If you've ever planned a Thanksgiving feast, you know that the cost of everything can add up faster than you can say, "Gobble, gobble." Here are some practical ideas for saving money on your holiday celebration.
Ham or turkey, not both. Choose one meat or main dish and plan the rest of your meal around it. This not only saves the cost of the additional meat, but also the cost of special side dishes that go with it. The cost of electricity for cooking both meats is eliminated, too.
Balance "expensive" and "cheap" dishes. Mashed potatoes are less expensive to make than a creamy vegetable casserole; a pumpkin pie is generally cheaper to make than a cheesecake. Limit the number of dishes requiring expensive ingredients. Choose your family's favorites and serve inexpensive dishes to complement them.
Trim down extras. Do you really need 4 different vegetables and 3 different desserts? Who will miss that extra vegetable or choice of bread? Try to cut out at least one extra that no one will miss from each food category.
Serve inexpensive beverages. Alcohol, sodas, fruit juices can be expensive add-ons to your Thanksgiving shopping list. Next to water, coffee (.03¢ per 8oz serving), tea (.04¢ per serving) and Kool-Aid (.05¢ per serving) are about the least expensive beverages available.
Decorate naturally. Use natural decorations such as dried autumn leaves and pine cones. Fall fruits and vegetables, acorns, and tiny pumpkins also add a festive look. Look in magazines for ideas; then adapt those decorating ideas using things you already have on hand.
Watch those "giveaways". Grocery stores often run promotions in which they give away turkeys with the purchase of other items such as hams. Don't let the idea of getting something free entice you to buy extras you wouldn't normally purchase.
Take advantage of loss leaders. In the weeks before Thanksgiving, grocery stores run fantastic specials on traditional holiday foods. They hope that while you're visiting their stores to get the specials, you'll also buy lots of other things. Be a savvy shopper. Take advantage of each store's specials without falling into the extra spending trap.
Look for substitutions. Many holiday recipes call for ingredients you don' t normally keep on hand. Before you buy special ingredients you'll only use for one recipe, check the substitution guides in your cookbooks to see if there's anything you can substitute.
Forget fresh vs. frozen. Experts say there is no real difference in taste between a fresh and frozen turkey. It's all a matter of preference and convenience. Therefore, watch for sales and go with whatever is cheapest.
Choose the right size bird. The turkey experts at Honeysuckle White recommend an 8-12lb turkey for 2-4 people; a 12-16lb turkey for 5-7 people; a 16-20lb turkey for 8-10 people; and a 20-24lb turkey for 11-13 guests. These estimates allow for some leftovers. If your family doesn't like leftovers, nip the leftover problem in the bud by choosing a turkey on the low end of the suggested weight range.
Nancy Twigg is a Christian speaker and the author of Celebrate Simply: Your Guide to Simpler, More Meaningful Holidays and Special Occasions
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