Tips for Making Thanksgiving Dinner on a Budget

Sweet pie

Thanksgiving dinner is iconic. Who doesn’t look forward to devouring a huge, traditional spread of Turkey Day food with family every year? But given expectations for a glorious holiday meal, the cost of celebrating can easily get out of hand without a good plan. Here are some tips to help you put out a full Thanksgiving spread on the table that won’t drown your budget in gravy.

Accept Help and Make Dinner a Potluck

Don’t try and do everything yourself. Ask for help. Get your family and friends involved to help spread out the cost and cut back on the time you spend in the kitchen or in the grocery store. Plan to prepare the main dishes, but assign or ask your guests to bring side dishes, appetizers or dessert. Accepting this assistance is a really good way to cover all the traditional dishes and it may even help create a few new ones. After a few years, your guests may develop specialty dishes like Aunt Kay’s famous sweet potato pie, that people look forward to year after year.

Stick to Your Plan and Shopping Budget

There’s no way you can run to the store last minute and get everything you need for Thanksgiving dinner. Spend some time and write out a menu, create a budget and stick to both. Your menu should be detailed down to appetizers and drinks. Cut out those menu items that might break your budget and consider cheaper alternatives to more expensive dishes before making a final, master list.  Once you have all your dishes figured out, make a grocery list. Check your fridge, pantry and freezer to see what ingredients you already have so you don’t accidentally buy duplicates on your shopping trips.

Stack Coupons and Discounts

When you go to the grocery for regular shopping trips in November, take your Thanksgiving list along and pick up items you need that go on sale for the holiday or on special. Thanksgiving is also a great time to buy food in bulk at club stores like Costco or Sam’s Club if you have a membership. Save more by purchasing generic ingredients like sugar, spices, flour or canned pumpkin. Don’t forget to look in store flyers, newspapers and online for coupons. You may also be able to stack manufacturer coupons, store coupons and sales, adding up to even bigger savings. Check supermarket apps for additional savings with digital coupons as well.

Don’t Spend Big Bucks on Your Turkey

Turkey can be an expensive main dish, especially if you need a large bird to feed a lot of guests. Make sure you spend some time browsing various stores in your area for deals. Many grocery stores and turkey farms will be competing for sales during the holidays and this can yield lower prices. Some stores may even offer a free turkey with purchase of a certain dollar amount spent on groceries, or offer a coupon for turkey when you spend a certain amount. You can also save quite a bit of money if you buy a frozen bird instead of a fresh one.

You may also consider serving a different main dish. Turkey is such a classic food on Thanksgiving that it may be hard to sell your family and friends on a substitute. But if they are open to it, you can try chicken or ham, which may be cheaper alternatives.



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