Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and if you’re like most Americans, your Thanksgiving is all about family, friends, and food—lots of food. But a bounteous feast isn’t exactly easy on the budget. If you’re trying to eliminate wasteful spending or save money, your turkey dinner can put you behind on your goals or, even worse, drive you further into debt.
With a little creativity, however, you can still enjoy a Thanksgiving of plenty without overspending. Here are some of the easiest ways you can save money on your Thanksgiving dinner:
By far, the best way to save money on Thanksgiving dinner is to have a potluck dinner. This way, you can enjoy a wide array of foods without having to break the bank. Invite your family and friends, but make everyone bring a dish. Not only is this easier on the budget, but it gives you more time to enjoy friends and family instead of spending all your time in the kitchen.
Elaborate dishes not only take a lot of time to prepare, they often use expensive ingredients you won’t likely use again. Unless you’re dying to try a new recipe, stick to the basics. You can still wow your guests with your cooking skills by making simple, inexpensive tweaks to your favorite dishes.
The turkey is usually the most expensive part of the meal. If you find yourself throwing out half your turkey each year, or if you don’t want to spend $20 or more on a turkey, maybe it’s time to think outside the box. Seafood, chicken, or roasts are all perfectly acceptable alternatives that will probably be even cheaper. It might even be the start of a fun tradition.
The average American family throws away 25% of the food they prepare for Thanksgiving. With that in mind, it’s safe to say you can probably get away with making less of each dish than you would for a normal meal. Prepare enough so that everyone in attendance will be able to have a small serving. If there is a specific dish you notice that ends up in the trash year after year, skip it altogether.
Alcohol can really eat away at your budget. If you’d like to save money, limit the amount you purchase or go without altogether. If you’re doing a potluck style Thanksgiving, assign one or two of your guests to bring a bottle of wine as their contribution. You could also make it a BYOB event.
Make sure you know what you’re going to prepare, then plan accordingly. This will eliminate costly, last-minute trips to the store. Go through your pantry so you know exactly what you already have, which will keep you from buying ingredients that are already sitting in your pantry. Make lists to help you stay organized.
Scour the weekly ads so you know who’s having the best deals on turkeys, yams, and other basic ingredients. If you don’t want to go to different store, gather your ads and head to a store that price matches.
Don’t wait until the day or two before Thanksgiving to make your big shopping trip. Stores often sell out of the cheapest items quickly around Thanksgiving, especially the closer it gets. This leaves the most expensive brands to the procrastinators. On that note, don’t be afraid to reach for the generic brands, either.
With a little preparation, your Thanksgiving feast can be both satisfying and easy on the budget.