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Frugal feast: your Thanksgiving meal on a budget

Family Income Personal Finance

Thanksgiving is a time to bring people together, reminisce about the old days, eat good food and make new memories.

A family enjoying their Thanksgiving meal along with their friends

But let’s face it: if you’re the holiday host, life isn’t quite that simple.

Even if you’re the hostess with the mostest, it can be a challenge to throw a feast for your nearest and dearest complete with a loaded table and all the trimmings without emptying your wallet.

The costs for a bountiful Thanksgiving meal can quickly add up. And companies are getting better every day at convincing people a hefty price tag is justifiable for a little convenience.

For example, paying several dollars per pound for a prepared turkey can seem reasonable when the stress of holiday meal prep really sets in.

But, never fear! Budget-friendly options are here to help you avoid those unnecessary costs and still serve a delicious Thanksgiving feast.

Say yes to DIY.

Purchasing prepared or semi-prepared food is a great way to save time. But, it’s often more expensive than buying food that is fresh, canned or frozen.

Sure, making Grandma’s pecan pie is hard work, but it’s much cheaper than purchasing one from a store bakery. Plus, there’s a good chance it’ll be tastier too – just make sure to follow all of Grandma’s directions!

Buy in bulk.

Costs can add up quickly when you buy food in individual serving sizes. Bulk items are often cheaper so save some cash by going that route. For example, you can find spices, grains and legumes in bulk for significantly less than their single-serve counterparts.

If you have non-perishable items on your grocery list, consider buying larger quantities at stores like Sam’s Club or Costco.

Read the ads.

Check your favorite store ads on a daily basis to find great holiday deals.

Insider tip: Look at the unit price before you make a decision. Some stores make it hard to compare savings by offering deals only on specific quantities – a detail that’s easy to overlook.

Ask people to pitch in.

Hosting a holiday meal can be stressful, so don’t be afraid to ask your loved ones to help out. You’ll save both money and time.

A potluck approach can also make the meal feel like a family effort.

Portion accordingly.

Stuck with holiday leftovers every year? This time around, get an accurate head count before you go grocery shopping.

It’s always better to have too much food rather than too little, but don’t go overboard!

Buy less meat.

Anyone who’s shopped for groceries knows that buying meat is more expensive than produce or grains. Cutting back on how much meat you buy can make a big impact on your meal costs this holiday season.

Ask about dietary restrictions.

Survey your guests to find out if anyone has food allergies or an intolerance to a specific food group.

This will help you to plan a menu everyone can enjoy so you aren’t stuck eating a whole turkey with a side of cranberry sauce all by yourself.

Simplify the menu.

Making a dozen side dishes may be part of your holiday tradition, but it’s also part of the reason your grocery bill is so expensive.

The fewer meals you make, the fewer ingredients you have to buy.

Check the scratch-and-dent stores.

A number of cities have a scratch-and-dent store that sells food rejected from its original grocery store shelf.

Many times the rejected food simply has a superficial imperfection on the packaging, but is still safe to eat.

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