How to Host Thanksgiving on a Budget

How to Host Thanksgiving on a Budget

Publish Date October 18, 2023

When hosting Thanksgiving dinner, it’s natural to want to create the ultimate feast – one that will be remembered fondly for years. However, the pursuit of perfection often ups the ante, resulting in overspending.

Don’t worry…there are many ways to keep costs under control while still working your culinary magic. Check out these tips for hosting Thanksgiving on a budget.

Make a Plan

Planning is key, and deciding what your budget will be is the most important step. That will determine what you’re serving and even how many people you should invite.

The guest list is also an important variable. Having a smaller group will keep costs down. Then you’ll want to set a menu, including how many side items to serve. You’ll need to know how big a turkey to buy (if you’re even doing turkey at all…you could save money if you opt for a different main dish). Also, try to start planning early.

Consider Delegating

Thanksgiving can be the ultimate potluck meal. Asking every guest to bring something could mean you’re preparing just one or two dishes. However, it’s important to establish who’s bringing what so you don’t end up with multiple sides of mashed potatoes.

Keep in mind that guests coming from out of town won’t have an easy way to bring food, so consider leaving them out of the equation.

Alcohol can run up your bill quickly, so you could ask your guests to bring their own or delegate one or two guests to bring a bottle or two.

Menu Tips

A common Thanksgiving mistake is overestimating what’s needed. Sometimes, more food is simply too much, so create a plan for how much is needed per person.

For 10 or fewer people, a smaller turkey (12-14 lbs.) should be plenty. Or perhaps you don’t need a whole turkey. Roasting a turkey breast or some thighs might be fine.

Limiting the number of side dishes you serve can be a corner worth cutting. Also, you can save money buying canned or frozen foods. No one will know if the green beans in your casserole were bought in the frozen section, or if the filling in your pumpkin pie came out of a can.

Also, an obvious truth: Cooking from scratch will save money. While it may be tempting to opt for a premade pie, for instance, you’ll likely pay more for that convenience.

When You Shop

When it’s time to shop, make a list of all the ingredients you’ll need to prepare your dishes. Take stock of what you already have in your pantry so you can avoid buying some ingredients new. Also, to pinch pennies, consider off-brand items when you’re shopping.

Start planning early. Buy non-perishable/canned items and tools, months earlier if they’re on sale or when you have coupons. You can even look early for your turkey – some go on sale a few weeks before the holiday.

Shop Thanksgiving Early

If you’re going the fresh route, look for in-season vegetables. Sweet potatoes, pumpkin and butternut squash, for instance, will be more affordable than out-of-season alternatives.

To save even more money, read our blog about shopping strategies.

Dishes and Decor

If you don’t usually host large gatherings, you may not have certain cooking pieces (like turkey roasters) or enough dinnerware. Try borrowing what you can.

Decorating for Thanksgiving can also be done inexpensively. A few smaller natural pieces like gourds, acorns and leaves could get you started on a DIY centerpiece. And don’t forget your kids’ decorations and crafts – they’ll add a lovely touch.

Final Considerations

If you want a little more bang for your buck, make enough extra food so you’ll have leftovers. This will give you lunches and dinners for a couple more days. Whatever’s still left should go in the freezer.

Ready to start planning? Put your holiday plan in motion with these tasty Thanksgiving recipes. For more Thanksgiving inspiration, visit our Thanksgiving Shop.

Thanksgiving Recipe Inspiration