One thing to be thankful for is the traditional Thanksgiving meal is actually pretty inexpensive, as festive meals go. However, it is possible to reduce this cost even more by employing these handy dandy tips.
1. Make your menu early! Select your recipes and make a list of ingredients you need early, ideally in October. This way, you can watch for items you want to go on sale. As you prepare your menu, do so with price in mind. An example; compare the cost of pecan pie versus pumpkin pie (and serve pumpkin).
2. Shop ahead – Lots of specialty holiday items are on sale right now so it’s a perfect time to stock up. Look for coupons in the newspaper and online to add to your savings. Remember, because the specialty items are on sale, the regular weekly “milk and bread” items are not. If possible, buy those items in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving when they are on sale to avoid paying top dollar the week of the holiday.
Read more tips on stocking up here: Taking Stock of Stocking Up
3. Score a free turkey – Major retailers know you’ll be spending more than usual on holiday food. To lure you to their store they will offer a free turkey with a minimum purchase. I must say the purchase amount required to get your turkey has gone up substantially in the last few years but if you’re going to spend the money anyway it can still be a great deal. Just follow the grocery ads to see which grocery chain is making the best offer for your needs. When you choose your free turkey, get the biggest one you find. You can always freeze any leftovers. And next, I will contradict myself.
4. Plan for less waste – Get a head count and don’t cook for twenty if you’re only expecting six. Do you really need to serve both turkey and ham? Do you need three kinds of stuffing and seven sides? Nope. The biggest turkey isn’t a bargain if you waste half so rather than roast a whole turkey, smaller groups could consider roasting a turkey breast. The total cost will be lower even if the cost per pound is higher. If you really like the “whole bird” experience look for a small turkey or consider a large roasting chicken.
5. Plan for using your leftover turkey ahead of time so you have all the ingredients necessary on hand. Turkey is so versatile. To avoid the ‘turkey again?” syndrome – get creative. Instead of traditional turkey noodle soup, make curried turkey soup. Instead of sandwiches, simmer sliced turkey in BBQ sauce and make sliders. Or make turkey salad, turkey tacos or turkey fettuccine.
6. Make dinner potluck – If you’re hosting the big dinner don’t hesitate to ask guests to bring a dish. It’s easiest for the host to make the turkey, stuffing and gravy and ask guests to bring sides, drinks and dessert. People love to help and its less work for you.
7. Don’t buy plastic containers to send leftovers home. Ask guests to bring their own plastic containers to take leftovers. Or start saving your disposable plastics (Cool Whip, yogurt, sour cream containers) to send home with friends after the meal. We call this “Redneck Tupperware”.
8. Buy frozen pies – Frozen pies are crazy cheap right now, less than half the regular price. If you have room in the freezer, buy extra. To acknowledge all the homemade purists; yes, you can bake a better pie but not a cheaper one. Make your blue-ribbon pie another time when it can be the star of the show.
9. Don’t buy what you can borrow – If you’re hosting a crowd, ask around to borrow folding tables and chairs, extra bake ware and serving dishes, tablecloths and décor items. This also goes for that turkey baster you use once a year.
10. Be a rebel – If you can stand the idea, have something totally non-traditional on Thursday and plan your feast for later in the weekend. Lots of prices on traditional items are drastically reduced on Friday so you can have your holiday dinner at a savings. However – get your turkey in plenty of time to thaw and before they run out!
Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours.