Host Your First Thanksgiving Without Going into Debt

by Tamila McDonald
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Host Your First Thanksgiving Without Going into Debt

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. As a result, many couples are already planning for the holiday. If you’re hoping to host your first Thanksgiving dinner this year, you might be concerned about the cost. While it may seem like using credit cards and going into debt is the only option, that isn’t the case. It’s entirely possible to create a delectable meal while sticking to a budget. If you want to host your first Thanksgiving without going into debt, here are some tips that can help.

Create a Meal Plan

One of the biggest keys to keeping your Thanksgiving dinner on budget is having a plan. You want to know precisely what you need to create the meal. Along with figuring out what you want to serve, you’ll need a guest list. That way, you’ll know how many servings of each food you’ll need.

For example, when you’re buying the turkey, aim for about 1.5 lbs. per person. If you’re serving mashed potatoes, using one potato per attendee will typically make enough for everyone. For rolls, two dinner-sized ones per person generally does the trick.

As you plan your meal, start with what you genuinely feel are must-haves. Then, add other nice-to-haves to the list. That way, if you need to cut back on the number of dishes due to your budget, you’re less likely to forget one that you believe is crucial.

Cook from Scratch as Much as Possible

In most cases, and pre-prepared item costs far more than making it from scratch yourself. If you have enough time to make your own gravy, mashed potatoes, rolls, pies, or anything else, go that route instead. Even if you just make something partially from scratch – such as creating your own pie filling but buying a premade frozen or refrigerated crust – that can still result in a savings.

Take Stock of What You Have

Before you do any shopping, check to see what you already have on hand. Spices can be surprisingly expensive, so go through yours before to see if any are missing. That way, you can make sure you’re only buying ones you actually need to add to your collection.

Additionally, take a look in your freezer. You may find that you already have green beans or another item you might need, allowing you to avoid an unnecessary purchase.

Take stock of your staples and baking items, too. Flour, sugar, and butter all make appearances in a lot of recipes. See how much you have available. That way, if you need to shop for more, you can limit yourself just to what you need if it helps your budget.

Shop Sales Throughout the Month

If you are planning your Thanksgiving meal now, you have the benefit of time. You can pick up various critical ingredients as they go on sale, allowing you to reduce the total cost.

Most grocery stores will have different sales each week leading up to Thanksgiving, and most will feature at least a few traditional Thanksgiving foods or ingredients. By shopping strategically, you can get what you need for less, allowing you to keep your budget under control.

Additionally, keep your eye out for free or highly discounted turkey deals. Many stores offer them during the month of November. In many cases, you simply need to spend a particular amount of money in a single trip to qualify. By combining some Thanksgiving-related purchases with your weekly groceries, getting over the line is often pretty easy.

Other stores use a buy-one-get-one approach. For example, you may qualify for a free turkey if you purchase a specific ham. If you’ll need a ham soon anyway, it’s a great option.

Don’t Skip Store Brands

Many store brands are just as good as name brands. In fact, many store brands are actually name brand products in disguise. They’re created at the same manufacturing facilities using the same process; they just have different packaging.

As you’re shopping, compare sales to store brand prices. If the store brand comes out ahead, snag it. Typically, it will match up well against the name brand version you were considering, or it may just need a small tweak or two to help it measure up.

Add a Potluck Element

Even if you’re the one hosting Thanksgiving this year, that doesn’t mean you have to handle all of the food. While the host will typically tackle the staples – like the turkey and stuffing – asking guests to contribute one dish isn’t out of the question.

If you add a potluck element, don’t just let people bring what they want without advanced coordination. Instead, use either an online signup sheet or make specific requests of each guest. That way, you don’t end up with several of one dish and none of another.

Do keep in mind that out-of-town guests may not have a space to cook. If you ask them to contribute, choose something that’s easy to buy in-store. For example, packages of dinner rolls are widely available, and you can quickly heat them before mealtime

Make It BYOB

Alcohol can get incredibly expensive. If you want to keep your budget under control, skipping alcohol entirely could be a wise move. You can simply let your guests know that they’ll need to bring their own if they want to partake. Then, you can just worry about providing regular beverages

Alternatively, if you go the potluck route, you could ask that certain guests bring the wine, cider, or beer. Just keep in mind that they’ll be taking on a bigger financial burden than some other guests if they agree to take this on. As a result, they may prefer to decline if they’ve also got a tight budget this year.

Otherwise, if you want to make alcoholic beverages available without asking someone else to shoulder the burden, keep it simple. Offering one wine and one beer option could be enough. Similarly, creating a single punch, mulled wine, or hot cider could do the trick.

In many cases, there are low-cost wines and spirits that have great flavor. Do a little research to see which ones excel in the taste department. That way, you can choose a delectable option without busting your budget.

Don’t Stress the Décor

Many people think that dressing up the table is a necessity. However, once the food is ready, there’s a decent chance you’ll be moving decorations off of the table to make room for food.

Instead of stressing décor, see if you actually need any first. Grab the place settings and silverware you’re using and position it around the table just as you will on Thanksgiving. In many cases, you’ll discover that there isn’t a ton of room already, let alone when it comes time to bring out the food.

If you want to add something simple, check your home for viable items. Candlesticks with simple tapers are always a classic choice, and you can get candles for just a buck or two.

For a pop of color, get a pack of fabric napkins. Skip the napkin rings and head online to find a fun folding technique. That approach will likely cost you less than $10, depending on the number of guests. Plus, they’re reusable, so you’ll be able to use them for any group dinner gathering.

Do you have any other tips to help couples host their first Thanksgiving without going into debt? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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