Times are tough but if it’s your turn to host the family Thanksgiving feast you want to provide the best dinner for the dollar. Fortunately, there are ways to feed their appetites without increasing your debt.
One of the most important things to do is plan ahead, according to Julie Kennel, nutrition expert at the Ohio State University Extension. It’s unlikely the dinner is being sprung on you at the last minute, so watch the grocery ads in the local newspaper and observe when certain items you will need go on sale. Don’t wait until the week of Thanksgiving to go shopping for everything. Some stores will offer a free turkey if you spend so much money on one trip. Take advantage of that deal and try to buy as many items as you will need for the meal at that time.
Watch for produce that is in season because it will be cheaper. According to epicurious.com, Thanksgiving is no time to be buying asparagus or artichokes. However, Brussels sprouts are at their peak in November. Also, check the local farmers’ markets, which still should be running in early- to mid-November.
While buying prepared foods, such as dressing, gravy and pies and sauces, may be easier, preparing them yourself may save money. Kennel says another bonus of going this route is that homemade foods normally have lower levels of sodium than those that are pre-made. The same goes for desserts. Those bought from a bakery will cost more than those made from scratch.
On the other hand, some prepared ingredients will be just as tasty and may be even more inexpensive than others. Canned and frozen foods can replace out of season produce.
When it comes to preparing food, look at the recipes to see if any ingredients you may not have on hand can be replaced with those that are readily available. Stuffing may not require parsley while onions can be used instead of shallots.
Making a soup available at the beginning of the Thanksgiving meal may not normally make sense because it might fill guests up faster, causing them to eat less from the main courses. However, that might be okay if you want to cut back on a couple of side dishes you normally serve, and guests will still find themselves full at the end.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask guests for help. Some can bring side dishes or desserts to be served with the meal, while others can bring additional place settings if you don’t have enough.
Thanksgiving is really about getting together with family and friends and having some great food. Following the tips above, and coming up with some of your own, will make sure your guests are able to make pigs of themselves without breaking your piggy bank.