A frugal Thanksgiving: Traditional celebration on a budget

December 11th 2012

We are just a week past Halloween and the holiday season is about to begin. Winter is setting in and with only a couple of weeks till Thanksgiving, it’s time to start digging the trenches and prepare for one of the more extravagant days of the year. Loads of good, home cooked food, deserts and of course, the indispensable Thanksgiving turkey makes its way on to the grocery shopping list. As the number of items on the list keeps increasing, the bills tend to get a bit out of control.

Given the tough times and the slow economic growth facing Americans, it is but natural to cut corners and go in for a more unorthodox, frugal approach to celebrating one of the most traditional holidays on the American calendar. Let us take a look at how to organize a memorable but frugal Thanksgiving Dinner this year.

Plan in advance

You must have observed generally that the best and the biggest discount during the holiday season are generally made available well before the actual day of celebration. This holds true for the special dinner groceries and supplies that you would need for the day as well. Moreover, you can even buy a larger quantity of certain supplies, like dressed turkeys, which are sold at a pretty heavy discount prior to Thanksgiving. If you have a freezer big enough to store the stuff, you can easily run 3 months with four to six large turkeys.

If you want to cut out on the shopping rush in the week before the big Thursday and spread out your spending over the weekly paydays, you could start your shopping and little by little, over the weekends, gather your supplies without having to run between the bank and the grocer’s.

Assemble your decoration

Most people tend to spend a fortune in one afternoon buying tableware and decorative items which are going to be used just for a day. Sounds a little pointless, right? Thanksgiving is all about traditions and of course when the Pilgrims and the Indians sat down for dinner at the table, they were not really using silverware or fine china.

Go seasonal and use fall leaves, heath foliage, pine cones, dried nuts, acorns and pumpkins and spread them unevenly around the table to give it a ‘put together’ look. Use simple dinnerware and compliment the entire table setup with a few candles. A dinner table decorated with candles has a charm of its own which cannot be substituted by the best silverware. Moreover, all the leaves, pine cones and the candles would only cost you 20 minutes of a walk in the garden and a couple of dollars.

Smartly set the dinner menu

Here again, looking to the original Thanksgiving dinner of the Pilgrims and the Indians would give a lot of frugal ideas on how to set up a cost effective menu. On the First Thanksgiving, it is said that there was peas, pumpkins, beetroots, onion, fish, shellfish, bread, fowl and berries on the table.

Now if you are looking to save some money but still rustle up one of the best dinners you ever cooked, limit the number of items on your menu to 4 or 5 so that you are able to put in your entire heart and soul into each dish. For example, you can keep the traditional items like turkey (the old bread and celery stuffing is the best) and cranberry sauce on the menu, throw in a sauté of mixed seasonal vegetables along with creamy mashed potatoes, a yam casserole on the side and a delicious pumpkin pie to finish.

Thanksgiving is a family affair and you should have everybody around the house engaged in the dinner preparations. Designate tasks to each member of the family to cut down on the work load. Even if the boys in the house are glued to the TV watching football, you can just make them sit there with a knife and have them peel and chop up the vegetables.

Reduce, reuse and recycle

In some households, thanksgiving is a pretty large event and given the general size of the dinner turkey and the copious quantities of food which is prepared to mark the occasion, there is inevitably a large quantity of leftovers. Starting from corn and stuffing to turkey, you can use all of it jointly and severally in various preparations for lunch, breakfast and dinner over the next few days and you will not even need to spend an extra dollar.

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