Sure, food costs are rising and the economy’s slumping, but that doesn’t mean this year’s Thanksgiving has to be a no-frills affair. Plan ahead and cut corners the smart way, and you won’t have to sacrifice quality to celebrate in style. Here are ten ways to save money this Thanksgiving:
1. Don’t make too much food. Thanksgiving may be all about leftovers, but how many side dishes and casseroles does your family really need? Save yourself time and money by not outdoing yourself this year. Focus on one or two side dishes that really shine, along with one or two desserts you know everyone loves, and skip the rest. Not preparing an excessive amount of food means you’ll spend less money and less food will go to waste.
2. Borrow kitchen supplies. If you don’t have a roasting pan or are bracing yourself for the purchase of that extra casserole dish or pie pan, call up a neighbor or friend and ask to borrow something. Chances are that they’ll have extra stuff around, saving you a purchase you may not use that often after the big meal.
3. Cook from scratch. Ready-made mashed potatoes, stuffing and desserts are easy and fast, but the cost can add up. Cooking from scratch always saves money because the basics are a lot cheaper than pre-made food or mixes, which are usually highly processed and can be less nutritious. If you’re nervous about cooking or don’t know what to prepare, find a simple recipe or two and practice them ahead of time.
4. Plan ahead. Start watching the advertisements from your local grocery stores and jump on any specials they have that you know you’ll need come Thanksgiving. Also, most stores run specials for popular holiday items in the days leading up to the big meal to get shoppers in the door. Make a plan about where to shop for the best deals on certain foods and stick to it. Some grocery stores even give away some items for free, such as turkey or potatoes, if you spend enough money there. Don’t wait until the last minute to shop. With a little planning and preparation, you can get the foods you know you’ll need at their cheapest.
5. Purchase foods that are in season. Apples, squash and potatoes are some of the foods that are in season — and thus at their cheapest — around Thanksgiving. Good thing in-season foods make great Thanksgiving dishes! Don’t splurge on fruit or vegetables that are going to be more expensive or less tasty because they’re not at their peak.
6. Pot luck with friends. If the thought of preparing an entire meal by yourself seems daunting and expensive, gather your friends and family together and share the cost. There’s no better way to relieve the burden on everyone than with a potluck. Be sure to plan who brings what, and help the host out with dishes and preparations.
7. Buy a frozen turkey. The number of choices you have when it comes to the turkey — probably your biggest Thanksgiving meal purchase — is many. But the cheapest bird is going to be the frozen one. Skip the fresh, smoked, roasted or pre-braised varieties to save money. Cooking a frozen turkey isn’t any harder, just be sure you allow yourself enough time to thaw it out before cooking.
8. Shop with a friend. Grab a buddy when you head to the store, especially if you’re not preparing a very large quantity of food. She can split the cost and the food you both purchase, saving you both money and excessive leftovers later.
9. Visit the bread outlet store. Most cities have bread outlet stores, where distributors send bread that has expired or was damaged during shipping. You can find rolls and bread here at a reduced price that will fit in fine with the rest of your meal.
10. Purchase your turkey ahead of time. Some stores mark up their turkeys as the holiday approaches in anticipation of the extra sales. If you have the storage space, purchasing a frozen turkey months ahead of time is a great way to save a little money and spread out the cost of your meal so you’re not paying for it all at once.