How to Host Thanksgiving Dinner on a Budget

Shannon Cairns

October 3, 2021


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Are you wondering if it’s even possible to host Thanksgiving Dinner on a budget? With the growing concern for food supply issues and rising grocery prices, you might be concerned that Thanksgiving this year will come with overspending.

Don’t worry though, with these simple tips, you can host Thanksgiving dinner, even on a tight budget!

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We all know that Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends and memories. We don’t need to spend enormous amounts of money on the meal itself in order to have an amazing holiday!

Here are some great ways you can save this year while still enjoying your favorite dishes:

Plan, plan, plan!

Before you start to cook, plan out your menu ahead of time so that you know what dishes will be served and how much food is needed. One thing to keep in mind when planning a holiday meal? Side dishes are important because they can range anywhere from 50 cents – $2 per dish depending on what kind of foods it contains.

Planning side items might not seem as essential at first glance, but preparing them beforehand has many benefits! Also, from personal experience…I’m usually there for the sides!

This giant list of 200 Thanksgiving side dishes, will help you nail down the cheapest and most filling sides for your Thanksgiving meal.

Grab this free Thanksgiving Day Planner so you can plan ahead and stay on budget!

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Thanksgiving Day Planner

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    Make a list of all the ingredients that you need for your Thanksgiving feast.

    You’ll want to include the basics, of course: turkey and mashed potatoes. But there is no reason you can’t substitute cheese and crackers for shrimp cocktail or change up some hors d’oeuvres–like serving ham instead of beef tenderloin.

    The holiday isn’t about what’s on your plate as much as it is about being thankful for all that you have in life.

    Stock up on supplies before Thanksgiving.

    This might sound like an obvious tip, but it is important that you have everything you need for your big feast–especially if your family has special needs or a certain diet.

    Pumpkin pie filling and canned cranberries might not seem like a big deal, but if you don’t have them on hand thanks to your prepping efforts, the holiday dinner could be ruined!

    Be sure to consider things like salt and pepper – they are simple condiments that can easily be forgotten when buying food for Thanksgiving dinner.

    Consider buying a few items each week leading up to Thanksgiving to make the cost less of a burden on your budget.

    Canned goods are a frugal cook’s best friend – and for good reason!

    They contain plenty of flavor with fewer steps, making them ideal for family meals. Make Thanksgiving dinner even more delicious by adding some great canned goods into your recipes.

    When cooking mashed potatoes, use canned chicken broth instead of water to make them rich and flavorful. Also, canned cranberry sauce is a great addition to other sides like stuffing thanks to its sweetness; whip up your own homemade dressing or use an easy packet mix instead (just make sure the total cost for all components is within your budget).

    When using canned goods in recipes, consider that you can also cut the recipe in half to serve fewer people!

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    Make sure you are getting the most bang for your buck.

    Check sales flyers and clip coupons in order to maximize deals on basic ingredients (canned goods, frozen veggies, etc). Purchasing products in bulk is also an easy way to save money, thanks to mass-production and larger quantities (be sure to compare prices in order to ensure you are getting the best deal!) You can save up to 50% on Thanksgiving dinner ingredients!

    If you want to enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner without breaking the bank, start stocking up on coupons and searching for deals now. Loads of supermarkets offer discounts for people who sign up online or through their mobile app, which can save a lot in one visit alone!

    Catch all those Turkey Day deals before they expire. Don’t be afraid to try out new recipes with a lower cost per serving than the traditional Thanksgiving fare. They may just become your new Thanksgiving favorites!

    Grocery Saving Tips:

    You can save a lot of money by buying frozen vegetables instead of fresh produce.

    It’s hard for the producers to keep their prices low when they have to ship out from warmer climates and into colder areas, but you’re not affected if your veggies come straight off the shelf! The frozen vegetables contain the same nutrients as fresh produce, so you won’t even notice any change in quality.

    Invite guests over for appetizers or dessert instead of an entire meal if it’s too expensive.

    No one is forcing you to host a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. If you are really short on funds and want to just have appetizers or dessert, that’s fine too! You can always do the big dinner next year when your finances are in better shape.

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    Host a “Pot Luck” Style Thanksgiving Dinner

    If you have a large guest list, consider making the turkey and a couple of sides, and then asking the guests to each bring their favorite dish or dessert.

    This is what we have been doing for our large family gathering for years and it always turns out great!

    Never underestimate the power of leftovers.

    It’s cost-effective to make a little more than you will need so that you will have the leftovers to repurpose into other meals during the week. You don’t have to repeat Thanksgiving dinner – foods like turkey, gravy, stuffing, and mashed potatoes can become the star ingredients of another dish!

    To store your leftovers without sacrificing taste or quality while saving space in your refrigerator, use a roll-up sandwich baggie for cold items like mashed potatoes and gravy; just microwave them when you’re ready!

    Hosting Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t have to be a tremendous burden if you are frugal and considerate. Try your best to find the most affordable solutions for your needs–whether it’s meals, cookware or decorating supplies–and you’ll save a lot in one trip!

    You’ll love these leftover recipes:

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    Save even more money when it comes to decor.

    To save money on Thanksgiving decorations, buy quality but cheap decorations that can be reused. Discounts and after Thanksgiving sales offer opportunities for great deals on autumn-themed decor like pumpkins!

    These could even go on sale as Halloween approaches because many people will only need them once a year. This includes tableware, fake candles, centerpieces made of wood or other materials, and more. And remember, you don’t have to buy paper tablecloths–use cloth tablecloths that can be thrown in the washing machine once a year!

    To create an autumn atmosphere without spending money on expensive decorations, try using flowers and plants with earthy colors like reds and yellows. Add pinecones, gourds, or handmade ornaments to your table. And don’t forget– the actual centerpiece doesn’t have to be flowers! You can also use a potted plant or even a bowl of fruit as your Thanksgiving dinner centerpiece.

    Easy Fall Decor on a Budget:

    We’ve talked about how to save money on Thanksgiving dinner and now it’s time for you to share your ideas. How do you plan to cook this year? Do you have any food hacks that will make the process easier or more affordable? What are some of the best recipes out there for a low-cost, delicious meal? Share with us in the comments below!

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    hi! I'm shannon

    I’m a wife, mom of three, doctor, and blogger! In 2018, I decided to turn my mom blog, into a personal finance blog so others could follow along on our journey to pay off over HALF a MILLION dollars in student loan and practice start up debt. I hope you enjoy following along, and maybe even find some inspiration along the way.