11 Sneaky Ways to Save Money This Thanksgiving
Food writer, personal chef, and consummate hostess Katie Sweeney (who pens the entertaining blog Six Twists) shares her expert advice on hosting a dinner party.
This year will be the 10th year in a row that I have hosted Thanksgiving dinner. It's my absolute favorite holiday and I go all out—think Pinterest-worthy place cards, gravy infused with homemade turkey stock, and Bouchon's recipe for apple pie with almond cream and apple butter and fresh-churned vanilla bean ice cream. This sort of over-the-top finery can add up, especially if it's your first time planning a Thanksgiving meal. That's why I always try to cut costs and keep things as affordable as possible. Here are some simple tips to throwing a fabulous Thanksgiving that won't drain your bank account.
Pick one grocery item to splurge on and budget shop the rest of your ingredients. If you want to serve an organic, free-range Willie Bird turkey, order one, but then budget shop for everything else.
Shop smart. Grocery stores like Trader Joe's and Safeway are significantly more affordable than Whole Foods and other local specialty markets. Make a master grocery list and then break it down by store. Trader Joe's has unbeatable prices for alcohol, cheese, nuts, and canned staples like chicken broth, so put those items on the “to buy at TJs" list. Purchase non-specialty produce (onions, russet potatoes, garlic, butternut squash, etc.) at either Trader Joe's or Safeway. Get specialty produce like mixed greens, hard-to-find or dietary-specific items such as gluten-free flour, and pre-made dishes from Whole Foods.
Buy only what you need. If you only need one cucumber for your kale, cucumber, pomegranate, and feta-cheese salad, don't buy the pack of eight cucumbers from Trader Joe's. Buy one from Safeway instead.
Use what you already own. Take a walk around your house and look for fun items that could be incorporated into your table setting. That old brown damask curtain that you never took to Goodwill? Perfect for a tablecloth! That 2007 calendar of classic American landscapes you loved too much to recycle? Rip it apart and place a picture on each place setting!
Arranged flowers from the grocery store are pricey and may not be in your color scheme. Purchase a bunch or two of buds, then forage for greenery. Grab some shears, head to your backyard, and cut down leaves or branches. Make bouquets with the flowers you've purchased. Or skip the flowers altogether and decorate with candles, pumpkins, fruit, or greenery.
Buy a supermarket turkey. Yes, I just said you can splurge on the turkey if you want to, but one of the easiest ways to save on Thanksgiving is by purchasing a turkey from a supermarket like Safeway. These turkeys are sold for under $2 a pound.
Don't be afraid to cut corners. If the sausage and ciabatta stuffing you want to make calls for rosemary, sage, parsley and thyme, but none of your other recipes call for sage and thyme, omit those herbs and increase the amounts of rosemary and parsley. No one will notice that two herbs were missing!
Delegate to your guests. People love contributing to dinner parties and even more so when it's a holiday like Thanksgiving. When your future sister-in-law asks what she can bring, simply answer, "I would be so thankful if you could bring a pie for dessert!" If she doesn't bake, she can easily pick one up from a bakery. If you're making dessert, have her bring salad, dinner rolls, or wine.
Speaking of wine, buy it in bulk. Many supermarkets have what I like to call “the alcoholic discount,” where you get a discount for buying a case of wine. Or take advantage of BevMo's Five-Cent Sale. Buy one bottle and get the second for just fuve cents—it's basically buy one, get one free!
Purchase fabric instead of a tablecloth. A cheap boring plain tablecloth is $12-$15 at Target. A beautiful piece of fabric costs a few bucks a yard at a discount fabric store and is infinitely more original.
Don't buy a bunch of fancy pots, pans, and serving dishes. Roast the turkey in a disposable foil pan. It's way cheaper than a large roasting pan and you won't have to wash it after dinner!
Find more of Katie's expert entertaining and cooking advice at Six Twists.
What are your best money-saving tips for holiday entertaining? Tell us in the comments below.
Opening photo by Amy Neunsinger