The leaves are changing colors, the breeze is picking up, and it is almost time to put on our sweaters. These are all wonderful things that come with fall, but do you know what else fall signals?
You may have guessed it, the holidays are coming. Not just any holiday, but my favorite. Truthfully, I’m not a big Christmas person. I’m okay if we do homemade gifts, but I don’t like what a financial struggle it has become to so many.
However, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because people get together with no other expectation than to visit and eat good food.
Now, I realize that Thanksgiving can still be a hardship if you are in the midst of a financial storm. So I wanted to share a few simple tips to help you have an amazing Thanksgiving on a shoe-string budget. It takes some planning so you might have to get started now!
Thanksgiving on a Budget – Easy ways to save
Here is what you’ll need to do:
1. Think Ahead
I’m learning that in any situation if you want to overcome financial hardship it simply takes planning and determination.
The same is true for Thanksgiving. You must have a budget to work from, know what your budget can be for Thanksgiving, and then get creative to make it work. One way to do this is to start thinking of every way you can save on food starting now.
You are going to guess that my first solution is going to be to plant a garden each year. You aren’t too late, you can still work on growing a few of these fast producing vegetables.
However, in years to come, think about Thanksgiving when you plant your summer and fall garden. Then you can preserve your food and use it on a daily basis and for the holidays as well. This will save you a lot of money.
Next, look at your budget a few months in advance to see how much money you can squeeze out each month for the items that you can’t grow. Also, consider making your Thanksgiving menu a few months in advance as well.
Then you can take the money that you budgeted each month to buy certain items on the list that will keep.
Finally, I suggest switching to cash only. You don’t want to go further in debt to have one meal. Also, if you work on cash, then you can put that cash in an envelope somewhere to store it for safekeeping until you are ready to do your big grocery haul if needed.
2. Don’t Be Like Martha
One of the easiest ways to cut down on food costs is by not channeling your inner Martha Stewart. Don’t get me wrong, she cooks a lot of beautiful food that looks absolutely delicious.
Still, she is not budget-friendly. You can cook a good meal without it being extravagant. Think of simple dishes that are classics that everyone loves.
For instance, you can make a basic corn pudding that many people enjoy. It is actually one of my favorite dishes.
Or you could do a simple sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, or a green bean casserole. None of these require extremely fancy or expensive ingredients.
However, they are delicious foods that people are familiar with and will love, even if they don’t cost you a lot of money to make them.
3. Become a Crafty Couponer…Sort Of
Do you have a gift for couponing? I once did. Then I had more children and my days became crammed full of other activities.
However, I discovered I enjoyed raising my own food so I didn’t need to coupon like I once did.
If you are a couponer or someone that thinks they could coupon, then now is the time to start collecting coupons. As Thanksgiving approaches you are going to find great deals in the stores and great coupons as well.
So you can begin to shop the sales and buy extra items that you might need as they come on sale. Also, a lot of stores run specials around Thanksgiving where if you spend so much money in their store, then they give you coupons for money off. I love this because I’m able to save a lot around the holidays.
Whether you coupon or not, we can all check the internet and shop sales. When you see a great deal, then swoop down on it and start stockpiling for your Thanksgiving meal.
4. Become a Pioneer Woman
Many people don’t really think about cooking items from scratch. We have become people of convenience food.
However, there was once a time when there was no such thing as convenience food. It is my opinion that not only is cooking from scratch better for you, it can also save you a bundle.
If you are on a tight budget this Thanksgiving, don’t shop boxed foods. If you want macaroni and cheese, tell Kraft bye-bye. Instead, follow a recipe like this to make delicious mac and cheese.
Not only will you save money, but you will see that you end up with so much more food. I also think the scratch-made recipes taste a lot better too.
However, you’ll have to check it out for yourself and see what you think.
5. DIY Your Turkey
People raise chicken all of the time. Have you considered raising your own turkeys? I won’t say that it is cheaper than purchasing a turkey from the store.
However, I will say that at least you are getting an organic turkey (depending on what you feed it), and you are spreading out the cost over 6 months or so instead of into one paycheck.
If you’d like to take a chunk out of your Thanksgiving food bill, then consider raising your own meat. Here is our guide on how to raise turkeys.
Hopefully, you’ll find it helpful so you can do this year after year.
6. Shop for the Year Ahead
When Thanksgiving hits the price of turkey plummets. It is because everyone is trying to sell all of the turkeys that their stores have.
So you need to take advantage of this. Some stores in my area will run a sale that for every $30 you spend, you can buy a turkey for 10 cents a pound. I bought a turkey last year for less than $10. That is insanely cheap!
Then you can apply that offer to multiple turkeys when you are out shopping. There have been many years I’ve come home with multiple turkeys. We have saved them and used them for sandwich meat throughout the year. It is a great way to save money and stockpile food for any occasion.
In short, if you hit a great sale on turkey, and you have the freezer space to store frozen turkeys, then buy them.
That way, next year, you’ll have some meat stored in your freezer for the big feast that you plan on preparing for your friends and family. It will take a load off of your grocery expenses in the process.
Plus, don’t forget to shop turkeys after Thanksgiving. Sometimes stores will mark them down just to get rid of them. That is when you can purchase them pretty cheap and begin to stockpile food for later the next year.
7. Choose a Different Meat
Everyone assumes that you must eat turkey because it is Thanksgiving. I realize, not everyone hits great deals on turkeys around Thanksgiving and it can become quite a burden to produce such a large bird to eat on a meager budget.
So what can you do?
Well, I ask you this, who says you have to eat turkey for Thanksgiving? If you find a sale on chicken, then eat chicken instead. When I was growing up, we had a really small family and my mom was a single parent who struggled to afford a turkey.
We would get a small turkey breast for Thanksgiving, or we’d get a few Cornish hens and eat them. It was less expensive and what she could afford. My sister and I didn’t mind. It was still meat for our Thanksgiving dinner.
I encourage you to cut yourself some slack. You don’t have to stick with tradition. Make your own tradition, and you may be surprised that people are refreshed by this instead of disappointed.
A few years ago, my brother-in-law’s family hosted Thanksgiving for us. His wife found a great deal on chicken so we had chicken. A few years after that, we decided to do spaghetti and have an Italian feast for Thanksgiving. Feel free to change things up a bit.
8. Only Fix What You Need
My final tip is pretty simple, if you only have a hand full of people coming to your house for Thanksgiving, then don’t fix a large menu.
The first year my husband and I were parents, we were so exhausted with having an infant we decided to stay home and relax on Thanksgiving. We said we’d only cook what we wanted.
Oddly enough, what we wanted was a feast. We woke up that morning and started cooking and just couldn’t stop. We ended up with a huge table of food and only the two of us to eat it.
What I’m saying is, don’t do what we did. If it is just you and your spouse for Thanksgiving, don’t cook a whole turkey. Fix a turkey breast instead and save some money and effort.
Or if you have 5 people eating, then don’t fix 20 different dishes. If people want that kind of variety, then tell them to just go eat at a buffet for Thanksgiving. (I’m joking, but seriously, that is a lot of work for the person who has to cook it!)
So be realistic about how much food you need and create a menu based on that. You could let each person pick a favorite dish and go from there. That way it is still a special meal, but you are only preparing 5 things instead of 15.
Well, I hope that you all have these tips to be helpful on your journey of saving money to feed your loved ones this Thanksgiving.
Again, the main thing is that you all enjoy spending time together. Don’t feel like you are failing (or worse put yourself in the hole financially) because you feel like you need to have this large traditional meal. Make your own traditions! It makes fun memories when you do things like that.