With Thanksgiving comes a short work week for me. I only work Monday and Tuesday and I get the rest of the week off! I love work, but am super-duper excited to have an easy week!
With all of those extra days off and a holiday revolving around eating, it becomes even easier to overspend on my food budget.
Tips to Enjoy a Frugal Thanksgiving
There are plenty of ways to make the most of the holiday while still maintaining a budget, here are a few!
1) Question the Free Turkey
I was at a Pathmark last week and noticed a large sign in the checkout lane that said “Spend $300 with your Pathmark card from September 25 through November 26th and get a free turkey!” If you order online at Safeway/Genuardis, you can get a free turkey and free delivery as long as the order is over $200.
This could make a lot of sense if you naturally hit those spending limits. But that’s not what I saw. No, no, no. The person in front of me asked the cashier to check how far away they were from the free turkey. She responded excitedly, “You’re only $20 away!” It seems the person was gunning for this turkey. How do I figure? She asked if she could leave her bags next to the register as she went back and picked up a few more items.
The free turkey is a great deal if you only buy what you would have bought otherwise and stockpile up on staple items.
2) Invest a Few Minutes in Finding Coupons
Back in the ol’ days, I would help my Aunt and Uncle cut coupons out of the Sunday newspaper inserts. My cousin and I would probably spend a good hour or two cutting all of the coupons out so that my Aunt could then go catalog them in her binder.
Luckily, the permeation of technology has made being frugal easier. Sites like coupons.com, couponmom.com, clipngocoupons.com and your local grocery stores (eg pathmark.com, safeway.com, etc) make finding coupons 10x easier. You can print out exactly the coupons you need. Save money AND save time!
3) Potluck It Up
What is Thanksgiving to you? By its very nature, it probably has to do with two things: family and food. With so many people under one roof and around the same table, there is no better opportunity for a potluck.
Ask each family member or friend who is coming over to bring the sides, breads, and desserts. You, as the host, can handle the Turkey and the stuffing. This evens out the work load and the price.
4) Wine of the Boxed Region
If you typically drink wine from the Napa Valley Region or Tuscany, you may cringe at the thought of this suggestion. However, times are changing. Franzia isn’t the only boxed wine. Competitors, like Black Box Wines, are offering higher quality boxes of wine.
Boxed wine is perfect for a large dinner. A box holds the equivalent of four 750 mL bottles, and is typically cheaper than bottles. That’s not to say that boxed wine doesn’t give off a certain perception, though. Serve the wine from a carafe. ;)
5) Make Less
My family is mostly Italian. That means my family makes a lot more than we actually need. Pretty much everyone can leave with leftovers.
However, do you really need 3 kinds of stuffing, baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, carrots, broccoli, string beans, peas, cauliflower, cranberry sauce, apple sauce, etc? If you can safely say that the amount of food you have is suitable for 12 people when only 8 are invited, you may be overdoing it.
I’ll be the first to say that turkey leftovers are AWESOME. Sandwiches for the next week! :) However, the more leftovers, the higher chance of food getting thrown away. Try and cook a little less this year.
6) Focus on What’s Important
The best part of Thanksgiving to me is seeing and spending time with my family. Especially now that I live a few hours away from them.
If you follow some of the other tips in this article, you could wind up saving hours of your day (especially with the pot luck option!). That time could be better used watching football (!!), looking at Grandpa’s old video tapes, playing Jenga, throwing around the ol’ pig skin outside, or doing something else family oriented.
Remember: Your family is one thing you should be thankful for today.
7) Consider Your Transportation Options
I have two options to get to my parents house for Thanksgiving.
Option A: Drive 100 miles each way. (200 miles RT / 30 mpg * $2.75/gal = $18.33) + (200 miles / 3,000 miles * $100 [Thats about what I spend, on average, in maintenance every 3,000 miles] = $6.67) + (Tolls of $8 each way) = $41.
Option B: Take the train. Round trip is $80.
Option C: Take the bus. Round trip is $28.
Option A & C would take about 2 hours and option B would take 1 hour. In my case, I have a dog and some other factors to consider, so I am opting to spend $13 more than the cheapest option. However, be aware of your alternates!
8) Don’t Splurge On Decorations
I’ve never quite understood why people spend so much on holiday decorations. You have them set up for a week, maybe two, and then box them up and put them away.
Try and stick to cheaper options. Create a center piece out of pine cones and leaves with your kids. Go to resale shops or the dollar store for other things like table cloths.
People will be more interested in spending quality time with you than the quality of your table cloth. Remember that, it isn’t about show casing how much money you can spend in miniscule things.
9) Buy A “Meal-in-a-box”
People may hate Wal-Mart, but they are offering a cheap and easy Thanksgiving meal.
As the press release (linked above) states:
According to a survey by the American Farm Bureau Federation, last year’s average cost of a turkey was roughly $1.19 per pound. Beginning today, select Grade A turkeys are available for 40 cents per pound at Walmart.* These gobblers are part of Walmart’s $20 Thanksgiving menu guaranteeing family favorites will be on the dinner table this holiday season. Walmart’s $20 Thanksgiving feast includes:
- One 12-pound Grade A turkey*
- Three 11 to 15.5-ounce cans Green Giant vegetables
- Two 14-ounce cans Ocean Spray cranberry sauce
- Three 6-ounce boxes of Stove Top stuffing
- One 5-pound bag of red potatoes
- One 12-count package of Sara Lee dinner rolls
- One 22-ounce pumpkin roll cake
10) Bake the Pies
Pies are pricey when you buy them at the grocery store already cooked. You can save time by paying $10 for the pies at the store, or you could opt to cook them yourself and pay much less for just the ingredients.
For the most part, you can bake multiple pies at one time. If one pie should be cooked at 300 degrees and the other at 350 degrees, you can probably cook them both at the same time at 325 degrees (adjust for time accordingly). Try not to stretch the temperatures by more than 25 degrees, though.
Any More Tips or Ideas?
Does anyone else have any other tips for having a frugal Thanksgiving dinner?
Please share them with the readers!