Ah, the great American holiday. Thanksgiving is a wonderful, stressful, over-filled oven sort of holiday where friends and family gather to try to eat an entire table’s worth of food while it’s still lukewarm. But if it’s your turn to host the get-together, Thanksgiving can get really pricey really quickly. Here are a few tips to tighten your budget, rather than your belt.
A festive table is only the beginning of your meal, but it can go a long way towards setting the atmosphere of your soiree. You can create an original seasonal centerpiece with a few fall fruits, pumpkins, and gourds. Alternatively, purchase a cheap cornucopia ($7.50) from a craft store and fill it with whatever produce you’ve already got in your fridge. With a little creative thinking, the leaves and acorns speckling your backyard can transform into the foliage strewn base of a series of tea lights for a more intimate atmosphere. If Thanksgiving is a family event, get your kids involved in creating a personalized centerpiece for the meal.
Behind the Calculations
Based on averages compiled from FreshDirect, Safeway, Hannaford, Sam’s Club and Whole Foods, creating your own decorations will cost you around $17.63: two apples $1.12, one small pumpkin $1.99, one gourd $3.33, a craft store cornucopia $7.50, fall foliage free, and a 50 pack of tea lights $3.69. Store-bought figures have been based on the thanksgiving decoration set from Target.com with pilgrim set.
Fall Produce, Overflowing Cornucopia, Intimate Lighting $17.63
Target Kit and Pilgrim Set $97
Typically, the bird accounts for about 40% of the cost of the entire meal. Compromising on quality can be difficult, but at around $10 a pound, heritage turkeys are anything but economical. Supermarket turkeys offer a cheap alternative at less than $2 per pound. You’ll have to decide if the flavor of free range and organic birds is worth the price. Your cheapest option is a store-brand frozen turkey, but you may be unhappy with the resulting quality and injected flavor oil. If you buy a frozen turkey, be sure to leave enough time to thaw before cooking–a good ratio is one day in the fridge for every five pounds. Whatever you decide, brining can go a long way towards making your poultry more juicy for the low cost of a box of kosher salt.
|Decorations||Cost||Turkey Type||Cost per Ib||Savings|
|Fall Produce, Overflowing Cornucopia, Intimate Lighting||$17.63|
|Target Kit and Pilgrim Set||$97||Organic/Free Range||$3.99||$3|
|Savings||$79.37||Store Brand Frozen||$1.59||$8.40|
Don’t Fear the Bulk
Bargain stores like Costco and Sam’s Club boast big savings for bulk purchases. You may not be able to use the entire bag of potatoes or bundle of herbs, but your friend could probably finish off the leftovers. Split both the size and the savings. According to our chart if you choose to buy these three items in bulk: 5 lbs of Apples, 16 lbs of potatoes and 3 lbs of cheddar cheese, you could potentially save up to $31.78.
Decorations Cost Turkey Type Cost per Ib Savings Item Retail Price Per Pound Bulk Price Per Pound Savings Per Pound
Fall Produce, Overflowing Cornucopia, Intimate Lighting $17.63 Apples $5.60 $2.98 $2.62 Target Kit and Pilgrim Set $97 Organic/Free Range $3.99 $3 Potatoes $0.99 $0.49 $0.50
Savings $79.37 Store Brand Frozen $1.59 $8.40 Cheddar Cheese $5.99 $2.43 $3.56
Other Saving Suggestions
Cook from Scratch …
Recipes can be scary for the inexperienced chef, but cooking from scratch often offers a cheaper alternative to serving convenience foods. A specialty bakery pie can run upwards of $50, while the homemade equivalent can just as tasty and much cheaper. Making your own artisan bread can similarly save some dough. Staples like chicken stock, breadcrumbs and whipped cream require little culinary commitment for large wallet and taste payoff.
Keep an eye out for store coupons and weekly specials. Typically, canned cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie filling are on sale the week before Thanksgiving. Generic canned pumpkin is just as good as the premium stuff, and both create a less-watery pie than a fresh pumpkin would. Additionally, some veggies are cheaper and just as delicious canned or frozen. If you must have out-of-season veggies, frozen fare offers a great alternative to its fresh cousins.
Bring Your Own …
Thanksgiving is a big undertaking. Your friends and family will understand if you need help. Ask guests to pitch in a bottle of wine, an appetizer or a dessert. The credit and glory of the meal will still belong to you alone, and you won’t have to try and create three courses in a single kitchen. Alternatively, make Thanksgiving a potluck! Roast the turkey and assign side dishes, appetizers and desserts to guests. Then everyone can have an equal share in the stress and the afterglow of a glorious home-cooked meal.
Now we’d like to know your favorite Thanksgiving tradition. Let us know below: