Maybe you’ve always wanted to host Thanksgiving but were concerned about the cost of feeding on of the largest meals of the year to a small army. The holidays and excess seem to go hand in hand. While many are struggling every day, a great Thanksgiving Feast can be created with a limited budget.
- Get started early. According to experts, the turkey is almost half of the cost of the typical Thanksgiving meal. AS frozen turkey can be purchased a month or so ahead of time. Avoid waiting until the last minute to shop for your turkey because the prices go up as the demand increases. A week or 2 before Thanksgiving you can usually snag a deal for under $.99/ pound for a great quality turkey, but you need to go grab it as soon as the deal is advertised so they don’t run out. If you can, grab 2 and toss the other one in the freezer for later. Just make sure to stay on top of the advertisements so you can grab the best deal.
- Purchase items in bulk. Of you’re feeding a large group, it can be worthwhile to purchase items in larger quantities. Many of the larger stores have an aisle with bulk items. Of course, there is also Costco, Sam’s Club, and similar stores that specialize in bulk quantities. If you don’t have a membership of your own, you could always ask a friend if you can tag along the next time they go.
- Utilize coupons. Grocery stores are fighting for your dollars this time of the year. It can be worth the time ti takes to cut out and use coupons. Start looking a month before the big day. Even if you don’t typically use coupons, it might be worthwhile around the holidays. This is also the time of the year where grocery stores will put baking products and canned goods on sale. Now is the time to stock up.
- Appetizers or No? There is a big debate about appetizers. While they can be expensive, they are something that my family has found to be worthwhile with so many little kids running around thinking they are starving. Having a few finger foods out that little kids can munch on while the meal is cooking has been a sanity saver for me. While I don’t recommend that you have so many that they replace the meal, a few choice appetizers can really be worth the time and money.
- Buy what is in season. Brussels sprouts are abundantly available in November, while asparagus is not. Be on the lookout for veggies that are harvested in November. Once you have done that, look through recipes on Pinterest and you will find some great ones that use those veggies.
- Be reasonable. Ok, this is something I have always struggled with. My mother raised me to always bring more because you never know if someone won’t be able to bring something. Also, we are a large family and my children do tend to eat a lot. So I will over-prepare. If you are trying to get a realistic prediction of how much food you need to prepare, you can use a food calculator that will give you an accurate estimation of the food you need to prepare that depends on how many people are attending. If you want to create a Thanksgiving Feast on a Budget then make sure you don’t overdo it.
- Do it yourself. Dinner rolls are really inexpensive in the store, but you can probably save even more money if you just do it yourself. Some items such as pecan pie can be expensive to make, but cheaper to make. You can also purchase the frozen pies that need to be baked. The best thing I ever did was purchase pie crusts and then add the filling myself especially if I am in a hurry. So while I am trying to create a Thanksgiving Feast on a Budget, I also have to consider my sanity too.
- Stick with the basics. Many amateur chefs make the mistake of trying out new dishes that require special skills, expensive ingredients, or both. These dishes rarely turn out well, and the good may end up going to waste. There’s a reason why the classics became classics. But if you are like me, you want to add something new to the mix. My suggestion is to add ONE new dish to try. I have had as many flops as things that have become a success and family favorites. So while it is risky, it can turn out to be amazing. Martha Stewart suggests a menu of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce, seasonal vegetables, and pumpkin pie. It is simple and inexpensive.
- Encourage all guests to bring a side dish. Take care of the turkey and let everyone else prepare and bring a dish of their own. This is a must for a large family get together. You can’t do everything. Someone is sure to bring something unique and interesting. I know I surprised my mother-in-law when I brought my Aunt’s Broccoli Casserole, but it quickly became a family favorite and a required dish. If you want to know more about how that turned out you can find out in my book, Meet Me at the Table. If you are stuck on what side dishes to bring check out 10 Thanksgiving Side Dishes Worth Sharing.
- Use the leftovers to your advantage. If you have overnight guests, they will need to be fed the following day. Push that leftover turkey on them. Who doesn’t like a turkey sandwich with homemade cranberry sauce on it? You already have the food, so put it to good use. If you are unsure what you should do with your leftovers or are tired of the same thing, check out 17 Thanksgiving Leftover Ideas. These are my favorite ways to use leftovers if we have any.
Bonus tip: I have switched over to using disposable plates and pans. I know they cost more money than using what you have, but you can get them cheaply from Dollar Tree, or even on sale at places like Hobby Lobby.
Why the last thing that could throw off your Thanksgiving Feast Budget? Because when it comes down to it, you don’t want to be a Martha, when you need to be a Mary. Thanksgiving is a time to create and share memories with your loved one. It isn’t necessary to spend a lot of money to accomplish that. So while the food is really important and you want to save money, it is the time you spend together that is really important.
This has never been more evident with the loss of my mother-in-law and her mother this year. Things are different this year. The family time is gone and all we have is the food and memories. So keep your budget small, share the burden of cooking, and live in the moment and enjoy your family. I promise you won’t regret it.