Graphic of hand reaching into frame of thanksgiving dinner table

Thanksgiving Dinner: 9 Essential Ways to Stay Budget-Friendly

Sure, in the past you may have gone all out with the classic Thanksgiving dinner trappings: squash and gourds galore, a massive bird, five flavors of pie, and a spread that would put your neighbors to shame.

But some years the budget’s a bit tighter and we just have to be a little more conscious of cost. With current inflation and recession worries, savings is top of mind. And while turkeys tend to be land-bound, their price has flown sky high.

That’s why we’re highlighting 9 simple but essential ways to stay budget-friendly during your Thanksgiving dinner.

1. Simplify

Of course it’s fun to go nuts with desserts, sides, and three kinds of gravy, but see if you can simplify things and only target the quintessential favorites that everyone will absolutely love and consume. Did only a third of the cranberry sauce get eaten last year? Take that as a hint!

2. Plan Ahead

Setting your Thanksgiving dinner plans a few weeks in advance will help you figure out exactly how many people you’ll be serving and what supplies and food you’ll need. This will help you avoid costly last minute orders from Amazon or trips to high-priced grocery stores.

3. Check Your Pantry

Before you hit the store, make sure you don’t have any hidden treasures in your pantry or freezer! Discovering something on your list that you already have will slice the price before you even step out the door.

4. Shop Early

Because you’ll have already followed tip #2 (plan ahead!), you’ll be ahead of the game when it comes to your shopping expedition. Thanksgiving staples tend to be less pricey (and less picked over) at least 3 weeks before the big day, so shopping early can go a long way towards savings.

5. Shop Smart

Follow these tips at the grocery store to get the most bang for your buck!

  • Consider Frozen, Canned, and Dried Options – Oftentimes, these longer-lasting items are much more cost-effective than fresh. Make sure you check a few aisles and compare costs (making sure to consider unit price).
  • Buy Only As Much Bird as You Need – Generally, most people only eat 1 to 1.5 lbs of turkey. If you’re a fan of leftovers, target 2 lbs! Do the math, and don’t get dazzled by a 25-pound monster bird if you don’t need it.

This is just the tip of the cost-cutting iceberg! Check out more ways to save at the grocery store.

6. Make It a Potluck

Who says you have to do all the work yourself? If you plan on inviting friends and family, have everyone pull some weight. Uncle Gary can make his famous pies, neighbors Fred and Rhonda have a lock on the mashed potatoes, and best friend Zariah’s handling the stuffing. Things just got a whole lot easier … and more affordable.

7. Use Handmade and Found Decor

Get creative with decorations! Gather some pinecones and colorful leaves, put the kids to work making hand-traced turkeys, and create a “What We’re Thankful For” wall from post-its. Festive and frugal are not mutually exclusive!

8. Eat All the Leftovers

Make sure you’re not throwing away money by wasting leftovers. If you get sick of turkey and stuffing sandwiches, look into ways to transform your leftovers into a variety of new meals!

9. Just Go to Someone Else’s House!

Have you been invited to a friend or family member’s house for Thanksgiving dinner? Well, what are you waiting for? Take them up on it! Perhaps you bring a homemade pie or even a bottle of wine, but that sets you back a heck of a lot less than preparing a whole meal — and involves a lot less stress.

Final Words

When you’re planning how to host or spend your Thanksgiving dinner this year, remember that you don’t need to get caught up with extravagant smorgasbords or 12-foot inflatable turkey displays. 

Keep in mind what this holiday is really about: spending time with loved ones and appreciating what we have. And what better way to appreciate our bounty than by being thoughtful about how we spend it!

Family laughing and having thanksgiving dinner

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