This year has been a complicated year for everyone and budgets are tight. In these difficult economic times, an extravagant Thanksgiving dinner may be a financial burden; however, the financial crunch does not have to put a dapper on your Holiday munch. You can plan a scrumptious holiday feast on a tight budget with careful and smart planning and creativity.
POTLUCK OR BUST
Remember in 1621, the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag’s feast was a potluck. And for this years holiday celebration, a potluck is a great money saving option for the family. It’s saves time and effort of preparing a full meal and gives you an opportunity to spend quality time with your family and friends.
If a potluck is part of your plan, you need to decide whether you opt to host or be a guest. If you are the hostess, coordinate which guests are bringing which dishes. Always consider what your friends and family do best. Those who can’t cook, bring drinks, cutlery or chairs. If you’re the guest, stick to the menu and bring your assigned dish. In some cases, bring an extra item that is your signature dish to share.
For a potluck buffet, the same rules apply. Simply arrange the foods in an order not to great traffic jams.
THE TRADITIONAL THANKSGIVING SPREAD
As the hostess of the big meal, you may want to have a strategy for pulling off the fine feast. You need to establish a budget and commit to it. You may even break your budget down to parts- twenty for this or twenty for that.
You must decide who are the guest and how many will be invited. If it’s a family only celebration, you can invite through calls or e-mails. If you want to include friends, be sure to limit your numbers to fit your budget.
Stick to a basic menu. Plan to make things that are favorites so that food is not wasted. Also, think of your staples. You have to eat beyond Thanksgiving, and we are not taking about leftovers only. Be smart about purchases.
Some holiday celebrations are more than a meal. Some are parties. If you decide on the latter, you will need to find inexpensive forms of entertainment- like movies, music, games, and simple conversation.
When you are sticking to a budget and buying for a large group, you are accustomed to this, you might have to think outside of the box. There are shopping options other than grocery stores.
You can get great deals from wholesale and even dollar stores. If you buy from a Sam’s, Price Club or Cosco, don’t get distracted. They have great deals on quality foods, especially your holiday meats. These stores have reduced priced meats for quick sale that are of higher quality than your grocer. Local dollar stores have grocery and refrigerator sections. You can literally find boxed sides, canned goods, dessert mixes (pudding, jello and cake), and pie crusts at prices cheaper than the local market.
If you chose to go to your grocery store, make sure you are up to date on specials and sales. Take advantage of any member card discounts and bring coupons if you are a brand snob. If you are not so loyal to brands and like the “black label” items, you can save money on the basics.
As a rule, buy only what you need. Remember the budget. If you are fortunate enough to be under budget, you can think about splurging.
A basic holiday meal has a meat, bread, sides, dessert and drinks. While turkey is the Thanksgiving favorite, large birds can be costly. Catching sales and other deals will ensure that your family does get gobbler for the holiday. But, if your family is more fond of chicken or ham, let those be the center attraction.
Simple side dishes can be special. If you are cooking from cans, you can add twists such as cooking with smoked meats, onions, bullion or potatoes to add flavor. However, if you make a special side, like a four cheese macaroni and cheese or butter squash stuffing, don’t cheat yourself or guests. Make it. Foods made from scratch often don’t cost as much as pre-made items.
For desserts and drinks, you have two options- bake to bring. You can asks your guests instead of gifts for the hostess, bring drinks or dessert. Another option is for you to bake the basic pumpkin, sweet potato, brownies, apple pies, or peach cobblers and add a icing drizzle accent. Homemade pies are less expensive to make than pre-made. You can even offer jello molds and pudding with canned fruit of whipped cream toppings. As for drinks, fresh brewed tea or a homemade champagne-colored punch (ginger ale and sherbet) are inexpensive winners.
Once your meal is planned and prep has begun, you want to make your house welcoming. You may have standard decorations from the previous year, such as festive table runners and platters. Use these.
If you want to decorate, you have inexpensive options. Go to your local dollar store and get specialty napkins- cheap. Or, you can make the decorations yourself. Check out hints in your women and design magazines, many have showcased ideas that can be made for less than fifty dollars. You can even have your kids make the decorations using their construction paper and yard crafts.
Some of your ideas may include Fall flowers from your garden, a table runner with a cornucopia shaped basket filled with fruit and flowers. You can place scented holiday candles in the center of your table and on your mantles.
Preparation and Presentation
Prepare some of your sides and desserts a day in advance. Make sure your basic decorations are in place. Confirm who is coming so that you will not be wasting food.
Set your table for your buffet or sit down dinner making sure there is room for everything, decorations, food, family and friends. If it’s a party, arrange your food for easy access.
Before your guests arrive, light your candles and start you music. Remember its your holiday also.
Thanksgiving is one of the biggest family holidays of the year. Preparing a holiday on a budget is a challenge; however, by being smart and creative, your Thanksgiving celebration can be full and fulfilling at the same time.