Thanksgiving on a Budget (Slideshow)
August 16, 2013
Go easy on your wallet this holiday with these budget-friendly tips
"Making your Thanksgiving feast a potluck affair is one of the best ways to save. Potlucks are entirely acceptable and they give guests a chance to show off their epicurean prowess. Just keep a running list of who's bringing what so you don't end up with duplicate dishes or missing entire courses."
— David Bakke
Feature Fresh Alternatives
"You can save time in the kitchen, or you can save money. It's a tough decision. If you decide to go the latter route, skip the pre-cut cheese and veggie tray and prepare your own. The same concept applies to any dish, appetizer, or dessert you plan to serve. Accept the inevitability of kitchen time (you agreed to host, remember?) and have fun with it. Invite friends or family over to help if doing all the prep and cooking alone is intimidating. Or prepare dishes in advance to save time on the big day and money."
— David Bakke
But Know When to Go Canned or Frozen
While you’re certainly cutting some dollars from your bill by creating the crudité platter yourself, there’s also sound reason for buying some canned and frozen foods for your Thanksgiving dinner, too. Just because everyone’s gone organic these days doesn’t mean that fresh is always better. Frozen foods are actually healthier than most of the fresh varieties on the stand, and usually cheaper, too.
Reduce Your Grocery Bill by Spending It in Increments
It’s never too early to start planning for Thanksgiving — seriously — and that goes for grocery shopping, as well. One of Bakke’s tips is to start making your grocery trips weeks or even months in advance. Pay attention to sales that are going on and collect coupons. You’ll be capitalizing on great deals that may not occur during the holiday season, and you’ll cut down your spending by doing it in increments rather than all at once.
Don’t Make It Complicated
We know — the way Ina Garten put together that sausage and sage cornbread stuffing in her beautiful kitchen in East Hampton, N.Y., was so inspiring, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it exactly the same way, and at the same price. Take inspiration from recipes that you find but don’t get bogged down by the specifics of them if they’re going to rack up the grocery bill. Make smart choices, like instead of buying fresh sage, use the dried jar you have in your pantry, and maybe your mashed potatoes don’t need that truffle oil.
Don’t Forget About the Breasts
Big families are a blessing, but they can also be expensive. When you’re figuring out how many turkeys to buy for Thanksgiving this year, don’t forget about the breasts. They’re a cheaper cut of turkey than buying the whole bird and can help you save money by increasing the amount of turkey you’re serving without buying an entire additional one.
Feature a Themed Drink
"One way to reduce the expense of alcohol is to feature a themed mixed drink. Pumpkin punch, for example, is seasonal, fun, and affordable. Find a simple recipe online and substitute well brands for more expensive top-shelf options. Let your friends know in advance what you'll be concocting, and if they have more exclusive tastes, they can bring their own favorite libation."
— David Bakke
The grocery stores are doing it to you, so you might as well do it to them. Be strategic with your grocery stores, and pay attention to all of their sales and bargains during the holidays. They’re all battling with each other to get your patronage, so capitalize on their efforts and take advantage of each one. It might mean a couple of stops, but you’ll be saving yourself some money.
Be a Smart Shopper
These days, there are all kinds of apps and tools available to help us not only cook but plan for big meals like holiday dinners. This Thanksgiving Calculator is a great resource to use to figure out how much food you’ll need to feed the family, and it’ll help you avoid wasting money on uneaten food.