If you’re the one responsible for hosting Thanksgiving dinner, it’s important that you get started on planning as soon as possible. Not only is there simply a lot to get done, but the earlier you start your shopping and preparation, the more time you give yourself to plan a wonderful and affordable Thanksgiving. These tips, strategies and secrets should make the mammoth task of getting ready for Turkey Day a lot easier.
Give yourself at least a week to plan your menu. Figure out exactly how much food you’re going to need, talk to your guests about bringing dishes of their own if you’re going that route, and give yourself plenty of time to stock up.
While you may want to show off your culinary skills with modern twists on traditional recipes, it’s best to stick to the basics if you’re looking to save money and time. Most people are looking forward to the classics on Thanksgiving anyway, so skip the pricier and fancier ingredients.
Make a sweep of your pantry and the rest of your kitchen to see which ingredients you already have. Check which spices are in your spice drawer, which pots and pans are in your arsenal and how much milk and butter are in the fridge so that you don’t end up buying things you don’t need.
It can be incredibly annoying to return home with a trunkful of groceries only to find that you have nowhere to put them. Make sure there’s plenty of room in your fridge and pantry before you leave the house.
Plan on going to the supermarket at least twice, and make a separate list for both trips. The first trip can be a week or more in advance and should be when you purchase non-perishables like canned goods. The second trip should be a couple days before the holiday, when you purchase perishable items like vegetables.
You can save quite a bit of money when you know how to utilize coupons the right way. Check out local circulars and newspapers as well as the websites of local supermarkets to see if they have any deals or coupons you can clip for the items you need.
You should also use the circulars and the internet to compare prices at local grocery stores and markets so that you know the best place to shop. Perhaps certain items on your list are best bought at one store, while others are cheaper at another one.
Grocery shopping can easily become quite expensive, so it’s important to create a specific and realistic budget to stick to. Your bill can add up fast, especially if you’re paying full price for everything, so it’s best to take advantage of as many deals and sales as you can to stay within your means.
The best way to get organized is to plan all your recipes in advance and use those as a guide for making your grocery list. This doesn’t have to be set in stone, however, and if you see better deals or alternatives while shopping, feel free to make some changes to suit your budget or your needs.
The last thing you want to be doing in the middle of a crowded grocery store is digging through your cart to make sure you grabbed sage, and it's also frustrating to get home and realize you've bought something twice. As you put something into your cart, check it off your list.
It’s important to know exactly how much turkey to buy for Thanksgiving, not only so you don’t run out but also so that you don’t have too much on hand. It’s unnecessary to just buy an extra turkey and hope everything works out. You should plan on 1 1/2 pounds of turkey per person if you’re making a whole bird. If you need more than one turkey, consider buying turkey breasts rather than a second whole bird. Three-quarters of a pound per person is good for bone-in turkey breast, while boneless turkey breast should be purchased at half a pound per person.
Around Thanksgiving time, many grocery stores have promotional offers with heavily discounted turkeys, or even ones that are free, often with a minimum purchase amount or alongside select items. You have so many options that there’s no need to pay full price for your turkey.
Making things from scratch is typically less expensive than buying them premade, and we all know that home-cooked is almost always better. But in case of emergency (or if you’re just feeling completely overwhelmed), don’t hesitate to save yourself the trouble and go the prepared route. After all, certain dishes are better store-bought than homemade.
To save even more money, skip the brand names. Certain items should always be bought generic anyway, as your guests likely won’t even know the difference.
It’s going to be a little more expensive, but buy just a little bit more of everything than you think you’ll need. You don’t want to run out of butter while making those pie crusts, or run out of cranberry sauce before everyone’s gotten some.
Thanksgiving is a special occasion, so break out the nice silverware. Not only are disposable plates, bowls and utensils less cost-effective and a bad aesthetic choice, but they’re also not a very eco-friendly option.
The absolute worst day to do your Thanksgiving shopping is on the Tuesday before the big day, according to Michael Ruhlman’s “Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America.” Because many people are hoping to beat the rush on the day before, stores end up getting crowded the day before that, too. The day before Thanksgiving is still also a terrible day to shop, especially because you don’t want to be stuck with the leftovers of what the crowds have already picked through or find that the ingredients you need are no longer in stock.
There are going to be leftovers to distribute among your guests (or to stockpile for yourself), so prepare accordingly. Just make sure you’re aware of how long your Thanksgiving leftovers will last.
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