There is no need to spend an excessive amount of money on a memorable and delicious Thanksgiving dinner. If you are cooking, most of the ingredients used are on sale at this time of year and many families have pantries overflowing with food. Even if your pantry is nearly bare, smart menu planning and buying food and wine on sale will keep your budget intact and your guests well fed. If you opt to eat out, there are many buffet style restaurants that offer a sumptuous selection at an affordable price. Since Thanksgiving is all about family and home, and not about high finance, let’s take a look at ways to reduce the cost of ingredients.
Plan the menu ahead of time
Planning a Thanksgiving Day menu ahead of time allows you to take advantage of sale prices. Frozen and canned vegetables and hors d’oeuvres, such as black olives and specialty pickles store nicely, as do crackers and chips. Turkey and ham are the most popular entrees at Thanksgiving dinner and prices are as low as they are going to get. Supplement your meal with mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, cranberry sauce, green beans, stuffing, and gravy or whatever foods your family traditionally serves.
Autumn is a time of abundance and food prices are generally at their lowest. Be sure to check grocery store inserts and sales to reduce your costs. Most grocery stores compete for your business by offering loss leaders. These are prices significantly lower than normal. While a young turkey may go for $3 a pound or more the rest of the year, they can often be found for half that price near Thanksgiving. By regularly checking local sales, you can save money while still providing a delicious Thanksgiving dinner.
Check your pantry
Nothing lasts forever and this is especially true of food. Even canned and frozen foods expire. Thanksgiving is the perfect time to empty your pantry and food cabinets to see what you have, what is about to expire, and what can be used in planning your Thanksgiving dinner, without spending any money at all.
Use savings to buy top shelf wine or a special dessert
If you are a decent cook, you can make a wonderful meal with practically anything. Rather than spending all your money on unnecessary ingredients, use the money you have saved to buy a few bottles of an exceptional wine or a special dessert for your guests. It will be a far more memorable investment. If there aren’t any savings to use, you can still make a dessert special by sprinkling whatever you make with powdered sugar, surrounding it with autumn decorations, or creating cutouts from leftover pie crust dough.
One often overlooked aspect of budgeting for Thanksgiving dinner is the decorations. Many families have special platters, table runners, and other holiday decorations on hand already. If you do not, your local thrift store can provide a wealth of materials and ideas, with little effect on your Thanksgiving dinner budget.
It’s amazing how dressing up in your nicer clothes can make a meal feel more elegant and special. Hey, it won’t cost you a dime and you’re worth it!
Spending a lot of money on a Thanksgiving dinner is only appropriate if you can afford it. For most families, that money could be better spent getting out of debt, saving for college, or buying Christmas gifts. Decide ahead of time how much you can afford to spend, what your menu will look like, and then start checking the sales. Before you know it, family and friends will join you for a delightful and sumptuous meal that doesn’t break your bank account.