Thanksgiving can be such a refreshing holiday; time spent with loved ones without the pressure of gifts, no events, or mandatory activities. It’s a break from all of that: a reprieve before the true chaos begins. But for a Thanksgiving host, well it’s a different story entirely. Hosting Thanksgiving can be very overwhelming and extremely costly. Feeding so many people so many different dishes—it’s a big ask. But we’ve compiled a few tips and easy recipes that will help you host thanksgiving on a budget. After all, you deserve to enjoy Thanksgiving just as much as Uncle Frank who’s usually taking his post-meal snooze before you’ve even made your plate!
Thanksgiving on a Budget: Saving Tips
Here’s our no-stress, low-cost guide to hosting a classic Thanksgiving.
Easy Does It
The beauty of a Thanksgiving meal is in its simplicity. These dishes are tried and true. They work for a reason. Stick to the basics. Don’t feel pressure to impress or outshine. The stuffing that’s been passed down throughout generations is more than good enough. Don’t try to fancy it up with new recipes or new ingredients. Your guests came for nostalgia, this makes it easy to do thanksgiving on a budget.
Shopping at big box stores will save you time and money. Everything is cheaper in bulk and there’s no better time to take advantage of that fact than Thanksgiving. For many of your recipes, you’ll need the same things: eggs, flour, sugar, butter. Even potatoes and herbs can be purchased in bulk! You can freeze leftover herbs in olive oil (see this fancy little trick here!) and as for the other items, plan ahead of time to split your purchases with a friend who is also hosting their own Thanksgiving. You’ll both save money and have more than enough ingredients.
For those items that can’t be purchased in bulk, opt for generic brands. Generic or store brands are way less expensive in the long run and honestly, no one will know the difference. Add enough herbs and spices and nothing on your Thanksgiving table will taste generic, guaranteed.
Don’t wait until the last minute to do your grocery shopping. You’ll be surprised how quickly stores will run out of the cheaper items, leaving you to spend more than you initially planned. Additionally, most stores run specials or discounts on Thanksgiving items a week or two before the holiday. These sales are great opportunities to grab all your canned items or frozen foods.
Speaking of frozen foods…frozen ingredients cost a lot less than fresh ones, especially when you have to buy a lot. Considering most Thanksgiving dishes are some variant of a casserole, it’s unlikely that your guests will notice what was fresh and what was frozen. Save yourself some money (and time since most frozen veggies come pre-chopped!) and buy frozen.
Make a List
Make a list well before you head to the store. Going in without a list will only make it a more stressful experience. You’re likely to buy too much or too little of something, eventually costing yourself more money. Once you have a list, stick to it! Impulse purchases can add up. Trust that the list you prepared ahead of time covers everything.
Share the Burden
No rule says the host must provide every single dish at Thanksgiving. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself! If you know there are a few dishes that are just completely out of your purview, ask a few people to pitch in and bring a dish. Most people will be happy to help. Ask around; some folks may already have a dish in mind that they consider their specialty! They’ll probably be thrilled to prepare it for Thanksgiving.
Easy Thanksgiving Recipes
Here are some yummy, expensive dishes you can make for your thanksgiving on a budget!
Old Fashioned Stuffing
The main ingredient in this recipe is an entire loaf of bread. But once again, no need to go fresh! Start saving stale bread, or the end pieces that no one ever eats. Freeze them until you are ready to make the stuffing. Then they just need a quick thaw. Chop them into cubes and use them just as you would fresh bread! Although, this does require you to plan ahead!
Most folks have their own tried and true recipe for stuffing, but just in case, you can find a reliable one here. You’ll need butter, onion, celery, chicken broth, and sage. Hopefully, those are all items you already bought when you shopped EARLY with your fully prepared list.
This is one circumstance where you might want to go fresh. Fresh yams are relatively cheap this time of year and tend to be less expensive than canned yams. This casserole calls for (more) butter, brown sugar, and marshmallows. You can also substitute yams for sweet potatoes.
Find the specifics here.
Mac & Cheese
Not much can beat classic mac & cheese. This is another one of those dishes that doesn’t need anything fancy. Making mac & cheese from scratch couldn’t be simpler, and when cooking for a crowd, it ends up being cheaper than boxed options.
You just need the basics: pasta, milk, cheese, butter, and flour.
If you have the ingredients for mac & cheese, then chances are you can make mashed potatoes. Even without gravy, mashed potatoes are perfect alongside turkey and stuffing. It’s what comfort food is all about!
For easy mashed potatoes you just need potatoes, milk, and lots of butter! If you want to make them extra creamy, consider adding sour cream. Estimate approximately one potato per person.
Pumpkin Sheet Cake
Instead of several pumpkin pies, consider making one giant pumpkin sheet cake! You’ll save yourself so much tedium and you’ll satisfy all the pumpkin cravings. Sheet cakes are so much more convenient for large crowds, not just in the preparation but also in the serving. Cut up a few squares, add a dollop of whipped cream to each, and dessert is served! It’s a delicious win-win.
Find an easy-to-follow recipe here.
Unfortunately, the most wonderful time of the year can also be the most expensive. But it doesn’t have to be that way. By following these tips and recipes, you can host an incredible thanksgiving on a budget. Remember to stick to the classics and you’ll be fine. Yes, Thanksgiving is about food. But it’s also about friends, family, and gratitude. Your guests will be grateful to you for hosting and won’t care whether the turkey was fresh or store-bought. (By the way—buying from a store brand is another way to save!)
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