20 Tips for an Amazing Thanksgiving on a Budget
Being generous at Thanksgiving is good. But spending way more than you need to? Not so much.
Thanksgiving is a time for reflecting on what you’re grateful for, spending time with family, and wondering how you’ll possibly afford this meal and all of your holiday shopping without squeezing your budget and dipping into your savings fund!
You have a lot to be thankful for, but that doesn’t mean you have a bank account the size of a massive turkey leg. It might look more like a chicken leg. Or even a pheasant.
But never fear! It’s possible to have an incredible, unforgettable Thanksgiving without spending all of your gravy.
Is gravy normally used as slang for money? Who cares? It’s Thanksgiving! The holiday where gravy can be used as slang for whatever you want!
Read on to get all the gravy on how you can make your Thanksgiving into a Thanksaving!
1) Buy in season.
As great as it would be to have a literal cornucopia on your table overflowing with every kind of vegetable you can imagine, you’re better off sticking to what’s in season. Sweet potatoes, squash, and pumpkin should be more affordable, and they’re pretty much as autumn as you can get. Brussel sprouts should also be in season, and despite what cartoons told you, they can actually be quite good.
2) Don’t be afraid to think inside the can.
Fresh sounds better, but it can be much more expensive. And when it comes to something like pumpkin pie, how many people will really be able to tell whether the filling originally came from a fresh pumpkin? You can even get the cranberry sauce from a can. We won’t tell. Just make sure you smush it up so it isn’t still shaped like the can before you bring it to the table.
3) Also don’t be afraid of frozen vegetables.
Pretty much everything we just said, but for frozen vegetables. Most of them are flash frozen shortly after they’re picked, so it’s cheaper and likely holds up much better than if you had purchased them fresh and frozen them yourself.
4) Collect those deals.
Why shop harder when you can shop smarter?
“My number one recommendation for a more affordable Thanksgiving is to shop strategically by collecting or looking up online all of the Thanksgiving grocery store circulars the week before Thanksgiving,” Katie Moseman, food blogger at Recipe For Perfection (@RecipeForPerfec), advised us. “You’ll be able to compare prices between stores on all the items you need, then make a shopping plan to pick up everything at the most affordable price.
5) Get your phone in on the action.
There’s something to be said for the lost of art of manually clipping out coupons from those pamphlets that get left on your front stoop. But we also have technology your grandmother’s coupon drawer could only dream of, and there’s nothing wrong with using it. In fact, we have a whole section of our app directory just for finding the best deals. Consider checking them out so you can get the best savings on all of you Turkey Day provisions.
6) Recipe for success.
No doubt you already have a whole collection of classic Thanksgiving recipes, but it doesn’t hurt to learn some more. There are many budget-friendly recipes online just waiting to be found. Moseman even shared two that she created that shouldn’t hurt your Thanksgiving bank too badly: Southern Style Squash Casserole and Foolproof Boneless Turkey Breast. Try them out and tell us how much the whole family like them!
7) Don’t be afraid to get potlucky.
You’re hosting the dinner and presumably preparing most of the food. There’s nothing wrong with asking the guests to do their part.
In fact, Andrea Correale (@AndreaCorreale), founder and CEO of Elegant Affairs Catering, suggested just that very thing: “Delegate, delegate and delegate. Ask your guests to contribute to the feast! Let them know what it is you have covered and ask them to bring the rest. Make a list of who is bringing what so you can be sure each person who contributes is bringing something different. Again, it is all about sharing in a delicious meal, the less you have to make yourself the more time you will have time to chat, laugh, and make memories!!”
You’ll save money too!
8) Skip unnecessary serving stuff.
If you’re having more people than you’ve had in your home before, you may think you’ll need to invest in lots of additional serving utensils.
But according to Correale, that may not be the case!
“It’s fun to present the food in an ‘oven to table’ fashion and serve the food right from the vessels they were cooked in and eliminate the mess and space it takes to transfer the food into decorative bowls. I like to place little blackboard menu signs that I purchase at the craft store next to each dish to add a special touch.
9) Sometimes, more is too much.
There’s a tendency to go overboard on the food when it comes to Thanksgiving. But making too many different dishes can not only cut into the budget, it may lessen the enjoyment of the later dishes. Here’s what Correale had to say: “Don’t overstuff your guests with a lot of appetizers. Not only do they take up room in your tiny space, but in your guests’ stomachs as well. We want them nice and hungry for dinner so they enjoy the fruits of our labor.
10) Take good stock of what you already have.
Got any old cans in the back of your cabinet that you totally forgot were there? What about frozen vegetables way in the back of your freezer? Before you get started on your shopping, see what you can make with what you’ve already got lying around. Unless you have a spare turkey you forgot about, you’ll probably still have to do quite a bit of shopping, but may as well cut out expenses where you can.
11) Buy in bulk.
Not only will you be making a lot of food for Thanksgiving, but you’ll probably be planning to eat again someday. Buying in bulk saves money, and we’re sure you’ll find a way to use any leftover ingredients.
12) If you’re traveling, make travel plans way, way, way in advance.
Seriously, everyone tries to travel for Thanksgiving, so the price of any kind of ticket goes way, way up. Unless you’re driving, you want to book as early as you possibly can. It can be difficult to know whether you’ll be able to get time off for Thanksgiving, so look into which airline or bus tickets will let you get a full refund, just in case. We wrote a whole blog post on how to travel for less, so check it out to see which tips might be applicable for your Thanksgiving travel situation.
13) If you’re serving alcohol, keep the options limited.
It might impress your guests to have a fully stocked bar, but if there’s something they really want, they can bring it themselves. If you’re serving the hard stuff, don’t be afraid to go for the cheap option and just get some bottles of juice or soda to mix it with. A few hours in, who’s really going to be noticing anyway?
14) Figure out your turkey needs and do a little math.
Does it make sense to buy a whole bird, or could you settle for some breasts, thighs, and/or drumsticks? Those will also be a lot faster to cook. Or… maybe… just maybe… you don’t need a turkey. We know, we know, that’s bordering on blasphemy, but if you have family or friends who prefer chicken anyway, it could be the cheaper option.
15) Make your own stale bread.
You’re not going to buy stale bread, or as they try to call it, “croutons,” from the store, are you? That’s a sucker’s game! Just save up your bread for a week or so before Thanksgiving and use that for the stuffing. Just make sure it doesn’t get moldy! Store it in the fridge if you have to.
16) Change up recipes as need be.
We already mentioned looking for budget recipes, but you can also turn most recipes into budget recipes. It might take some experimentation, but since most recipes aren’t necessarily written for the budget conscious, there are likely all sorts of ways you can cut corners and costs. Just find the cheaper substitutions.
17) Minimize the meat.
If you’re vegetarian or vegan, this was probably a given, but meat can be expensive. You might not be able to get away with skipping the turkey, but there are more than enough appetizers and sides you can make without spending extra money on meat.
18) Go for dried beans.
We already mentioned that canned can be cheaper than fresh, but when it comes to beans, dried is usually cheaper than canned. Soak ‘em up or use a slow cooker if you’ve got one. Beans are cheap and filling, and you can have them as a side dish or add them to rice or stuffing.
19) Make your own condiments.
Thousand Island dressing? We know you know that’s ketchup and mayo. You can easily make your own Italian dressing too. Don’t get trapped under the heel of Big Condiment!
20) It’s about friends and family.
Remember that whether you’re having a big turkey or a series of small turkey sandwiches, Thanksgiving is about being with friends and family and appreciating them. And that’s priceless.
With these tips, you’ll turn your Turkey Day, into a Turkey Yay! Happy Thanksgiving, from us to you!
|Andrea Correale (@AndreaCorreale) is the founder and CEO of Elegant Affairs based in Glen Cove, serving NYC, the Hamptons and the Gold Coast of Long Island. Andrea has catered for some of the most discerning A-List taste buds including Brooke Shields, Mariah Carey, Russell Simmons, P. Diddy, Jimmy Fallon and Liam Neeson – to name a few!|
|Katie Moseman is a freelance writer, photographer, and recipe developer whose work can be found on her blogs, Recipe for Perfection (@RecipeForPerfec) and Magnolia Days, as well as in numerous national publications. She lives in Florida with her family.|