Money-Saving Tips for Thanksgiving Day Dinner

For many people, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season – time spent with family and friends, celebrations, and if you’re one of the lucky few, a little time away from work. I’ll admit, one of the things I most look forward to is all of the delicious food associated with the holidays, especially Turkey Day. We have a relatively low-key day at my parents’ house for Thanksgiving, and my mom’s trimmings have and always will be my favorite. She works hard to prepare a wonderful meal for us every year, and often shoo’s away anyone who gets under her feet. This year, I asked her to share with me some tips for getting dinner ready while avoiding any disasters, and what kind of budget she follows to keep costs low while feeding a family of 6. Keep them in mind when you’re preparing dinner for your own family, or helping out your own mom!

1. Plan ahead. Figure out how many you’ll be serving and base your grocery store list on that number. You won’t need a 20-pound turkey for 3 or 4 people, so downsizing your bird and all of your trimmings will help to cut costs! Preparing your menu ahead of time is also a good idea so you can keep an eye out for sales, specials, and coupons for anything you might need in the coming weeks. Check flyers for stores in your area.

2. Shop around. Speaking of specials… stores know what most people are in the market for in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving – potatoes, biscuits, pies, etc. Check your local ads to see what kind of specials they’re running and when. While one place may be running a deal on stuffing and cranberry sauce one week, another may offer cheaper prices on potatoes and corn. You can save more money by visiting both places and getting what you need.

3. Ask for help. Are you cooking a large meal for your extended family? Ask others to contribute a side dish, dessert, or beverage. This will not only save you money, but time (and valuable refrigerator space) as well.

4. Skip the excess. For years, my mom made cranberry sauce simply because it was one of my favorite dishes, until it wasn’t. It took another two years to realize her work was in vain, because now NO ONE was eating it, not even me. So why waste the time, energy, and money? Don’t prepare items because of “tradition,” prepare them for actual consumption. It’s also not necessary to have a million different side dishes and desserts, especially if you’re not pleasing a large crowd. Stick you your basics and everyone will surely be satisfied.

5. Do away with disposables. Sure, using plastic plates and utensils will save you some time during clean-up, but in the long run, you’ll end up paying (and wasting) more. Use the dishes you have on hand – they don’t need to be fancy! You might even get some volunteer dishwashers to take care of the mess after all of your hard work.

What are your plans for Thanksgiving this year? What are some tricks you use to cut back your costs AND stress level?