How to Serve an Affordable Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving is a unique holiday: a time for gathering around the dinner table, enjoying a grand meal, and giving thanks for family, friends, and our collective freedoms and blessings. Its origins date back to the 1621 Pilgrim feast in Plymouth, Massachusetts, where the early Pilgrims were prompted by a plentiful harvest to celebrate together with a feast.

Today, Thanksgiving remains one of the few holidays that isn’t cluttered with consumer-driven purchases and excessiveness, beyond the turkey and the trimmings on the dinner table. Even so, the cost of hosting your Thanksgiving celebration can easily expand beyond your budget if you are not careful. Here are some simple tips for trimming your Thanksgiving celebration costs while hosting a wholesome, sumptuous meal that your family and guests will love.

Buy a frozen big bird.

The cost of the turkey is 40% percent of your meal. You can save money by shopping supermarket sales, choosing a frozen turkey over fresh, and buying bigger if the per pound cost is lower. Leftover turkey can be frozen for future meals or used in a variety of turkey-based meals.

Start from scratch.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a stellar cook, roasting a turkey with the trimmings isn’t complicated. The best way to save money for side dishes and sweets is prepare food yourself, rather than opting for pre-prepared foods that can double or even triple your cost. Check online for some great Thanksgiving dinner budget-saving recipes: Epicurious has a Thanksgiving menu that weighs in at just $10 per person; Eating Well offers one for just $7.00 per person.

Stick with a simpler menu.

The turkey is likely a given, but you don’t need a large series of starches – from stuffing to potatoes to cornbread to yams – to go with it. Decide on fewer, simpler side dishes that are budget-friendly. Expensive recipe items like herbs can really add up: get creative and forego some items that you really don’t need to make a delicious dish.

Ask guests to bring a dish.

The earliest Thanksgiving meals were shared – why not keep with the tradition? Ask your guests to bring an appetizer, side dish, dessert, bread or beverage to share. Give guests some options, and then enjoy the communal feast.

Get creative with table trimmings.

Forego the expensive themed paper products for everyday generic items. White napkins are as elegant as those with a turkey imprinted on them, perhaps more so. Better yet, eliminate paper products altogether if you have enough dishes and cloth napkins to go around. For a table centerpiece, collect colorful leaves, berries and pinecones from outside, and place in a decorative bowl with a candle or two. If you have kids, let them create placeholders or table decorations with craft items. You can check out for a cornucopia of low-cost decorating ideas.

These are just a few ideas that will help you create a budget-wise, bountiful Thanksgiving feast that you and your guests will cherish. Have any other creative money-saving Thanksgiving tips? Or perhaps a no-cost family tradition you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Since we’re talking turkey about holiday savings, we encourage you to gobble up our free Holiday Spending Guide. It is stuffed with tips on carving out a sensible holiday budget plan and sticking to it.

Holiday Spending Budget Template  

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Hanscom Federal Credit Union
Hanscom Federal Credit Union

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