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Thanksgiving on a Budget — How to Throw a Feast Without Spending a Fortune

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Knowing how to throw an impressive Thanksgiving on a budget is key if you’re looking to spend less this season. Any host knows that a Thanksgiving spread with all the fixings doesn’t come cheap. How can it if you have to buy multiple birds, half a dozen pies, and all the ingredients for a mile-long list of Thanksgiving sides? Fortunately, there are a few simple rules to implement that will make the holiday hurt less.

1. Plan what you’re going to make now. 

You probably already have a general idea of what you’re going to make for Thanksgiving dinner: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, some kinds of veggies, and pie. Making a list of all the ingredients you’ll need to make those dishes gives you a good idea of how exactly how much you need to buy — and therefore a rough estimate of your grocery bill. Once you’ve figured out the menu, you’ll have a much easier time editing out dishes that will cost too much time or money to make and brainstorming what foods your guests can bring.

2. Be open to a potluck-style Thanksgiving dinner.

If you’re inviting extended family, ask them to bring a dish of their own. This way, you won’t be responsible for buying and cooking everything on your own. Every family celebrates Thanksgiving a little bit differently, so having guests contribute sides guarantees you’ll be exposed to a recipe you haven’t tried before. Just make sure you coordinate with guests beforehand so they don’t all bring the same foods.

3. Take stock of what you already have.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but how many times have you returned from the grocery store only to realize you already had it? Go through your pantry, fridge, and freezer and cross off items from your grocery list that you can replace with items from home. Chances are there’s a loaf of bread in the freezer that you can totally use for the stuffing.

4. Go shopping now.

Stores know that people want to get a head start on Thanksgiving meal prep, so there will be lots of deals on seasonal items and Thanksgiving staples. Load up on nonperishables that will last until Thanksgiving, as well as produce that’s in season. Apples, carrots, celery, fresh herbs, garlic, potatoes, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes are just some of the many fruits and veggies that are in season and are cheapest this time of year. Fortunately, most of these items are already on your grocery list.

5. Decide what to make and what to buy.

Making a pie from scratch can be satisfying — but it can also be expensive in terms of your time. You’ll spend at least a few hours from start to finish making your world-famous pumpkin pie. Instead, why not buy a few pre-made pies? Then, you can spend your time focusing on all the other tasks on your to-do list.

6. Skip the alcohol.

A glass of red with dinner is something we look forward to on Thanksgiving — but a crate of wine can get expensive if you have a dozen thirsty adults. Forgoing alcohol entirely could be a great way to get a head start on your New Year’s Resolutions. However, if you want to have some alcohol around for your guests, ask them to bring a bottle or two. 

7. Prioritize what dishes to make.

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner for the first time, it’s tempting to want to cook a million different dishes to ensure every guest has something to eat. Of course, this can send your grocery bill skyrocketing and trap you in the kitchen for the entire day. Spend your precious time making the dishes you want to eat — and let your guests bring the foods they have to have. This way, you can cover the entire spectrum of Thanksgiving side dishes and everyone can have a taste of each. 

8. Opt for DIY Thanksgiving decor.

Thanksgiving decorations are the finishing touch for any Turkey Day spread, so we don’t blame you for going crazy in the home decor section. That said, keep in mind you only use these decorations once a year. Nix that expensive centerpiece in favor of an edible, DIY version. Now’s also a great time to reuse those decorative gourds you have left over from Halloween. 

Follow these rules and you’re guaranteed to save money this Thanksgiving — so you can put towards something nice for yourself when those Black Friday sales start.

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