Thanksgiving will be here before you know it. According to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the holiday is going to cost about 10% more this year thanks to significant amounts of food inflation. For instance, the USDA recently said that the average per pound cost of a turkey is sitting at nearly $1.50, up from $1.15 last year. Savvy consumers can mitigate some of these rising costs by shopping smartly. Here are 12 ways that you can save money on your Thanksgiving dinner this year.
Make a List and Do Not Abandon It
The first step to save money on your Thanksgiving costs is to make a list and be intentional about sticking with it. Without a list, you will likely end up buying items that you will never use. When making your list, start with the main entree and then move on to side dishes that you plan on serving. Do not forget to include appetizers, desserts, and drinks. You will save money if you are able to use the same ingredients in multiple dishes. For example, you may save cash if you buy a larger bag of cranberries and use it for a side dish, in a dessert, and in your stuffing.
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Start With Shopping Your Pantry
It is also smart to shop your own kitchen pantry before you step foot in a store. You never know what you already have on hand. Taking stock of what you have will reduce the chances that you buy ingredients that you do not need. In addition to your pantry, be sure to check your freezer and fridge for hidden items that may be of use as you prepare your feast. This is particularly important if you have minor yet expensive ingredients on your list, including various spices, herbs, and marinades.
Make Your Meal a Potluck
Making your meal a potluck is the easiest way to save money if you are hosting a large group at your house. As the host, you can offer to provide the main dish and ask your guests to divvy up the duties for side dishes and desserts. Or ask everyone to bring their favorite bottle of wine to cut down on your overall expenses. As a bonus, asking people to bring their favorite family side dishes, appetizers, or desserts is a fun way to share the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday.
Savvy shoppers are already in the habit of comparing prices. This practice becomes even more important when purchasing for an expensive Thanksgiving meal. Many stores will often offer rock-bottom prices on particular items to get shoppers into the door. For example, Costco is famous for their large pumpkin pie offered for just $5.99. Some stores will even provide a free turkey if you spend a certain amount of money in one trip. Taking the time to identify and then shop the specific sales at each store in your area will yield a significant amount of savings. Start by making your list in advance and then browsing the weekly circulars in the weeks leading up to the holiday.
Choose Canned or Frozen Produce
Do not make the mistake of thinking that all of your produce needs to be fresh to be delicious. Fresh fruits and vegetables are often substantially more expensive than their frozen or canned counterparts. If the product is not in season anyway, there is no reason to not default to frozen or canned varieties to help you to stay within your budget. For instance, if you are not going to be enjoying fresh corn due to the time of the year, you might as well use the canned variety for your casserole.
Go With Seasonal Produce
Save the fresh produce purchases for the items that are actually in season this time of the year. This will ensure affordable prices as well as peak freshness. There is no shortage of great produce items that are in season in November. Good choices include apples, butternut squash, cranberries, oranges, pears, beets, pomegranates, Brussels sprouts, turnips, and fennel. Making these items the cornerstone of your side dishes is a smart way to cut costs.
Make it Yourself
It is tempting to fall back on the mass produced dishes to save time in your meal preparation. However, there is no getting around the fact that you need to be willing to do the cooking yourself if saving money is your primary goal. You will also inevitably spend more money if you choose pre-cut produce rather than doing the work in your own kitchen. At the end of the day, you are going to need to decide if your time or your money is the most important to you.
Plan Leftover Turkey Use
While there may be no getting around the cost of your big bird, you can cushion the financial blow by using the leftovers to turn into additional meals to freeze for later use. Leftover turkey can be combined with leftover potatoes and a bag of frozen vegetables to make a pot pie. Or try repurposing the leftover meat in a soup, enchiladas, or pasta dish. You will appreciate having these meals ready to go in your freezer when the stress of the holiday season begins. In addition, you will surely welcome the savings at the grocery store during a month when money is typically tight.
Skip the Fancy Decor
This is probably not the year to go all out with your Thanksgiving decor. Rather than spending money on fancy decorations, consider going au natural with how you dress up your Thanksgiving table. The natural beauty of the season should serve as inspiration as you decorate your home for the festive occasion. Good ideas include pine cones, dried leaves, and acorns.
You should not feel obligated to go with the traditional turkey dinner with all of the fixings every year. Making a less traditional meal is a great way to pinch pennies. For instance, it is typically far more affordable to go with an Italian or Mexican theme instead of splurging on a turkey, ham, or prime rib. The side dishes for these meal themes are also generally less expensive. Additionally, it is fun to mix things up from time to time.
This is the time of the year when many charitable organizations can use some extra volunteers. Consider signing up your family to volunteer at a soup kitchen for the holiday. Not only will you get out of cooking duties but it will also serve as a great reminder about how fortunate you are even in this time of economic uncertainty.
Keep in mind that Thanksgiving is truly about gathering with friends and family to celebrate all that is important to you. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that everything needs to be perfectly executed to enjoy your special meal.
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