How To Budget Appropriately This Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and no one can deny that the preparation of this meal is a labor of love. Families all over the United States spend hours beforehand preparing the Thanksgiving Day menu, shopping for the food at the grocery store, and preparing the meal in the kitchen.

However, not only is the Thanksgiving meal time consuming, but it can also be extremely expensive, as it usually involves feeding a large number of family members and friends. The budget-conscious may find it difficult to keep costs low, but we’re here to help!

We have some helpful tips to ensure the Thanksgiving holiday doesn’t break the budget.

Ask Others to Contribute

Thanksgiving wouldn’t be what is was without the love of family and friends gathered around the table. Nevertheless, feeding a small army can certainly become expensive – especially if you’re preparing a lavish meal with high end ingredients!

To help balance the budget, it’s very reasonable to ask each guest or family to contribute an appetizer, main dish, dessert or beverage. This will free up the host/hostess’s time to enjoy the company of loved ones and will ease the financial burden.

Plan Ahead

The Thanksgiving menu, with the exception of perhaps a few special dishes, remains relatively unchanged from year to year. Planning the Thanksgiving menu ahead may allow you to stock up on certain items that go on sale periodically before the holiday.

Non-perishable food items generally remain safe to use for months. Perishable items may also be purchased ahead and frozen, allowing consumers to take advantage of specials or sales.

Choose the Bird Wisely

Typically, the turkey or “bird” accounts for approximately 40% of the cost of the entire meal. As important as a tasty bird may be, this is certainly an area where you can save.

Instead of a free-range, organic turkey which runs around $10 per pound, supermarket turkeys offer a cheap alternative at less than $2 per pound. It all depends on taste, nutritional preference and what you are willing/able to pay. You could also choose a store-brand frozen turkey, but if you have become accustomed to a fresh turkey, this may be too much of a change in taste.

Buy in Bulk

Bulk may the best option if you’re feeding a large crowd; however, this is not always the case. You may not be able to use all the bulk purchases you make for the Thanksgiving meal, but you certainly have time afterwards. Think Christmas or New Year’s dinner!

Bulk and bargain stores like Costco and Sam’s Club are ideal places to make bulk purchases at an affordable price. You could also buy in bulk and split the costs and items with a friend who may be planning their own meal.

According to supermarket prices and Internet sources, if you buy the following three items in bulk: 5 pounds of apples, 16 pounds of potatoes and 3 pounds of cheddar cheese, you could potentially save up to $31.78!

Eat Out

If Thanksgiving isn’t a huge event in your household and you’re planning a small meal, it may even be wise to dine out. Consider the value of time in this calculation and just how much time you want to spend preparing a meal if you will be alone or with a small group.

Many restaurants are likely to offer Thanksgiving specials to include all the holiday favorites. Make sure to consider the cost of alcohol. When dining out, alcohol can often be the most expensive aspect of a meal. But you could always dine out and offer cocktails at home afterwards!

Cook from Scratch

Don’t underestimate the savings that can be realized by cooking from scratch. Although more time consuming, it will help cut down costs. If you choose recipes that don’t require loads of ingredients, this can certainly be an area where you can save money; simple home-made mashed potatoes can be just as good as a dish that requires a lot of “bells and whistles.”

Published or Updated: April 4, 2013
About Rob Berger

Rob founded the Dough Roller in 2007. A litigation attorney in the securities industry, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, their two teenagers, and the family mascot, a shih tzu named Sophie.

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