Thanksgiving is a time of year when we surround ourselves with loved ones, family and friends. It is one of the most beloved American holidays, but it can also be one of the most expensive. If you’ve ever hosted Thanksgiving, then you know how easy it is for costs to spiral out of control.
According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the average cost per Thanksgiving meal for a group of 10 is $49.87, or $4.98 per person.
While $4.98 per person for a hearty meal may seem pretty inexpensive, the near-$50 total can still feel like a splurge, depending on your budget.
Additionally, this is only an estimate and does not include name brand products or any extras. Toss in side dishes, desserts and booze and the price only goes up.
If you want to save money, you need to have a plan in place.
“You have to be a creative cook,” says Phil Lempert, grocery expert and food industry analyst, who runs Supermarketguru.com. “A lot of your menu depends on who you’re inviting over: people with allergies, gluten-free, people who don’t like turkey. Plan out as much as possible.”
To help you out this Thanksgiving, we’ve done our research and want to give you 7 easy ways to save money on your holiday feast:
1) BYOD (Bring Your Own Dish)
- First, decide what kind of event you’re going to have. If you’re hosting a party, have a potluck. Tell your guests to bring something to share. “It’s the spirit of the holidays,” says Andrea Woroch, a consumer and money-saving expert. “People want to help.” It’ll be cheaper and significantly less work for you, plus it makes everybody feel they helped make the day a special one.
2) Plan Ahead
- Get an accurate head count. Thanksgiving dinner is typically followed by days of leftovers. “It’s very easy to cook way more food than you need,” says Jim Wang, founder of WalletHacks.com. To save money, determine how many guests you expect in advance so you can create a more accurate menu and shopping list. Then, plan and stick to a budget.
3) Buy In Bulk
- If you are hosting a large group, take advantage of bulk deals at grocery stores or make a trip to a warehouse retailer for nonperishable items such as alcohol or canned foods. Stocks, canned soup and vegetables are often on sale this time of year and can be used in dishes for many months to come.
4) Invest In Durable Kitchenware
- Disposable plates, napkins and silverware are wasteful, and the designs are often kitschy. Invest in plates and cutlery that you can use for life, or borrow from a friend or family member. The same goes for utensils like turkey basters or pie tins that you might only use for Thanksgiving dinner.
5) DIY Decorations
- Show off your crafty side by making your own Thanksgiving decorations. Dollar stores across the U.S. have the best prices on supplies. Or skip the store-bought decorations and go natural instead! Use fall leaves and branches, pine cones, the dried hydrangea in your garden, and other fall fruits that can be eaten later. There are tons of great ideas online for decorating the table au natural. And once the celebrations are over just throw them away without the hassle of storing them for next year!
- Whole Foods has a surprisingly affordable selection of wine and beer deals if you buy in bulk, including a 10% case discount when you purchase six or more bottles. Cost Plus World Market, which has locations around the U.S., also offers similar case discounts. “You can get the Two Buck Chuck at Trader Joe’s,” says Joanie Demer, co-founder of TheKrazyCouponLady.com, referring to the chain’s Charles Shaw brand. “But if you want good quality wine for cheap, then go to Whole Foods.”
7) Use Smaller Plates
- The turkey isn’t the only thing that gets stuffed on Thanksgiving. Most people have a tendency to put more food on their plates than they need. This results in wasted food that could be put to better use. Instead, opt for smaller dinner plates to curb your guests’ tendency to overindulge; chances are they won’t notice the difference!
I know how tempting it is to make complicated meals with expensive ingredients so you can give your guests the ultimate Thanksgiving dinner. But doing this adds money, time, and stress to your Thanksgiving. So why not keep things simple and enjoy your holiday alongside close loved ones?
Wishing you a safe and happy Thanksgiving from all of us at TAI and thanks for reading!