At the stroke of midnight on Halloween, many people immediately begin to think of Christmas. The decorations, the gifts to buy, and the magic of the season.
But for frugal planners like us, we can’t forget about one important step between those two holidays. And that is, of course, Thanksgiving!
Those of us who love Thanksgiving enjoy the simplicity of the season. It’s a time to pause and give thanks. And the only thing we need to really plan for is one meal.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to save money on this holiday!
Let’s talk about some simple ways to save on Thanksgiving dinner!
Save on Thanksgiving Dinner
Simple Table Setting and Decor
This special meal calls for a special table setting. But you don’t have to buy a complete set at the store to get a beautiful look!
Here’s how to do it for less.
Set the Table
How can you make your table setting special? If the china you got for your wedding has been gathering dust, pull it out and put it to use.
Don’t have any fine china? Then search the thrift store for plates! They don’t have to match.
Choose a theme (maybe a color or shape) and grab plates the fit. Maybe they’re all white, but different shapes or sizes. Variety makes it fun!
You can create your own decor for the table. These Autumn Leaf Bowls are beautiful. And you can make them yourself!
Use What You Have
Did you pick up some pie sized pumpkins or gourds for Halloween? Keep them in a cool, dry place and they’ll still be in great shape for Thanksgiving.
If you want, you can add a coat of spray paint to make them fit your color scheme!
What’s In A Vase?
Find a vase in a closet and put it to use!
There are several things you can try:
Fill it with acorns, pinecones, or whatever natural items you have access to. Top with a pretty branch and tags written about what you’re thankful for. (Include the names of your guests!)
Add a battery powered string of lights for extra whimsy.
You could also fill a vase with layers of colorful corn, nuts, and beans. Top it with a small candle.
If you have kids at your table, fill the vase with candy. Ask them to guess how many are in the vase while they are waiting for the food to be served.
When it comes to serving a big family, the quickest way to save money is to hold a potluck style meal.
Ask each guest to bring a side dish or dessert. As the host, you can keep track of what each guest plans to bring. (Use this free printable Thanksgiving Potluck Signup Sheet to make it easy!)
After all, too many pumpkin pies isn’t a bad thing, but a meal of nothing but turkey and 3 green bean casseroles won’t be fun.
Drop the Obligation
Stop serving foods just because they’re traditional. If no one likes a dish, don’t make it! You’ll save time and energy.
If Uncle Marty loves oysters, but no one else will touch them, ask him to skip them this year. If you know that’s out of the question, at least make a much smaller serving.
True, Thanksgiving is a meal of abundance. But you don’t have to be over the top.
Serve apple pie using sale priced apples instead of pricey pecan pie.
Stick with fewer side dishes made with more frugal ingredients.
Wait for rock bottom sales.
November is an excellent time to find deals on most of the foods you’ll want to serve at your meal. Wait and watch ads for several different grocery stores.
When they drop the price of the ingredients you’ll need, grab enough for the whole meal. (Try to grab extra for the pantry if you can!)
Choose the fattest turkey you can afford!
Remember that when you buy a turkey, you’re paying for skin and bones along with that meat. Better to grab the bird with the most meat on its bones.
If it’s too much for your meal, pull the extra meat and save it in the freezer for a soup or casserole later.
Save the Carcasses!
Once you’ve pulled all the meat from the bones, keep the carcass. It can wait in the fridge or freezer until you have time to deal with it. (It can wait til the next day!)
When you have time, put it in a stock pot with some celery scraps and carrot peelings. Cover it with water and let it boil on medium low heat for at least an hour.
Now you have stock to use in soups and stews!
Be A Frugal Chef
Frying a turkey costs a fortune. The cost of the fryer, the oil, and the gas to keep it cooking gets expensive quick.
Instead, borrow a roaster. Or cook it in your oven.
If you’re worried about a dry bird, pull up the skin a bit and shove some pats of butter between the skin and the meat. Place a halved apple, onion, and/or garlic in the opening of the bird before you put it in the oven.
The meat will be juicy and delicious!
Wait for Sales
Turkey can be some of the cheapest meat you’ll buy all year. Watch stores for sales.
Sometimes they’ll require an additional $10 or $20 purchase to get the sale price on the bird. So keep some of your grocery budget back for that.
You should be able to find ingredients for other parts of the meal to cover that $10 or $20. (Make sure they’re on sale!)
Potatoes Are Your Friend!
You’ll find sweet potatoes and russet potatoes on good sales in November. Grab them! Try this recipe for mashed potatoes in the crock pot to keep it simple and sweet.
Speaking of sweet…sweet potato casseroles topped with marshmallows or nuts are a deliciously frugal side for the meal!
If you’re looking for a cheap veggie to make, try roasting frugal squash, potatoes, garlic, and onions. Drizzle with honey and roast them for 40 minutes.
I make stuffing for nearly free, and it doesn’t take me long to make it.
Well, my family doesn’t eat bread ends. Whenever I find ends, I rip them into small chunks. Then I add them to a ziploc bag in my freezer.
I save them until I’m ready to make bread pudding or stuffing. Then I spread them out on cookie sheets to dry out a few hours before I’m ready to use them.
You can use that tip with any bread that’s begging to dry out!
We love homemade rolls, but there’s hardly time to make them in the rush of Thanksgiving day.
So, I make them a few days earlier!
Make your favorite recipe. Then bake them for 4-5 minutes until they are just set.
Then, put the pan in the freezer for several hours. Once they start to freeze, you can put them together in a bag. Don’t worry, they won’t stick together.
On Thanksgiving, pull them out and bake them for 10-15 minutes. You’ll have fresh, delicious rolls for the meal (without the extra fuss!).
The money you’ll save on your Thanksgiving dinner is just one more thing to be thankful for!
After the meal, enjoy some football in the yard (or on television!). And have a blessed Thanksgiving!
By the way, if you want the perfect end to your meal, be sure to check out these Thanksgiving pie recipes!
What’s your favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal?