Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Thanksgiving...but if you're cooking for the family this year, you know it's not cheap. I mean, a turkey, all those sides, multiple pies...it adds up! So, if you're trying to host Thanksgiving on a budget, this list from Beth Moncel (creator of Budget Bytes), will help!
1. Start Shopping Ahead of Time
When it comes to shopping for the ingredients for a perfect Thanksgiving, there's no such thing as too early! Well, I guess there is. We're not talking about stocking up on sweet potatoes a month in advance. But at this point, you couldn't do that even if you wanted to! However, you can get your shelf-stable products whenever you notice they're on sale. For example, canned pumpkin puree might go BOGO during October, so that might be a good time to grab some for your pies, and just save til you need them in November!
2. Keep an Eye Out for Promotions in the Weeks Before Thanksgiving
Speaking of BOGO deals or special promotions, supermarkets everywhere start their holiday meal sales starting around the end of October. Moncel suggests signing up for a store flyer aggregate app, like Flipp - it'll let you compare both prices and discounts at the stores in your area, just by looking at your phone...which you're probably doing already.
3. Before Shopping, Do a Thorough Inventory of Your Pantry to See What You've Already Got
There's probably a lot of shelf-stable ingredients in your pantry already, that can save you some money if you only remember to look for them before you head out to the store. Think seasoning...I'm often not sure if I've got enough thyme for a recipe while I'm at the store, so I buy a jar just in case. Before I know it...I've got four bottles of thyme in my pantry. And that stuff's not cheap. Don't let this happen to you, check your stock before you leave home.
4. When It Comes to Fresh...Seasonal Produce is Cheaper
Fresh, seasonal produce (like celery, carrots, apples, squash, potatoes, and cranberries) are all more affordable this time of the year...and it doesn't take much to dress them up into a beautiful, simple but elegant dish for your Thanksgiving feast.
5. Pre-made Products Can Save Time...and Money
Sometimes, store-bought, pre-made products can be a lifesaver, saving you precious time, oven-space, AND most importantly, money. For example, fresh, homemade dinner rolls are delicious (and my mom's are the BEST), but they can take all day to make. (True story. Ask my mom.) In this case, pre-made dinner rolls are not only FAST, but they're cheap, too! You'll be making SO many dishes for a Thanksgiving feast, no one will fault you for buying one or two from the store!
Photo Credit: Getty Images
6. Save Specialty Ingredients for Smaller Settings
"Honestly, most simple Thanksgiving classics are very cheap," says Moncel. "They only start to get expensive when you make them more "fancy," with things like cream sauces, nuts, bacon, cheese, sausage, or specialty produce like pomegranates." So, basically...keep it simple! The good news is...people love the classics. They're classic for a reason...and your wallet will thank you!
7. You Don't HAVE To Make a Full Turkey
Let's be honest. The turkey is no longer the star of the show. According to a new survey, 65% of people want an alternative main dish anyway! And who doesn't want to save room for a delicious stuffing...mashed potatoes...cranberry sauce?? So maybe consider an alternative...chicken is cheaper, and easier to cook! And if one is not enough to feed your brood, roasting TWO chickens is still cheaper than one 20lb turkey!
Yes, turkey is a showpiece, and you might want it to pull off your extravagant display. But. You don't need a full bird for that! Moncel suggests simply buying PARTS of the turkey (like the breasts or legs) and plating as you normally would. That way, you don't have to carve it...and it's a LOT cheaper than splurging on a full bird. Win/win.
8. Have Your Guests Pitch In
I NEVER show up for dinner at someone's house empty-handed. Your guests shouldn't either! Even if it's just a bottle of wine, it'll add up to serious savings. If you're taking care of ALL the food, ask guests to bring alcohol. Or, cook the turkey & stuffing yourself, and ask for some help with the rest of the side dishes. Maybe ask each person to bring a pie or a bottle of wine! There are lots of ways you can get your guests to pitch in...and it's only fair!
9. Or...Just Turn Thanksgiving Into a Potluck
Getting everyone involved is a great way to save some cash. "Sharing the burden of cooking with all your attendees allows everyone to sit back and enjoy the day, and makes it more affordable for everyone," says Moncel. Plus, you'll get a great variety of food, since you might not know what everyone is bringing!
10. Cook Just as Much Food as You NEED...You Don't Have to Aim For Leftovers
Moncel explains, "It's worth noting that you don't have to go big or go home for Thanksgiving. There's nothing wrong with cooking just the right amount of food for your guests." Leftover turkey sandwiches might sound amazing to you (and your guests), but it'll be cheaper if you scale down on the amount of food you're making, and that'll help you not only stay within your budget, but cut down on food waste.