Thanksgiving is just around the corner, my friends; a mere 5 weeks or so away! You may or may not entertain on Thanksgiving, but if you don’t, you can just forward this post to whoever’s house you go to on turkey day. 🙂
We entertain every year on Thanksgiving. It runs on my father’s side that we love to feed people, and we love to eat. Add that to my love of cooking, and you’re set up for one pretty darn yummy Thanksgiving dinner, but one that can get out of hand real quickly, cost-wise.
Here’s a sample menu from The Frugal Farmer on Thanksgiving Day and what we’d pay out of pocket full price:
Turkey (of course) $30
Mashed potatoes and gravy $20, for two 10lb. bags of potatoes and 6 jars of turkey gravy
Green bean casserole (gotta have it!) $8
Green bean almondine (green beans with bacon and slivered almonds) $8
Cranberry sauce $5
A lettuce salad or broccoli salad $10
Fresh-baked buns $8
Lefse (anyone wondering what this is?) $30
4 Pies $20
Banana Cream Supreme $9
Milk to drink $7
Pop to drink $3
Plates, napkins, plastic silverware, etc, for 25 people $25
Total estimated cost: $205
Now that we’re on our super strict budget, obviously spending several hundred dollars to feed 20-30 people isn’t an option. How are we going to cheap-up the costs of Thanksgiving this year without cheaping up the experience? If you know me at all, then you know I’ve got a plan for that. 🙂 Here’s how we’ll feed our family and friends an awesome Thanksgiving dinner for not too much money:
1. Ask guests to bring something. We dole out one menu item on the list to almost everyone who comes, unless they’re in a situation of financial, medical, or life hardship that would make it a PITA to bring something.
2. Take advantage of sales, especially in the weeks before Thanksgiving. This is crucial to a frugal Thanksgiving. Last year we waited to do much of our shopping the week of Thanksgiving. Walmart, in an effort to rid the stores of the many 10-lb. bags of russet potatoes, was selling them for about $1.38. Can you believe that???? I was psyched!! We could get the potatoes for our entire gathering for under $3! Most stores also have buy one, get one sales and other huge discounts on common Thanksgiving food items, so do your research and shop at the right time, refusing to pay more when you can pay less. Another option? Shop after Thanksgiving for next year’s paper products and canned foods, to get even deeper discounts.
3. Do homemade. A pack of homemade buns is $2 easy, even for the cheap brands, but you can make them at home for about a buck. Same goes with gravy: we haven’t done store bought gravy in years. A little flour, water, salt and pepper added to the turkey juice makes an awesome homemade gravy that your guests will drool over. 🙂
4. Keep your eye out for freebies. Every year, my brother gets a free turkey from work at Thanksgiving time. He has a small family, and sometimes they’ll use the turkey, sometimes they won’t. I always ask if he plans on using it (we are lucky to have a brutally honest family, so he’ll gladly tell me “no” if they plan on keeping it. Use your discretion and good judgment in this area, so as not to offend more “manners oriented” family members or friends). Also, many of our friends/family members are aware of our getting out of debt journey, so we will occasionally get calls like we did the other day:
Hey Laur, I was at the store the other day and they had BOGO turkeys. We’ll never use that second one, would you like it?
SCORE!, and huge thanks to my BFF, Jess. 🙂
Obviously, you don’t want to go around begging for stuff from people, but it’s okay to tactfully let them know about your journey, and then let the Lord work from there.
5. Choose off brands or regular brands instead of the super spendy stuff. Rick worked for a year and a half for a home grocery delivery service years ago, and at Easter time, the delivery guys were expected to plug these $80 hams to their customers. $80 for a freakin’ ham? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
Now, I’m not saying that it’s not nice to have an awesome cut of meat once a year, but when you’re on a budget like we are, that’s just not a wise option. And after our debt’s paid off, we may just splurge for a $80 ham at Christmas or a $80 turkey at Thanksgiving, but not today. Some food items that are off brand really are quite low in quality, and should be avoided, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: many generic brands are just the regular name-brand stuff in different boxes, courtesy of partnerships made by big food companies. So don’t be too quick to brush off the generic stuff.
Following the above strategies, here’s what we’ll likely pay to host Thanksgiving dinner:
Turkey (of course) free with a little networking/generosity of friends/family members
Mashed potatoes and gravy $6 (by picking up the potatoes on sale and making homemade gravy)
Green bean casserole (gotta have it!) $6 by hitting the sales
Green bean almondine (green beans with bacon and slivered almonds) $6 by hitting the sales
Corn $2 getting it on sale
Cranberry sauce $4 by hitting the sales
A lettuce salad or broccoli salad FREE (brother and sis in law will bring this)
Fresh-baked buns $2 by making homemade
Lefse (anyone wondering what this is?) FREE (Lefse is a mandated Norwegian tradition at all holidays in our family. It’s kind of like a tortilla made out of potatoes. There’s cheap stuff in the stores, but it tastes terrible. We found a gem of a store in Northern MN that makes great homemade Lefse and will ship it to us. It’s ridiculously expensive at $30, but it’s our one Thanksgiving splurge, and mom always buys this).
$18 – WRONG AGAIN! We’ll be able to get this cost cut WAY down by utilizing the sales and using this great tip for “free” bread crumbs from Mr. CBB’s Frugal Thanksgiving post. Final cost for stuffing? In the neighborhood of $11 , and way better than the boxed stuff.
4 Pies FREE – dad will bring these
Banana Cream Supreme $7 if I utilize the sales on pudding and whipped cream (I’ve attached this recipe to the link here, but skip the “lite” cool whip and skim milk. It’s Thanksgiving, for pete’s sake – don’t ruin it with thoughts of a diet. Use regular cool whip and whole or 2% milk)
Milk to drink FREE Other brother will pick up the milk
Pop to drink $3
Plates, napkins, plastic silverware, etc, for 25 people
$25 I can get this down to $10 easily if I get plates on sale, cheap napkins, and utilize our real silverware and the glasses we’ve already got on hand.
Total estimated cost: $57
Total cost savings for our revamped plan? $148
Even if you choose to foot the whole bill yourself, you should easily be able to get your costs down by a good 30-50% if you shop well and make homemade instead of store-bought. By and large though, we’ve found that our guests love contributing to the meal, because it feels good to give, don’t you think?