Thanksgiving on a Budget

5 years ago

Thanksgiving dinner can get expensive. Think about it: Whether you are serving dinner for two or 22, most people are buying turkey, vegetables, potatoes, dressing, wine, cranberries and pie, at the very least. Fine. Vegetarians don't need the turkey and a lot of you can do without the wine and pie, but a traditional Thanksgiving dinner can be pricey.

Yes, I see the irony in the fact that I am writing this post -- we go nuts at Thanksgiving at my house. We usually host at least 14 people, and we cook two turkeys, three vegetables, mashed and sweet potatoes, two kinds of dressing (one traditional, one with cornbread and chorizo), cranberries, a case of wine, a relish tray, two or three pies and usually appetizers. I'm not great with the whole "everything in moderation" thing, but I can speak to saving a few bucks at the grocery store.

Credit Image: OnTask on Flickr

You see, my husband is the cook, and I am the shopper.

My friend Kim had the best plan. Kim said the best way to do Thanksgiving on a budget is to eat at someone else's house. I think this is brilliant. However, if this isn't an option for you, I have a few more ideas.

Make Everything from Scratch

Yes. It takes longer and is more work, but it is cheaper and everything will taste better and generally be healthier. It will at least have fewer preservatives. You might want to make a few things ahead of time; some vegetable dishes and casseroles heat up beautifully.

Think about it. A can of green beans costs about $ 1.79 for 14.5 ounces of mush and liquid. A bag of frozen green beans is $ 2.39 for 16 ounces. A bag of fresh cut washed and ready to eat costs $ 3.29 for 12 ounces and a pound of fresh (fresh!) uncut green beans is $1.99 per pound and they haven't been processed or over handled. They taste better, are better for you AND they are cheaper.

For a Smaller Dinner, Just Buy a Turkey Breast

If there are just one, two or three people attending your Thanksgiving dinner, you don't actually have to cook an entire turkey. You can just buy a turkey breast. It is still a good amount of meat for far less money.

Store Old Bread in the Freezer to Make the Dressing/Stuffing

This is genius. Everybody knows that dressing or stuffing or croutons aren't supposed to be made with fresh bread. There is no reason to buy new bread three days ahead of time and let it sit. Start putting older marginal (not if it has mold, throw that away) in the freezer early in November, and you will have plenty to work with by the time Thanksgiving rolls around.

Have Your Guests Bring a Side

If you are hosting family or friends, assign your guests a side dish to bring. It sounds crazy, but this way you get the menu you planned, don't end up with three cranberry dishes, and maybe you won't have to bake a dessert at all. It also takes the stress of figuring out what to bring away from your friends.

If you have controlling friends or an aunt who doesn't like to conform, just give that person first choice.

Don't Throw Away Those Leftovers!

I know we all love turkey on Black Friday, but by Sunday we are all sick to death of Thanksgiving leftovers. You can make turkey salad or turkey soup with leftovers, and they are delicious, and it doesn't feel like more recycling. Last year my husband took the last of the meat and made turkey pot pies from scratch that were to die for.

What tips do you have for Thanksgiving on a budget?

BlogHer Contributing Editor, Sarah can also be found at Sarah and the Goon Squad and Draft Day Suit.

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