Ah, Thanksgiving dinner…cooking, decorating, figuring out how you’ll fit everyone comfortably and the cost of it all seems like…a big headache. Don’t fret! Here are a few tips for Thanksgiving on a budget. They’re sure to make your guests and pocketbook feel thankful.
Cook Instead of Dining Out: It’s tempting to want to ditch the apron and head to a local restaurant for a Thanksgiving buffet. However, you may not realize that it’s much cheaper to cook than to dine out. It’s far easier to pay with a little labor than it is with a few Benjamins. In 2010, the average cost per person to eat out on Thanksgiving was $35.37, according to a Zagat Survey. Compare that to the 2011 study done by the American Farm Bureau Federation that found a meal prepared for 10 guests cost $4.92 per person – that apron looks a little more fashionable, doesn’t it?
Pot Luck It: If your family is on a tight budget (uh, whose isn’t?), then consider hosting a Thanksgiving potluck as an alternative to doing all of the cooking yourself. Everyone brings a different dish, everyone takes their containers home and no mess for you. Boom.
Trim the Menu: Whether you are cooking or hosting a potluck, gather everyone’s email addresses and send them a proposed menu. Make sure there’s a nice variety of items and check with your guests to see if there are any special requests or dietary requirements you need to be aware of. Everyone’s going to be “stuffed” so let’s keep it real. Do you really need three different potato salads and four pasta salads? Save some room for dessert!
Do Your Homework: Ads in the newspaper and coupons in weekly circulars are brimming with deals for Thanksgiving items. Often, large grocery chains offer specials when you buy all the “fixin’s” at once, so why not? Many places match or beat competitors’ prices; be armed with ads and coupons so you don’t have to waste time going from store to store to save.
Be Flexible: While the name brands would prefer you to think otherwise, store-branded items taste just as good, or even better. There are a couple of items that I buy from my local chain that have more taste and fewer calories than the well-known brand. If the only difference between the canned cranberry sauces is the price, even a turkey would know which one to buy!
Decorate on a Dime: Seasonal touches don’t have to cost an arm and a leg to make an impression. Candles create a warm atmosphere and artificial or real pumpkins and gourds are on sale at most places. Have an empty glass vase or two? Fill them with a couple of different dry bean varieties from the grocery store for an organic and rustic table display. Step outside – pinecones and leaves are free! Check out our 15 must-haves for fall décor for additional ideas!
Get Creative with Leftovers: By day four of turkey for lunch and turkey for dinner, I’ve had it. Instead, do something different with leftovers and discover new ways to eat what Benjamin Franklin thought our national bird should be. Not sure what to make? Check out recipes online for creative and fun ways to get your gobble on.
Remember, just like family and friends, quality, not quantity is what matters. Being lucky enough to have those you care about around you on Thanksgiving is reason enough to be thankful (that, and whipped cream on pumpkin pie).
Check out our Thanksgiving checklist for more tips – happy shopping!