You can’t put it off another year. It’s your turn to host Thanksgiving, but you’ve got to do it on a budget or you may end up doing serious damage to your bank account.
Don’t panic—it’s easier than you think. These five time-tested tips can help you host Thanksgiving dinner on a budget so you can stay financially fit for the rest of the holiday season.
How do you save on Thanksgiving dinner?
1. Keep it Simple
First things first: step away from the Pinterest. Those fancy recipes and cocktails are enticing, but they take a lot of work to pull off and often contain expensive, hard-to-find ingredients. Save the fancy feast for a year when you’ve got more financial wiggle room and stick to the classics. You can put together a wonderful and affordable meal if you plan ahead. So prepare your menu—and your guest list—early.
Keeping your guest list small can also help. Why not prepare an intimate meal for just six people, or a Thanksgiving dinner for two on a budget?
2. Shop Early, Shop Smart
We’ve all done that last-minute holiday dash, pinging frantically from one crowded parking lot to the next to fight for that last overpriced can of cranberry sauce. But if you shop ahead of the holiday, you can take advantage of sales and even freeze expirable items until a day or two before Thanksgiving.
While it’s always tempting to grab the nearest item you need off the shelf and move on, that’s a surefire way to blow your Thanksgiving budget before you’re halfway through your list. And speaking of budgets, make sure to create one before you even set foot in a grocery store. “You must have a budget to work from, know what your budget can be for Thanksgiving, and then get creative to make it work,” says Jennifer Poindexter of the Morning Chores blog. “One way to do this is to start thinking of every way you can save on food starting now!”
Once you’ve committed to a budget and shopping early, you can take time to compare prices, buy generic when available, and check your grocery store’s circular for any special promotions. You can also find out if your store offers free pickup or delivery. Walmart offers a free pickup service that lets you order ahead via their mobile app, and even brings your groceries direct to your car when you arrive. Can’t beat that!
3. Look In Your Pantry Before you go to the Store
Who hasn’t bought garlic salt, only to find that ingredient sitting on the shelf while putting the new groceries away? Before you shop, make a list of what you need to buy, and see if you have some in your cupboard already. You might even uncover a can of pumpkin puree in there from last year. Go ahead and use anything that hasn’t expired.
If you want to take this tip to the next level, ask family or close friends if they have any of the ingredients you need. They may well have a partially used bag of sugar, some nutmeg, or other ingredient that they don’t plan to use.
4. Ask for Help
Cesar Chavez once said, “You are never strong enough that you don't need help.” Thanksgiving is about togetherness, so don’t feel like you have to go it alone. It’s totally okay to ask your friends and family to pitch in by bringing a favorite appetizer, drink, dessert, or even just an extra set of hands to help you prepare for the day.
If any of your guests have special dietary restrictions, this is also a great way to ensure they can partake in the meal. So go ahead and ask Cousin Kate to bring her special gluten-free dinner rolls or vegan casserole. Unsure of what to ask for? Check out The Kitchn’s five delicious and easily transportable dishes for inspiration.
5. A Great Presentation Goes a Long Way
Pay no attention to Martha this year. You can set a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner table on a limited budget. This is where you get to be creative. Pull out your grandmother’s best silver, your parents’ fine china, or that set of ramekins you got as a housewarming gift three years ago and never thought you’d use. Sure, this means more cleanup later, but that’s not a bad tradeoff when you’re aiming for elegance on a budget. You can also hit your local consignment shops, which often feature an array of funky, vintage dinnerware for cheap if that’s more your style. Prefer disposables? Consider buying a pack of bamboo or palm leaf dinnerware. These products are eco-friendly, biodegradable, and add a touch of class for not much money.
Life as Mom’s Jessica Fisher also recommends creating an ad-free environment. “Remove foods from their original packaging,” she says. “This may seem like some work, but if a pretty presentation is your goal, setting out a bottle of mustard or dip in its branded packaging is not the way you want to go.” Yup, this is where your ramekins come in.
Experts also recommend matching the color of your napkins and tablecloth—a simple solution that really ties the room together. And finally, don’t forget to make use of whatever fall decorations you’ve already got on hand. So grab your decorative gourds, dust off that pumpkin spice candle, pull your autumn wreath out of storage, and you’re all set for the main event!
Get organized, get cooking, and get ready to save!
By keeping it simple, getting organized, and sticking to your plan, you can serve a delightful Thanksgiving on a budget.