A great Thanksgiving doesn't have to break the budget
Image Source: Flickr User Loren Kerns
We’re a little less than a month away from Turkey Day – Thanksgiving 2015 falls on Thursday, November 26th and we’ve got tips for you to save big on your annual get-together. The average cost of Thanksgiving in 2014 ran a little less than $50 for turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, peas, rolls, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie with whipped cream. However, many of us spend far more than this, particularly if you opt for pricier ingredients or serve a greater variety of items.
This year, costs for putting your this all-important holiday meal on the table will be even higher because the avian flu has decreased the United States’ supply of turkeys – more than eight million turkeys died this spring, and turkey prices are expected to increase by nearly 20% a pound this year. With this price increase already a done deal, you may want to consider other ways to save on your Turkey Day eats, particularly if your money is tight. Here are 10 tips to help you save money on Thanksgiving 2015.
#1 Go With Tasty Over Traditional
There are some items that are traditionally included in a Thanksgiving menu that your family may not like. Don’t feel like you must put something on the table for propriety’s sake. If, for instance, no one touches the cranberry sauce, skip it. The same goes for the peas or pumpkin pie. You can always replace with something that everyone does like so you’re not wasting money. If pie is not on your family’s favorite food list, don’t feel bad about subbing in chocolate cake, pudding or sugar cookies.
#2 Let the Oven Heat the House
Keeping both the oven and the central heat on is a recipe for overdoing it on your heating bill, having a house that’s sweltering and unhappy hot cooks slaving away in the kitchen. Plus, once your guests start showing up, their body heat will add to the overall temperature of your home. Turn the heat way down and let the heat of the oven and the crowd dynamic heat up your home. This drop in the heating bill can help offset the cost of cooking dinner for all of your loved ones.
#3 Close Down the Open Bar
One of the quickest ways to see the cost of your Thanksgiving dinner skyrocket is to offer alcohol. Beer and wine are costly enough, but if you offer an open bar with mixed drinks as well, you can see the alcohol portion of your tab run into the hundreds of dollars easily. One way to combat this is to declare Thanksgiving a no-alcohol zone altogether (which can also cut down on family drama) or state firmly that it’s BYOB and let your guests bring their favorite libation to sip and share.
#4 Downsize your portions
If you find that you’re eating turkey for days to come, so much so that you’re sick of it before it’s gone, cut down on the main dish poundage. One pound per person is a good rule of thumb. If you have kids that don’t eat turkey at all, don’t calculate for them, and you can also skip on adding poundage for kids three and under. A 12-pound turkey is adequate for eight teens through adults. Also, consider using medium sized paper plates rather than large dinner plates – people will eat less.
#5 Cut Down on Variety
You’re not running a restaurant-style buffet, so don’t feel like you need to cater to everyone’s whims. Consider eliminating from the menu any dish that only one or two people eat. If only one cousin likes Brussels sprouts, skip them. Poll your guests and find out their must-have dishes then prepare only those with three or more votes. That way, you can save by only preparing the most-popular items, and you won’t be stuck with leftovers of items that you don’t like and won’t eat.
#6 Make it a BYOD Gathering
Just because you’re hosting doesn’t mean you should provide everything. You can tell everyone that it’s “Bring Your Own Dish” and that you’re providing the turkey while they can bring the side dishes. Find out who likes to do dressing, who’s proud of their mac n’ cheese and who has a to-die-for green bean recipe. If you provide the protein, paper goods and access to your kitchen, that’s plenty of effort on your behalf. Even if you don’t end up with every dish you wanted, you’ll save both money and effort.
#7 Figure Out What’s Cheaper Pre-Made vs. Homemade
Not everything is cheaper made from scratch at Thanksgiving. Cranberry sauce, for instance, can cost a fortune if you want to make it homemade versus the affordable jellied variety in the can. Pre-made gravy, on the other hand, can cost a lot to get a high-quality product while making it yourself from drippings will cost almost nothing. The same goes with desserts. If you shop ahead with coupons and look for a sale, you can get a frozen pie to bake much cheaper than homemade or bakery-fresh.
#8 Don’t Splurge on Decorations
Decorations for an event that will last just a couple of hours does not make good money sense. Candles that you already have on hand are fine. You can let your kids make place cards and cute little decorations. If you really want to decorate, go ahead and pull out your Christmas gear and set that up. This one expense you can definitely skimp on this year. If you want to decorate, watch the clearance after Thanksgiving this year to pick up bargain-priced décor for next year’s event.
#9 Consider Eating Out
Many restaurants now offer Thanksgiving Day feasts for reasonable prices. If you only have a couple of people in your household, it may not be worth the expense. And if your family is far-flung, you can agree to meet at a centrally located restaurant. There are Cracker Barrel locations all over North Carolina, and the meals there run less than $11 for adults and around $6 for kids – that price includes iced tea and dessert. And with the portion sizes there pretty generous, you may still walk away with leftovers.
#10 Use the Leftovers
If you don’t use what’s left, that’s money down the drain. To get the most from your money spent, consider how to use what’s left. Turkey can go into sandwiches, soup or a casserole. Leftover veggies can go into soup or serve as sides for other meals. Bread can go with any meal as can desserts. Turkey bones can be used to make a turkey stock. Also, you can freeze leftover turkey on Thanksgiving while it’s fresh then thaw it as late as February when your turkey malaise is long gone.
The bottom line for Thanksgiving is that you should not blow your budget to impress someone else. And if your budget is too tight but you’re the one who always hosts, push back on friends and family and tell them you want a Thanksgiving hiatus and put it on one of them to take a turn hosting. This is a great way to get a rotation started, so you only have to host every few years. With Christmas right around the corner, don’t let a too-costly Thanksgiving eat into your holiday budget.
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