Host a Fantastic Thanksgiving Dinner Without Busting Your Budget

by Alexa Mason · 3 comments

Are you thinking of hosting Thanksgiving this year? Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could throw a dinner party without busting your budget? Well, good news! You don’t need to spend a ton of money to host an amazing Thanksgiving dinner party. In fact, spending too much on dinner can suck the joy right out of it.

Thanksgiving is a season for thanks and a time to appreciate each other, so there’s no need to lavishly spend money. There are only a few weeks left until Thanksgiving Day, so start planning now.

Doing so will ensure you have a frugal and fabulous Thanksgiving dinner celebration. Use these tips to host a Thanksgiving party without busting your budget.

1. Have Guests Bring a Side Dish

Don’t feel bad for asking your guests to bring a dish to the dinner. Not only does the menu gain more variety, but it’s an opportunity to have everyone pitch in their own food, and show off their cooking skills.

Most of your friends and family will be more than happy to prepare one of their prized recipes for everyone else to enjoy. And you can focus on preparing the main dishes, like the turkey. Doing this one thing should save you more than 50% on your food bill.

2. Cook From Scratch

You’ll rarely hear the words, “cook from scratch” come out of my mouth, but when you’re on a tight budget and have many mouths to feed, it’s a smart strategy. Additionally, Thanksgiving is the perfect time of year to use cooking from scratch as a cost-effective solution.

A few items that you can easily cook from scratch are; gravy, stuffing/dressing, mashed potatoes, and desserts. And they are so much better homemade than store-bought.

If you don’t know how to make some of the side dishes or main courses from scratch, consider asking a friend or family member for their recipe, or plead with a “chefy” friend who can help.

3. Monitor Sales and Plan Ahead

The number one frugal hack to planning an awesome Thanksgiving dinner on a budget, is to plan ahead. Give yourself a month to slowly stock up on items by purchasing goods that are on sale.

Start picking up Thanksgiving food at the local farmer’s market (where you can haggle a bit on price). Keep an eye out in the paper for weekly sales and discounts, and check your grocery’s circular for specials. The sooner you start planning, the more cash you’ll save.

4. Bulk Up the Menu

Potatoes are cheap and easy to make, as are things like rice and noodles. And if you’re cooking for a large group, a side dish like mashed potatoes, rice pilaf, sweet potatoes, or mac and cheese, will be a huge hit.

The best thing about these side dishes is, they are versatile, nearly everyone enjoys them (kids and adults alike), and they allow you to bulk up your menu without spending a lot of money. You can serve them plain or dress them up.

For some simple side dish ideas that won’t break the bank, check out Budget Bytes and create your own recipe box, meal planner, and shopping list. She breaks the recipe down by total cost and cost per serving.

5. Stock Up on November Sales

Curb your guests’ appetite by setting out some candy dishes. Stock up on candy after Halloween and you’ll pay a fraction of the price.

It’s not only the themed candy that gets marked down but also the overstock of both candy and decorations in November, so you might be able to find a few more candles or centerpieces for cheap. This is also when a lot of supermarkets drop the price on fall items like pumpkins and spices, so you’ll want to take advantage of that.

6. Stick With the Basics

Providing beverages for a family dinner is one of my biggest frustrations. Everyone drinks something different and I feel like it’s a losing game trying to please everyone. The adults want adult beverages, but the kids want juice or soda. How do you make everyone happy?

Easy; keep it simple. Or ask your guests to bring their own. While everyone in my family might prefer a specific beverage, they won’t mind drinking something else. The main drinks to keep on hand are:

  • Water
  • Juice
  • Tea
  • Soda

As far as alcohol goes, don’t buy any. Depending on your family, being the alcohol supplier could be a bank breaker. Instead ask your guests to bring their own alcoholic beverages, if that’s something you permit.

Host a Thanksgiving Dinner on a Budget

Start preparing for Thanksgiving dinner now, using these tips. If you plan early, ask your guests to contribute, and cook from scratch, you’ll be able to throw a fantastic dinner for pennies on the dollar.

What’s one more tip you use to keep your Thanksgiving budget low? What other ways can you throw a fantastic Thanksgiving party without spending a lot of money?

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  • Arminius Aurelius says:

    Cooking at home is easy and is frugal compared to eating dinner in a restaurant . I cook a large X pound of meat in the oven or in a Slow cooker . There is enough meat left over for another 2 or 3 meals . Cut into portions [ I eat 4 ounces max ] and you can freeze it for another evening.
    A meal at home for 1 person ….Salad , meat , potatoes / rice / pasta and vegetables would cost about $ 3.50 to $ 4.00 MAX compared to eating in a restaurant where it would cost $ 15.00 to $ 20.00 . Alcohol , a mixed drink at home would cost less than $ 1.00 . > 1 1/2 ounce Whiskey and half a can of Cola . A bottle of Beer cost about $ 1.25 A mixed cocktail in a restaurant costs about $ 9.00 to $ 12.00 . A Beer probably would cost about $ 4.50 . So it is really not that expensive to invite friends / family to dinner.

  • Emily says:

    I find the budget gets out of hand for us because i feel like I need to shop at the fancier stores, which had a higher price point.

    • David @ says:

      I would have had just as good of a time at your place whether you buy at a fancier store or some regular store. Don’t let hosting thanksgiving dinner (a good gesture) ruin your budget!

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