6 smart tips and a Thanksgiving menu plan to help you keep your holiday budget-friendly with simple real food!
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When we were really broke, we had $25-35/week for food. All of it – including eating out, but who are we kidding? Thanksgiving was one of my favorite times to grocery shop because I could use the sales to stock up on good, real food a feed our family all winter.
Thanksgiving Dinner on a Budget
First, when you are on a tight budget, the Thanksgiving meal itself can be very intimidating. The food is very traditional, and it’s not exactly budget-friendly. However, here are a few ways you can save the most money while hosting a delicious Thanksgiving dinner:
1. Divide & Conquer
If you are hosting dinner, divide the dishes between your guests. As the host, you’re already doing a lot for the meal. It makes a lot of sense to say that you will provide the turkey, and everyone else can bring a dish to pass.
2. Wait to Purchase Ingredients Until the Week of
I know buying ingredients ahead of time makes a lot of sense. Thanksgiving week is busy, and the more we can do before the rush, the better. But the food goes on sale the week of Thanksgiving. Sweet potatoes, turkey, and stuffing ingredients will never be so cheap as they are this week.
3. Just Choose Your Favorite Dishes
If your gathering is small, talk with your people about which dishes are their favorites. If no one really cares for stuffing or dressing, there is no rule that you need to have it at your table. Find a menu that fits your table and your family at the time.
When Chris and I celebrated our first Thanksgiving together, I was sick and we had a newborn. So I made a turkey and pumpkin pie, and we called it good.
For the last 5+ years, my family hosted an allergy-free Thanksgiving. We had a lot of people with food sensitivities, so we created a space where we could all safely eat together. It was a little untraditional, but it was also extremely delicious.
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Thanksgiving Menu on a Budget
Here’s a list of simple real-food inspired Thanksgiving dishes.
- Garlic mashed potatoes
- Macaroni & Cheese (although, baked is traditional and always the best choice for holidays!)
- Autumn spring mix salad
- Deeply-flavorful baked sweet potatoes
- Cornbread dressing
- Pumpkin pie
- Apple pie (We use apple crisp as a simpler alternative!)
- Roasted brussels sprouts
- Green bean casserole
- We use the Easiest Bread Ever to make rolls
Use Thanksgiving Sales to Eat Well all Winter
Thanksgiving is the perfect time to stock up on simple real food so you can eat well on a budget all year. Here is how we do it:
1. Clean Out Your Freezer
For most of November, we follow a simple pantry challenge. This helps us save money for the big meal at the end of the month and prepares our freezer and pantry space so we can stock up on sales.
2. Shop Sales the Week Before Thanksgiving and Right After
Most Thanksgiving-inspired food goes on sale 1-2 weeks before Thanksgiving and a few days after. Where I live, I keep my eye peeled for sales on these items:
- Sweet potatoes
- Butternut squash
- Brussels Sprouts
- Spices and seasonings (nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice, thyme, cloves, etc.)
- Baking supplies (for holiday baking)
3. Use Your Freezer
Did you know you can freeze a lot of the food listed above? Obviously Turkey is easy to freeze. You can also freeze butter and cranberries – simply toss them into the freezer! Butter thaws perfectly, but you’ll want to use the cranberries for baking and cooking after they thaw.
Potatoes and squash will last in the pantry for a while, but when they start looking like they need to be used, simply cook and peel, then freeze in a freezer bag.
Thanksgiving is one of our favorite holidays and favorite meals all year, However, it can get expensive and intimidating when you’re on a budget. Use these tips to help you maximize your savings and keep your holiday budget-friendly!
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