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10 Ways To Host Thanksgiving Dinner On A Budget

This post was originally published on November 16, 2018. 

So you want to host a Thanksgiving dinner this year with your family and/or closest friends, but you’re on a strict budget. What can you do?

After you account for the cost of food and decorations, a Thanksgiving dinner can quickly go from a nice meal with friends and family to a very costly event.

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year, but are wondering how you’re going to make it work with your budget, here are some top tips for you.

10 Ways To Host Thanksgiving Dinner On A Budget

1. Buy your food ahead of time

Planning ahead for Thanksgiving will help you save a load of money on the food for the day. Don’t leave stuff until last minute and end up having to run over to the grocery store to pick up a turkey that has been jacked up in price. Start thinking ahead about the meal.

Create a meal plan for Thanksgiving day and write out everything that you will be having and making well in advance. This will give you a huge advantage over the other shoppers that leave things until the week of, or even later.

Once you know what you’ll be serving your guests, make a shopping list (a couple of months in advance) of everything that you need. Over the next few months, keep your eyes open for sales on anything on your shopping list.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how cheap you are able to get stuff you need if you have time to get it, and don’t have to buy it all at once when it’s at regular price. If you take a few months to buy your food for Thanksgiving dinner, it will give you plenty of time to find the best prices and sales at the store.

2. Do a potluck dinner

There is no shame in having a potluck dinner for Thanksgiving. If you are hosting the dinner, it will likely be the easiest for you to supply the bulk of your dinner. You could supply the turkey and ask all your guests to bring a side dish.

Having a potluck Thanksgiving dinner will cut food costs down substantially. It will also take a huge list of to-do’s off your plate, allowing you to enjoy the day and have more time to spend with friends and family.

3. Use what you have on hand

When you have created your meal plan and shopping list, go through your fridge, freezer, and pantry, and find what food items you already have on hand. Then cross those items off your grocery list.

This will give you a good chance to use up that old cranberry sauce that is going to spoil if it doesn’t get used up soon. Plus, it’ll clear up some space too.

4. Only buy what you need

When you’ve got your meal plan, make sure that when you create your shopping list, you only buy food that you need. Resist the temptation to buy things that you don’t need.

5. Figure out how many people are coming

Once you have figured out how many people you will be feeding, you can start to write down how much food you will need to feed everyone. While making extra food is good, you don’t want to have so many leftovers that they don’t get eaten before going bad.

Figure out how much food you will need to feed everyone, then add in a couple servings more just to make sure you have enough.

6. Make things from scratch

Making things on your menu from scratch might be more time consuming, but will end up saving you a lot of money. You can make homemade:

  • Stuffing
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Casseroles
  • Pie crusts (and filling if you’re feeling super ambitious!)

Probably just about everything on your menu could be homemade rather than buying it boxed from a store. If you’re not a big fan of cooking, simply look up Thanksgiving dinner recipes and you’ll find loads upon loads of recipes that are simple to make at home.

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7. Use up leftovers

Thanksgiving leftovers are great. But if you have too many leftovers and they’re just going to go bad, that’s not good. Make sure you have a plan to use all your Thanksgiving dinner leftovers. If you have loads of food that you know you won’t be able to eat, send some home with your friends and family. You can also freeze most leftovers for a quick weeknight dinner.

8. Shop no-name

Chances are, that no-name brand of cheese that is cheaper is just as good as that name brand cheese that costs much more.

When shopping for your Thanksgiving dinner ingredients, don’t be afraid to shop no-name. Just be sure to read the ingredients before making a purchase. If you’re diligent with shopping no-name, you will be able to save a lot of money on that Thanksgiving dinner you’re hosting.

9. Buy in bulk

If you have enough guests coming for dinner that you can get away with buying ingredients in bulk, you definitely should.

For instance, let’s say you need a lot of rice for your Thanksgiving dinner. Buy a big bulk bag rather than spending more money on several smaller bags.

Keep in mind that not everything sold in bulk is always a better deal, but a lot of stuff it.

10. DIY

If you enjoy crafts, DIYing most, if not all, of your Thanksgiving decorations is a great way to save money. Home decor prices seem to be going up and up, and decorating for Thanksgiving can end up costing you more than you budgeted for.

To keep the decor costs under budget this Thanksgiving, consider getting crafty and make your own decorations from things you have around the house. Even if you aren’t a naturally crafty person, there are so many easy DIY tutorials that will show you step by step what to do to create beautiful decorations.

Making a big Thanksgiving dinner for your guests doesn’t have to break the bank. If you are smart and diligent with your budget, you will be able to create a beautiful dinner on a budget.

What are your best hosting tips for ways to host Thanksgiving on a budget?

About the Author

Holly Sutton

Holly graduated from Lancaster University with a BA (Hons) in Linguistics and from the University of Central Lancashire with an MA in Magazine Journalism. She enjoys keeping fit, running her blog, and spending time with her family. She hopes to grow her digital marketing business A Branch of Holly and continue to serve bloggers and small business owners!


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