11/9/2011 1:00 PM ET|
Thanksgiving feasts on the cheap
Celebrating the holiday can be costly, unless you know how to keep the expenses under control. Here are some ways to host the day's festivities without spending excessively.
Turkeys can be cheap. It's the rest of the traditional Thanksgiving meal that gets expensive.
I hadn't realized that the first time I volunteered to host a holiday feast. For one thing, there's infrastructure involved: I didn't have a big enough roasting pan or a rack. Or enough seating. Or sufficient serving dishes, cutlery or plates. I discovered all this, of course, the day of the party.
Rather than borrow what I needed, I bought new -- mistake No. 1. I turned down offers to help (mistake No. 2) and chose an expensive white wine (mistake No. 3). Everybody raved about the turkey, but I was too busy calculating what percentage of my reporter's take-home pay this one meal was eating up to enjoy the praise.
So learn from my mistakes, and heed the advice I collected from my Facebook fans about how to contain your Thanksgiving expenses. Some ideas to consider:
Let somebody else host. Perhaps you have a younger family member who is, as I was, all bright-eyed and ready to strut some holiday-hosting stuff. Or maybe you can foist yourself on friends. You'll want to contribute to the meal, of course, but that's a darn sight cheaper than hosting the whole thing yourself.
Brandylyn Swafford of Riverview, Fla., is happy to let other family members host the holiday dinner.
"For a family of seven . . . making two dishes and attending Thanksgiving at someone else's house is super cost effective," she wrote.
Call it a potluck. The first Thanksgiving was a potluck, so you're upholding a tradition. The Pilgrims supplied the birds, and their Native American guests brought the venison. (Sadly, there were no pumpkin pies, as the English sugar had already run out.)
If you're hosting, you'll probably want to cook the turkey -- it's often the cheapest part of the meal if you get one on sale. Besides, a basted turkey is pretty hard to transport. Your guests can bring side dishes, drinks and dessert.
Just make sure you assign the pies to someone who's a good baker or a foodie, rather than a friend you know to be a cheapskate. I made that mistake once, too, and Mr. Miser brought a truly inedible concoction complete with soggy crust and a vaguely orange, flavorless filling. I didn't think anyone could screw up pumpkin pie, but whaddya know -- it's possible.
Limit the bar. Buy expensive Scotch and Uncle Larry the Lush will suck it down like water. Trust me, he'll be just as happy with cheap wine after the first glass. So skip the full bar and provide just wine and beer, or suggest your guests bring whatever they'd like to drink. Another tip: Don't let the kids serve themselves the nonalcoholic sparkling cider. The little fiends will chug down a bottle apiece if you let them. Again, this is the voice of experience speaking.
Volunteer. Lots of people volunteer to serve Thanksgiving meals to the homeless and others experiencing tough financial times. If you're not already hooked up with a church or other organization that hosts a meal, go to VolunteerMatch. Type in your ZIP code and the word "Thanksgiving," and you may turn up opportunities to serve in your community. In Los Angeles, the Salvation Army and the local food bank are looking for hands to help prepare meals.
Take a hike. If you live in a warm-weather climate, a Thanksgiving Day hike with a picnic basket can provide you lots of things to be grateful for: fresh air, the natural world and a great appetite. You can substitute a bucket of chicken for the roasted turkey and not have to cook at all. Score.
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The message here; If you want to have an inexpensive Thanksgiving meal either plan to spend less or attend the dinner of a friend or family member...Duh!
Had a bad day at work and I might be taking it out on this poor columnist but I am tired of the useless holiday hints from writers that tell people to save money by spending less or save time by, uh...saving time. This article really provides no helpful information. All of the suggestions offered would likely be considered by anyone with even a shred of common sense.
I'm in my mid-50s, and grew tired of having to get all dressed up & venture out to visit relatives decades ago......BUT....I gotta' have my Thanksgiving meal.....I used to buy a small turkey, but found it to be too much hassle to go thru....cutting the remaining meat from the carcass, to save for leftovers, etc. So I have what I refer to as "Thanksgiving for ONE". And it's so quick & simple, I cook this for many special occassions: Christmas, Oscar Night....MY Birthday...Here's how it's done: Get yourself a pack of boneless chicken breasts WITH the skin on them. I coat them in a mix( I prefer...I THINK it's Betty Crocker...called Oven-Fry Coating Mix )...Takes about 50 minutes to cook in the oven. Meanwhile, I prepare a box of Stove-Top Stuffing mix....( chicken or turkey..) It's all in the box...Just add some butter & water. Get it goin' & finish it off by putting in a small roasting pan & tossing it into the oven for about the last 20 minutes that your chicken is cooking. Also add in a can of the best store-bought CANDIED sweet potatoes you can find. They should already have all the sugar & syrup on them...You DON'T need to add anything. So everything's in the oven.....During about the last 10 minutes, you open up a couple of cans of inexpensive turkey gravy......put it in the little pot...and stand there and stir it on top of the stove. The entire meal can be done for around $15........Best of all, if you clean up as you go, there's very little dishes left in the sink afterwards. Oh yeah...You get to stay home in your comfy bathrobe undisturbed......Try it once...if not for Thanksgiving....any other time you want to get a little taste of it during the year. Quick & simple.
My husband and always go out to eat on thanksgiving. Fairly cheap. Easy. No mess. Of course, we live three thousand miles away from our nearest relative .
Thanksgiving is about family, friends and remembrances of good times. Potluck is not about being cheap or lazy. Potluck is about "giving". People enjoy Potluck Thanksgivings or brunches or any potluck meal because everybody gets to feel they are a part of of the group and not a bystander. My experience is that people try to put their best foot forward when they bring a dish to a potluck. I have received some of my best recipes and made new friends in the bargain at Potlucks.
And btw, many supermarkets give away a free turkey if you buy $100 of groceries. I make a grocery list and don't go to the store until I think my list amounts to a $100.. The side benefit is that by not going to the store every week I'm less likely to make impulse purchases of unnecessary things, and that's a big savings.
We go the Cracker Barrel for Thanksgivng meal. It's pretty cheap and no cooking or cleaning up.
Their Thanksgiving dinner even comes with Pumpkin Pie. A very good value.
THANKSGIVING..IS ALL ABOUT FAMILY...I LIVE 1500 MILES AWAY FROM MY KIDS,NEVER FAILS WE ALWAYS TALK TO EACH OTHER, TURKEY ETC, IS NOT EVEN ON MY MIND AS LONG AS I TALK TO MY KIDS, TO ME, THAT IS ALL I NEED. AS FAR AS ME COOKING , I DON'T TOO MUCH WORK, COST TOO MUCH TO MAKE THE DINNER, WHAT REALLY GETS TO ME IS HOW MUCH OF THAT DINNER U WERE SO THANKFUL FOR REACHES THE TRASH CAN.FOR ME WE WOULD EAT THE LEFTOVERS FOR A FEW DAYS AFTER, WHAT WAS LEFT NO ONE REALLY WANTED ANYMORE, SO TRASH CAN HERE YA GO, AT LEAST 30% WENT INTO THE TRASH.GOING OUT TO EAT IS CHEAPER, AND EASIER, IN MY EYES THANKSGIVING IS NOT JUST ABOUT FOOD. THANKSGIVING IS FOR FAMILIES TO SPEND TIME TOGETHER, NT TO PUT THAT SPREAD ON TO IMPRESS.
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