16 Tips For Hosting a Thrifty Thanksgiving
- Written by Matt Giovanisci
Here are a few money-saving tips when planning and hosting Thanksgiving. Since I’m not the wealthiest dude, I found some really great ways to save cash.
I consider myself a bit of a chef. I would say I’m an amateur, but I’m pretty good at it — I’d say intermediate at best. That said, I’ve been in charge of cooking our family’s Thanksgiving meal for the last few years. I’ve even hosted a few at my house, so I know a thing or two about planning a dinner party as well.
I wanted to share a few of my money-saving tips when planning and hosting Thanksgiving. Since I’m not the wealthiest dude, I found some really great ways to save cash and get the most out of everything I buy for the day. So without further ado, here are my, and a few other’s, tips for a thrifty Thanksgiving.
1. Plan Your Dinner With The Same Ingredients
When you’re planning your menu, try to find dishes that include the same ingredients. For instance, milk and butter can be used in mash potatoes, custard pies, green been casserole, etc.
I also recommend you keep your menu simple. For years I wanted to do a crazy Thanksgiving consisting of never-before seen dishes, but the truth is, people want the basics. They want a Turkey, potatoes, vegetables and gravy to smother it all in. They also want dessert and coffee, so don’t skimp.
2. Don’t Use Paper Plates And Plastic Forks
Sure, you think you’ll be saving yourself on the cleanup, but you won’t be saving money. Use plates and utensils you already own, wash them with soap and water. This is not the time to be lazy. Plus, who the hell wants to eat Thanksgiving on a paper plate. Come on!
3. Make Your Guest Bring Booze
Alcohol is mad expensive. So since you’re cooking the meal and hosting the party, it won’t be out of line to ask your guest to bring the beverages. Red wine and fall beers are must have at any Thanksgiving. Don’t wuss out on them either. Set some rules for your guests: no boxed wines, no cheap, light beers. Got it?
4. Buy a Cheap Ass Turkey
A Store-Brand Frozen Turkey will be just fine — it’s all in how you cook it anyway, which we’ll cover next. Try to snag a free turkey if you can. Perhaps one of your guests got a free one from work. Also, some grocery stores offer free turkeys as part of a VIP program. Check with your local store to see if they offer something like this, and if they do, take advantage of it.
5. Keep It Simple When Cooking The Turkey
In my opinion, people over do it when it comes to cooking a turkey. Even I fell into the trap of brining the turkey 24 hours before hand (brining is the act of soaking the turkey in salt water to make it juicer.) Thing is, all that nonsense is just nonsense. You can make a killer turkey with just an oven and a few aromatics.
Here is great turkey recipe that I follow every year. Nothing fancy, just simple and delicious and traditional — the way the pilgrims intended.
6. Beef Up On Vegetables
Vegetables are cheap and filling. Buy local vegetables to save even more money. Corn is in season and cheap as hell. Potatoes are also a good choice because they’re cheap and versatile. You can make regular mashed potatoes and baked sweet potatoes that will leave your guest filled and passed out on your couch — that and the booze of course.
Try some traditional favorites like good ol’ mashed potatoes, buttered corn and green bean casserole. Get weird and throw in roasted squash and a simple salad to start. Cheap, cheap, cheap!
7. Make Your Own Gravy
Do you know how freaking simple it is to make gravy? Forget the store bought crap (in this case) and throw the turkey innards in a saucepan and boil them to a classic gravy. Here’s a great recipe to follow, and here’s another if you wanna let out your inner Martha.
8. Store-Buy Pies
I hate making pies. They are a pain in the ass if you don’t know what you’re doing. You gotta make the crust, then the filling, and bake up. In this case, I recommend going with the store bought stuff. You can pick up a pie for like $10 (even cheaper frozen), and you’ll save yourself money by the time you get done buying all the ingredients.
If you want, you can ask your guest to bring dessert and booze. The more responsibility you put on your guests, the more money you save. If they have an problem, remind them you’re COOKING!!!
9. Use Coupons (ugh!)
This is pretty self explanatory, but I should probably take my own advice. I am not a coupon guy. I don’t have time, patience, plus I feel like a dweeb when I use them, but that’s MY issue. You, on the other hand, should absolutely use coupons to save cash when buying food.
10. Borrow Stuff From Friends And Neighbors Not Hosting Thanksgiving
If you don’t have a gravy boat, borrow one. If you don’t have a turkey roasting pan, borrow one. If don’t have a meat thermometer, borrow one. Get the point? Try borrowing before buying. You’re only gonna use this stuff once a year, right? Seriously, how often do you use a gravy boat?
Speaking of gravy boats, I use a travel mug to house my gravy. Why? Keeps the gravy warm and makes it easy to pour, duh.
11. Scale Back
Sounds like a diet, but it works. Make enough food, but too much can be a pain to pack up and deal with (unless you’re thinking leftovers). And people’s eyes are bigger than their stomachs, so if you only put out smaller plates, people won’t eat as much, either leaving you with leftovers or the cash you saved by not buying so much.
12. Leftovers Are Awesome
If you plan ahead, you can make extra to force leftovers so that you can save money in the days to come. Not a bad idea, but make sure you’re not the kind of person that gets tired of eating the same things everyday. Personally, I could eat Thanksgiving every single day of my life.
13. Make Turkey Soup
You may have carved every last morsel off that turkey skeleton, but that doesn’t mean it’s trash. Stash that carcass in a pot, add some broth, a potato…baby, you got a stew going!
14. Affordable Appetizers
Crack your own nuts basket, veggies, chips and dip. Boom!
15. Turn Down The Heat
You’re oven is going to be on for most of the day, and there will be warm bodies in your house, so it will be the perfect time to save on your energy bill by turning down the heat on your thermostat.
While we’re on the subject of thermostats, have I told you about the Nest thermostat? Totally changed my life, and my energy bill. It’s expensive, but worth every penny in my opinion.
16. Use The Environment For Decorations
I’m not so good with decorating — the stereotype holds up. So while I may not be qualified to provide Thanksgiving decorating tips, Trent from TheSimpleDollar.com has some excellent insight…
Instead of using tired, store-purchased decorations to make your setting look festive, take a walk outdoors the day before Thanksgiving and look for appropriate natural decorations. Pine cones, acorns, bright red maple leaves, cuttings from a pine tree, and other such decorations, laid carefully at the center of the table, are not only free, but they also look gorgeous and can smell quite nice, too.
- Get your guests to decorate the Christmas tree so you don’t have to do it later. Make it a party.
Hope this can help you out too. Happy Thank$giving!