Hosting Thanksgiving dinner is a wonderful tradition, a chance to welcome our loved ones into our homes for quality time together and a delicious meal. Should be a breeze, right? But we all know the stress that can come along with hosting such a feast. Ever-expanding ideas for dishes to make and décor to hang leads most Americans to not only overeat, but also overspend. Here are five ways to prevent breaking the bank completely (both calorically and financially).
Making a menu and full ingredient list a few weeks before Thanksgiving will give you a few advantages. With time to prepare, you can perfect a balanced and simple menu. Avoid the extravagant marinades, sides, and garnishes: Go back to the basics! You can also alleviate the burden of one large purchase and buy a little at a time. Bring your list to the store once November hits and be on the lookout for coupons, sales, and nonperishable ingredients in bulk; this helps cut the cost per item.
Bake from scratch.
Pre-heat that oven and get baking! Store-bought pies, especially from private bakeries, can be costly. Stock up on baking ingredients for a less expensive approach. For those of you looking to watch calories this Thanksgiving, get creative and find a light recipe that appeals to you. Ditch the store-bought custards and crèmes and make a delicious pumpkin- or fruit-based pie instead.
Focus on vegetables.
Seasonal low-cost items such as sweet potatoes, squash, kale, brussels sprouts, beets, and carrots can make a variety of side dishes. Not only will the veggies add a pop of color to your spread, they will save you money. Vegetables are always less expensive than serving additional meats and complex recipes. You and your guests will have a healthier meal (think plates loaded with veggies). Try swapping your sausage stuffing for a vegetarian recipe — you’re likely to cut the cost and calories!
Make the most of your leftovers.
Even the savviest Thanksgiving hosts are likely to take a hit on their grocery bills. Use your leftovers to minimize grocery costs in the week following the big event. Replicas of the meal itself can become redundant and high in calories, so try something different, such as turkey noodle soup or turkey salad sandwiches.
Get everyone involved by hosting a potluck.
Have your guests each bring a dish; this approach can help you cut costs substantially. It can also be a fun way for you and your loved ones to showcase your best dishes. Bonus: The meal will come together very quickly, allowing you to focus more on spending time with your guests.
Whether you’re a guest or a host, trying a potluck or planning the whole menu, here’s a health tip: Be very selective at holiday meals. Take the foods you look forward to most and leave the ones you could do without or are likely to eat more regularly.
Thanksgiving is meant to be a day full of family, fun, and of course giving thanks. Don’t let the pressure to host an elaborate event get in the way of enjoying the day. You can find ways to save and still have time to relax, enjoy, and let go a little!