Money Health

15 Tips to Save Money on a Thanksgiving Feast

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If you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year, you don’t need to bust your budget to create a memorable family feast. A little planning can go a long way towards a satisfying Thanksgiving meal on a budget. 

1. Create a Budget in Advance

If you want to save money this Thanksgiving, start by setting a realistic budget. Think of the number of people you’re feeding and how much you’re willing to spend. Then, plan your menu around your budget. 

2. Take Inventory of What You Already Have

When you start to work on your menu and your grocery list, first take a look at your own pantry. If you work with dry, canned, and packaged goods you already have, you can save money and time at the grocery store.

3. Stock Up Ahead

Many Thanksgiving staples can keep for a while before they expire. Pay attention to the sales in your area in the months leading up to the holiday. That way, you can stock up ahead of time on the dry, frozen, and canned goods you’ll use for most of your Thanksgiving dishes.

4. Find Coupons to Cut Costs

Clipping coupons may be a family pastime of the days gone by, but that’s because there are so many couponing and deals apps made for smartphones now. 

Apps like Ibotta, Coupon Sherpa, SnipSnap, Saving Star are easy to use and can save you a lot of money at the grocery store—especially during Thanksgiving. Don’t forget to double up on coupons and check the mail for additional coupons before you head to the grocery store!

Learn how to coupon like a pro in 4 simple steps here:

5. Buy in Bulk

There are many crucial Thanksgiving meal ingredients, especially dry and canned pantry foods, that you actually buy year-round. Buying things in bulk, either from bulk bins at your local grocery, or from a big box store like Costco, can seriously cut down on the added costs of packaging or buying multiple smaller items.

6. Cut Back on Meat

There’s no reason to buy a turkey AND a ham this year. Most of it will end up as leftovers, anyway. Pick one and save yourself money, time, and effort. 

Or if your family is feeling extra thrifty, why not eliminate the meat entirely and try a vegetarian Thanksgiving? Rice, beans, and veggies are much cheaper than meat. And they’re a lot healthier, too!

7. Ask Guests to Bring a Dish

Potluck-style Thanksgivings are more and more popular these days. Not only can they help you save money—they’re also a great way for friends and family to share their traditions and favorite recipes with one another. 

To make sure you don’t end up with four versions of cranberry sauce, make a sign-up sheet so guests can choose the side dishes, desserts, or beverages they’d like to contribute.

8. Establish a BYOB Policy

You could rack up a huge bill buying wine and liquor for your Thanksgiving guests. To save money, ask them to contribute their favorite beverages to the bar this year. Not only does this ensure you’ll have a nice variety of drinks, it could really cut down your costs..

9. Get Creative

You might be expected to stick to your grandmother’s traditional spread. But if a traditional Thanksgiving meal would break the bank, it might be time to switch up your menu. 

Check your local butcher shop or grocery store for deals on other kinds of meat. You might be surprised to find reduced pricing on pork, beef, or chicken right around Thanksgiving.

10. Shop in Season and Local

The true spirit of Thanksgiving celebrates the harvest of your region. With that in mind, plan your meal around what’s in season in your area and buy from local farmers. Foods that travel a shorter distance cost less, so you can save money and support local businesses by shopping local.

11. Only Make What You Need

It’s tempting to go overboard on Thanksgiving and whip up as many dishes as you can think of. But then you’ll have to deal with all the leftovers, which often end up in the trash. 

If you plan ahead appropriately, you’ll have enough leftovers for a few work lunches, but not so much that half you’ll have a wall of leftovers in your refrigerator that go bad before you can eat them.

12. Make Everything from Scratch

Some packaged foods save you so much time and effort that they’re worth the expense. But it’s usually cheaper to make things like stuffing, mac n’ cheese, gravy, and other food from scratch. Save up stale bread for breadcrumbs, rather than buying a box, for example. Not only do homemade renditions cost less, they taste better too!

13. Limit Your Dessert Options

Instead of accommodating every guest’s possible dessert preference, a pie and a tub of ice cream might be good enough. A massive spread of everyone’s favorite desserts may look impressive, but focusing on the classics could save you money and still keep everyone happy.

14. Look to Canned and Frozen Options

For casseroles, it’s often just as flavorful to use frozen or canned vegetables rather than fresh. And who isn’t reminded of grandma by a classic green bean casserole made entirely from canned goods?

15. Plant a Garden in Your Yard

It’s too late this Fall, but growing your own garden is a great way to cut down on food costs year round—not just at Thanksgiving. Do a little research about what grows best in your area. Then, plant a garden in your backyard or put an herb garden in your window box. By the time Thanksgiving next year rolls around you’ll be ready to truly celebrate your harvest!

The holiday season can bring a lot of expectations, but being savvy about saving money on your celebration doesn’t have to mean sacrificing a great meal. Planning ahead, getting creative, and shopping smart ultimately cuts out more stress and allows you to truly enjoy the time with your friends and family.

Kate Robinson Beckwith is a freelance writer who loves to use her way with words to help people get a better understanding of their finances. She lives in the Bay Area where she spends her weekends taking in culture, making books, and hiking with her husband and her goofy three-legged pitbull mix.