For all the attention the stress and craziness of cooking on Thanksgiving receives, we often fail to acknowledge the other downside of being the designated host: the cost. If you’re on a tight budget it can seem nearly impossible to pull of a feast with all of the fixin’s guests have come to expect. This Thanksgiving, you’ll be thankful you followed these 10 tips for saving money on your Turkey Day grocery bill.
1. Set a budget — and don’t budge from it!
It’s easy to go overboard on extras when planning a holiday meal, after all, you want to show your loved ones you appreciate them. But don’t feel pressure to recreate the lavish spread you saw in Martha Stewart magazine. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the average American Thanksgiving meal for 10 costs $48.90 — that’s less than $5 per person! If you’re about to blow your budget and don’t know how to cut back, consider just serving one type of pie, not buying so much you have weeks worth of leftovers, or asking other family members to chip in by bringing a dish of their choice.
2. Plan, plan, plan
Last minute shopping doesn’t give you any time to compare prices or rethink menus. Give yourself at least a week to plan your menu — considering any guests’ special dietary needs — and figure out how much food you really need. This way, you’ll be able to plan a menu that suits everyone and then buy only what you need.
3. Stock up on cheap side dishes
A farm fresh turkey can cost you a pretty penny. Throw in a cheese tray, shrimp cocktail appetizer, and pecan pie, and you’re running up your Thanksgiving Day bill. For every pricy item you serve, make sure you have another one or two inexpensive dishes. Cranberry sauce, roasted squash or carrots, and mashed potatoes are all delicious filler that will keep guests full so you don’t require as much of the expensive stuff.
4. Shop around for a discounted turkey
Grocery stores know you’ll have a huge bill this month, so they use turkey as bait to get you into their store so you buy the rest of your Thanksgiving items there as well. Sometimes you can even score a free bird this way. For reference, the average price for a holiday turkey is $1.36 per pound, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation, but you can often find it as low as 39 cents per pound. So be sure to shop around!
5. Don’t overbuy
Generally speaking, you need about one and a half to two pounds of turkey per guests. If you need just a bit more or if you have more white meat eaters than dark meat, buy just an extra turkey breast. Buying just an extra turkey breast will save you from buying a turkey that is way too big for your crowd.
6. Avoid prepared dishes
Sure, you’ll save time, but if you’re looking to save money, making a dish from scratch is usually always the way to go.
7. Be flexible
You spent time preparing your menu, but don’t be afraid to adapt on the fly. If you’re grocery shopping and a certain produce doesn’t look so good or if another type is on super sale, you might need to quickly come up with a replacement recipe. You’ll have more cash in your pocket in exchange for your efforts.
8. Skip the pricey decor
While it’s fun to set a charming Thanksgiving table complete with fake foliage and cornucopias, it’s not the most cost-effective move for your budget. Set the table with items that can do double duty like squash or a centerpiece of apples. That way, you can use the items later, and you’re not just throwing them away.