Written by Sarah Cocchimiglio
Ready or not, Turkey Day is just a few short weeks away. Are you ready? If you’re hosting a crowd for Thanksgiving dinner and you’re on a budget, don’t panic. Follow these tips to save cash on the big feast—without cutting down on any holiday cheer.
Streamline your menu. No one expects you to prepare two turkeys, a ham, six appetizers, eight side dishes, five pies, three different gravies and two cranberry sauces. Decide what’s really essential for your crew—for example, turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, maybe a family recipe for pumpkin pie—and stick to the tried and true. Adding lots of frivolous dinner elements will just run up your grocery bill, and probably overwhelm your guests.
Plan to save. If you wait until the night before to start shopping for Thanksgiving dinner, you’ll likely end up spending a fortune because you succumb to allure of expensive store-bought and prepared ingredients. Start today by inviting your guests, planning your menu, making a shopping list, and looking for coupons and sales on items you’ll need. To keep costs down, don’t overbuy—if you have more food than your guests can eat, it will probably go to waste. (And how many turkey sandwiches do you really want to choke down just to get rid of leftovers? We thought so.)
Stay seasonal. Always use fruits and vegetables that are in season, like broccoli and Brussels sprouts, which you’ll be able to buy fresh and cheap. Bonus: In-season fare tastes better, too. To save you from stressing on turkey day, you can also prepare a few things ahead of time, like dinner rolls, apple pie and cranberry sauce, then refrigerate or freeze them.
Don’t look a gift bird in the mouth. If your grocery store offers a free turkey when you spend a certain amount of money, take advantage of the deal. And if there isn’t a free bird in your future, consider purchasing a frozen supermarket turkey, since they cost a fraction of a fresh heritage turkey. There are several online calculators you can use to determine what size turkey you’ll need, based on your number of guests, and also how long the bird will take to thaw and to cook.
Sip smarter. Visit a wholesale liquor store, and also be on the lookout for alcohol sales at the grocery store and club stores. Don’t turn your nose at boxed wine either—quality has greatly improved in the past few yeas. On average, one box of wine (that usually costs under $20) contains about four bottles, making it a more affordable option. Serve it in a decanter and guests will never know the difference. For non-drinkers and kids, serve coffee, tea, or homemade punch, which are all cheaper (and healthier) than soda.
Become a yes woman or man. When friends and family ask, “What can I bring?” resist the urge to reply, “Just yourself!” Ask your guests to bring a signature recipe they are known for (they’ll love getting compliments), a side dish, dessert, cheese and crackers, or a bottle of wine to round out the meal. Trust us: People are more than thrilled to add to the feast.
Set the table simply. Use natural decorations like pumpkins and fall leaves for your tablescapes. And while disposable plates and cutlery saves time on cleanup, they’re expensive and also bad for the environment. Be kind to your wallet and the earth by running the dishwasher.
TELL US: What are your tips for saving money on Thanksgiving dinner? What menu items offer the most bang for your buck?
About this series: As part of our Smart Spending reporting, Patch is profiling people across the country who have found creative ways to save money. If you're a smart spender, we want to hear from you! Share your story here or in the comments section below.