitable giving, it's a tax write-off for them, a good way to draw positive press, and a boon to needy families in the community. Be sure to practice your speech before you go in, as well as some evidence that you are, indeed, in need. The chances are good that you may walk away with more than just a free Thanksgiving turkey. If you do, remember to give the store a positive mention on any social media you use!

Food Banks
Every year, food banks receive tens of thousands of turkey donations. Anyone can go to a food bank and ask for assistance. Food banks primarily serve low-income families or those who are in dire need or impoverished, but during the holidays they may also provide assistance to lower-middle class families who are also struggling during the Thanksgiving holiday season. Many of them may receive more Thanksgiving donations than they can deliver. While they will freeze some of these for later use, some may not have the space to keep all of them. You may luck out and find a spare turkey from a local food bank even after the holiday is over.

To locate the food bank nearest you, you can use the Feeding America search tool.

Social Media or Crowdsourcing Sites
Have a lot of friends on social media? Don't be afraid to ask for help! Many of your friends or acquaintances may be more than willing to help out a friend during the Thanksgiving holiday. One of your friends may even have an extra turkey and may be willing to gift it to you (it happens!).

Alternatively, you can turn to a website like GoFundMe to help raise funds for a turkey with all the trimmings. You can also use the site to find others who are raising money for to buy birds for donations. There are already dozens of people using the site exactly for that purpose, and many of them have already raised several hundred dollars toward their cause.

Keep in mind that not all crowdfunding sites are good for just general purposes. Some have specific requirements. The best sites to utilize for this purpose include:

GoFundMe

Razoo

Crowdrise

Local Area Nonprofits and Churches
Even if they aren't in the business of delivering food, many nonprofit organizations try to help organize free turkey drives. Churches, in particular, are a good source for this, as many invest in food aid to local families. Many churches across the country have separate funds for charitable giving. If you attend a local church, ask your church leadership about a Thanksgiving donation. Otherwise, seek out help from one of the local churches near you. Many churches are eager and willing to help members of the surrounding community, even if you aren't a member of the church.

Try a Whole Meal
Some places may not give away turkeys but may offer you and your family a holiday dinner, meaning you'll get the entire meal for free. Depending on your situation, organizations such as Meals on Wheels and the Salvation Army typically run free holiday dinner operations each year. If you're open to an entire meal delivered hot and fresh, this may be a good option for you to try.

Holiday cheer can be hard to find when you hit hard times financially. If you're willing to put in the effort, though, there are resources out there that can make a difference. Before you resign yourself to a Thanksgiving without a Turkey, try these ideas and see what happens!

Notes
1. "Turkey Facts" . Extension.Illinois.edu