Thanksgiving is a holiday that isn’t always as thankful as it should be — while Thanksgiving should be about things you are thankful for, and spending time with your family, you don’t always feel thankful. 🙂 After spending hours upon hours at the grocery store, and then spending all day cooking dinner for a few moments together at dinner, and then several more hours cleaning up the mess while members of your family watch football, it’s sometimes hard to find things to be thankful for and even more difficult to stay on budget. While you’re losing your sanity trying to create the best possible Thanksgiving for your family, most of your guests won’t even notice, or care, if you’re doing everything on a budget.
You’ll need a few decorations to liven up the holiday spirit, and some food to make everyone feel at home.
One way to keep the budget lower and your sanity intact is to ask everyone to bring an item. While you’re baking turkey, or whipping up mashed potatoes, someone else can bring the green bean casserole, apple or pumpkin pie, and yams, or whatever your family likes. If you don’t have to make everything yourself, you won’t be as tired at the end of the day, won’t have to spend as much money for ingredients, and you’ll have more time and energy to enjoy the family, and friends that are there to spend time with you.
So, let’s get started. Thanksgiving just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without turkey, so you’ll either need to find a way to obtain the turkey inexpensively (your local foodbank will provide you one if you go on their appointed days and times, for free), or, if you choose to purchase a turkey, you can often get a free, or very low priced turkey if you spend a certain amount. Another alternative would be to scrap the whole turkey and opt for turkey breast, or drumsticks instead. Since supply and demand dictates price, and the general population is demanding whole turkey, turkey breasts, and drumsticks are much less expensive.
Buying a 10-pound bag of potatoes is often less expensive than a 5-pound bag, but get what will work best for your family. In my local grocery store, it’s $1.68 for a 5lb. bag of potatoes, but for just $1.30 more, I can get a 10lb bag of potatoes — that’s an extra 5lbs of potatoes for only a small amount more. If the cost of the potatoes are too expensive, or you don’t feel you could use 5lbs or 10lbs of potatoes, opt for instant mashed potatoes (another item your local foodbank will provide for free if you go).
Making gravy is easy and inexpensive since you can often make it with pantry items you already have on hand. Just take the turkey drippings, add in 1/3-1/2 cup of flour, and enough broth, or bouillon to give it a spoonable consistency, cooking it on medium until it boils, and then reducing it to low while stirring often.
Rolls, or biscuits are often staples at a Thanksgiving meal. Make them yourself to save money, or pick up a pack for a couple of dollars. Thankfully, a package of rolls isn’t more than a couple of dollars, so you can grab some without sacrificing your budget, unless your family is like mine and you need a gluten-free alternative, as my husband is celiac (allergic to gluten). In that case, making rolls is your only alternative if you don’t want to spend much money — our go-to gluten-free roll recipe is: Gluten-Free Pull Apart Dinner Rolls.
Jello parfait is also a very inexpensive side dish at a Thanksgiving meal. Just mix up a package of instant Jello (following package directions), and then once it is completely set, cut the Jello up into small pieces, and then mix in a cup, or two of whipped cream.
Stuffing is likely going to be your most expensive Thanksgiving item. Using dried herbs rather than fresh, if you have them in your pantry, will save you money. Just remember that you generally use fewer dried herbs than you would fresh. Here is a recipe from Recipe4Living, and another one from Epicurious for traditional stuffing that uses items you likely have in your pantry (unless, of course, you opt for the fresh versions of the herbs that they ask you to use).
Finally, you must have a dessert, and what would Thanksgiving be without a traditional Pumpkin Pie recipe? Here is a pumpkin pie recipe that won’t break the bank, if you purchase the items while they are on sale in the few days (maybe even a week) before Thanksgiving. Here is a great recipe from Allrecipes.com.
Now that you have the food under control, it’s time to think about decorations. One simple decoration, that serves dual purpose as a way to keep kids occupied, is to take Kraft paper and roll it across your table as a tablecloth. You can add your own drawings, or even trace around your place settings to add some décor, but one of the best things about this brown paper tablecloth is that it entertains the kids of all ages who are waiting for dinner! Perhaps ask each person to write something they are thankful for — this will help them to remember their answers now, and then later, the tablecloth can be folded and kept as a memento, or can be cut apart and easily turned into scrapbook memorabilia.
Napkin Rings. These turkey napkin rings are easy, inexpensive, and adorable. You can use any kind of felt — you don’t have to use the felt recommended in the article. 🙂
Dual purpose decoration and dessert. These cute little Candy and Cookie Turkeys can serve as both decoration before dinner, and dessert after dinner. Everyone — young, and old — will love these adorable candy and cookie turkeys that can be made fairly inexpensively — especially if you remember they serve two purposes, and you likely won’t have them on the table long enough to need to clean them up after dinner! 🙂
Can of gold, copper, or orange spray paint and leaves, pinecones, and acorns. You can make anything look more expensive with a can of spray paint. Get leaves from your yard, or a local park, lay them out on a piece of cardboard and spray paint them with gold, copper, and orange, and you’ll have some gorgeous décor to lay on your table. Gather some pinecones, or acorns from under your tree, spray paint them and, after dried, place them in a bowl with some unused pillar candles from your local dollar store for a creative and decorative centerpiece. When painted in gold, copper, or silver, pinecones can be reused for a Christmas centerpiece at a later time.