Last updated on October 25th, 2018 at 10:06 am
Is money tight this holiday season? Learn how to stretch your Thanksgiving budget so you can throw a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with great food and even greater memories. It’s as easy as pie!
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Thanksgiving is right around the corner and if you’re like me, you’re already looking at your budget and wondering how you’re going to make it all work (especially with Christmas coming hot on Thanksgiving’s heels!). Today I’m going to share tips and tricks for stretching your Thanksgiving budget. You’ll be able to create a day full of great food and even greater memories—without breaking the bank—if you keep these things in mind!
The biggest key to staying within your Thanksgiving budget is to get organized. Heading into your local grocery store without a clear idea of what you are making and how much you need to buy to make it is a recipe for budget disaster.
Start by creating your guest list. If possible keep the guest list small to help lessen the strain on the budget. Gather all of your recipes and make note of the ingredients and quantities you’ll need. Make sure to “shop” your own cabinets—I know I have, for example, chicken stock, cream of onion soup, and marshmallows already in my cupboard. No need to add those items to my list this year.
Before you go shopping, however, make sure to keep these next few tips in mind.
Ask Guests to Bring a Dish or a Drink
Guests are often happy to bring a dish to a large gathering like Thanksgiving dinner. Reach out to your most responsible guests and ask if they’d like to bring anything. Cousin Betsy can bring her famous green bean casserole? Great! It’s off your list. Make sure your guest knows how many people will be attending your dinner so they can bring the right amount for everyone.
If you feel uncomfortable asking a guest to bring a dish, you can always see if they have an extra bottle of wine lying around that they could bring. They often do, and may stop at the store if they don’t—no one wants to show up to a party empty-handed.
Serve Only One Protein
Big Thanksgiving meals often have more than one protein—the big turkey plus perhaps a ham or a roast. To save money, this year choose to just have one protein. Turkey is probably your best bet, though you may choose something different depending on what your guests want to eat. My family often does ham, since we tend to like it more than the traditional turkey.
If you’re feeling really crazy this year, try a “Thanksgiving of Sides” and ditch the turkey altogether. I recently did a survey of about 100 of my friends on their favorite Thanksgiving food—and not one of them said turkey. But savory stuffing, marshmallowy yams, and classic mashed potatoes top the list. Let’s be real—it’s all about the sides!
Use Foods that Stretch the Budget
There are a lot of traditional Thanksgiving sides that have ingredients that won’t break your budget. Mashed potatoes and stuffing are two crowd-pleasers that can be made inexpensively from scratch . Pumpkin pie, also made from scratch, is probably the most economical pie—and people wouldn’t expect anything else at Thanksgiving dinner.
Skip fancy dishes with a long list of ingredients — stick with simple, home-cooked recipes and everyone will go back for seconds.
Consider Fewer Dishes but Larger Quantities
Likewise, choose to make fewer dishes this year but in larger quantities. Make a double batch of yams instead of one batch of yams and one batch of mac and cheese. Or just one large green bean casserole instead of an extra side of roasted veggies.
No one will miss a dish they never knew was going to be there, and buying fewer ingredients overall will make your budget go a lot further.
Choose One Signature Drink
Instead of opening up your bar cabinet to your guests, serve a signature Thanksgiving drink. I love a good fall sangria—white wine, a little rum, and sliced apples, spiced up with cloves and cinnamon. A delicious pairing with all of your favorite Thanksgiving food, and it’s a pretty inexpensive drink that can be made in batches as opposed to by the glass. Wine is always a solid choice as well, or a nice crisp cider.
You could also skip the drinks altogether—but where’s the fun in that?
Your local store will undoubtedly have a lot of great Thanksgiving food deals around the holidays. Buy a local paper and check the circulars, visit their website, get a rewards card, download their app, and sign up for emails and even text messages. Coupons and specials come in a lot of forms these days—make sure you’re seeing as many as possible! Also make sure you’re looking for manufacturer’s coupons as well, though buying the store brand is often a less expensive choice.
If you’re a Raley’s shopper (if you live close to one, you should be!), use your Something Extra rewards card to earn cash back on your Thanksgiving purchases. You’ll make back a percentage of what you spend, saving you even more money in the long run.
Use Curbside Pick Up
I’m usually a go-into-the-store-and-shop kind of girl. I walk our twins in our stroller to our local Raley’s two or three times a week and fill the bottom of our stroller with groceries. I visit with the people who work there — everyone knows and loves the boys!
But shopping for Thanksgiving on a budget is different. If your local store offers it, try curbside pick-up, like Raley’s eCart! You can sit at your computer, list in hand, and make sure you get everything you need the first time. I find it a lot easier to stick to my budget when I’m not wandering the aisles, looking for what I need. (I’m looking at you, delicious cheeses I always impulse-buy. You’ll have to wait until after Thanksgiving!)
And curb-side pick-up is convenient if you’re super busy—and who isn’t during this holiday season?
Decorate with Natural Elements
You don’t have to spend a fortune to decorate for Thanksgiving dinner. You don’t need fancy china, expensive glassware, and a glittery cornucopia bursting forth its plenty in the center of the table.
Stick to simple, natural elements like small white pumpkins, autumn leaves, pine cones, and simple linen napkins. You can even get a little crafty if you’d like!
But really, your guests aren’t there for the decor — they are there for the company and the good food!
Use Your Leftovers
While I love, love, love Thanksgiving food, I am an even bigger fan of Thanksgiving leftovers! Make sandwiches, wraps, and other meals out of your leftover food. Not paying for a handful of lunches or dinners after the big day saves you money, too.
I hope you’ve found these ideas helpful for stretching your Thanksgiving budget. How do you pinch pennies around the holidays? Leave me any tips I missed in the comments!