Thanksgiving is a time to spend with family and friends, a time to be grateful and count your blessings. It doesn’t have to be a lavish affair. In fact, doing Thanksgiving on a budget will not only save you money but can be rewarding. A budget-minded feast takes but a little planning and a little creativity. You can celebrate the goodness in your life with turkey, side dishes, desserts, and drinks and do it all within your monthly food budget. If you are hosting this year’s dinner, here are ways to keep the costs down, and enjoy the day and your company as it’s meant to be.
Creating a Menu on a Budget
It’s always good to plan a menu for Thanksgiving. Doing so allows you to prepare a budget, too. Begin to shop flyers earlier in the month to find out what’s on sale when. Use those coupons and even buy in bulk. Flyers also offer ideas for what you may want on the table.
If you’re hosting family and friends, don’t be bashful to ask for help. In fact, most will be more than happy to pitch in and participate. Delegate, and ask guests to bring a side dish, appetizers, a bottle or two of wine, or desserts. You’ll save costs, but also reduce the time you have to spend in the kitchen and increase the time with your company.
Why Not Soup?
If you are doing Thanksgiving on a budget, serving up a tasty soup is a good way, but also an affordable way to start the meal. Soup is inexpensive and a nice touch. You do not have to serve that much—too much can run the risk of filling your guests up (which is okay on a budget) before the main course of turkey and the trimmings. One thing is for sure, by serving soup you can count on leftovers.
Prepare Your Own Dishes
Though there are many convenience foods that are insanely cheap, they are more than likely loaded with preservatives, chemicals and high-fructose corn syrup that offer little or no nutritional value. The artificial flavoring cannot compare to the taste of homemade cooking or baking, either. Even better, making dishes from scratch is cheaper. All you need is a good recipe. Buying ingredients like flour, sugar, yeast, baking powder, etc. in bulk is the means to prepare fresh dishes or desserts anytime. Consider that baking a homemade pumpkin pie can cost less than half of a $20 one from a bakery and realize the savings.
Serve Fresh Food
Instead of buying packaged or canned foods, save by shopping for fresh foods at your local grocery store. Buy a bag of potatoes to peel, steam, mash, and butter. Do the same for carrots. Sweet potatoes can be sliced and diced and sprinkle with brown sugar, salt, and pecans, and then baked or broiled in the oven. Come late November, Brussels sprouts are peaking. Slice them in half, add olive oil, sea salt, and bake them for 50 minutes at 325F. Cauliflower is in peak season through November, too, and is just as delicious baked as the sprouts. You can prepare your own stuffing with leftover bread, onion, celery (another inexpensive, seasonal produce), seasoning, and organic broth (usually around $2 per quart). Any of the above choices can help you do this Thanksgiving on a budget.
The Big Bird
Supermarket turkeys can be purchased fresh for approximately $2 a pound (even less frozen). Fresh turkeys can be bought the weekend before. There is no hard and fast rule on the size turkey to purchase, but plan on at least one pound per person and go from there. For added flavor, brine your turkey overnight and bake it upside down (it lets the juices from the dark meat baste the turkey from within).