How to Throw a Thanksgiving Dinner on a Budget

Sharing a meal with beloved family and friends gathered around the table and thanking for all we have is the heart of the Thanksgiving holiday. This year, however, nationwide financial woes, food shortages and concerns about steadily rising food prices may cause concern.

Well, rest assured, because with a little planning and creativity, you can still throw a delicious, cozy feast with all the fixings, while keeping costs low.

Make a plan and keep it simple

Planning is the key. First, set your budget. This will determine the number of guests you can invite. If you usually have a large gathering, consider hosting a potluck dinner. Shared expenses help keep everyone around the table. Or consider hosting the immediate family just for dinner, and then in the evening invite everyone to a potluck for dessert with coffee.

Before shopping, check your pantry, crisper, and freezer. Chances are, you already have most of the ingredients you’ll need for sauces, gravy, and maybe whole side dishes. From there, plan your menu, keeping the food preferences and dietary needs of your family and friends in mind.

Buy early, buy smart

Now is the best time to shop.

Let’s talk Turkey. Many grocery stores across the country are offering free or low-cost turkeys to shoppers who have accumulated a specific number of points on their store bonus card. Check the listing to see if there is a participating store near you. Keep in mind that free turkeys disappear quickly, so pick them up this week the sooner the better, as you need to factor in the thawing time as well.

Also, be on the lookout for coupons and flyers in store. Items such as preserves, spices, sauce mixes, and everything else related to making Thanksgiving dinner tend to be on sale. Seasonal produce, such as sweet potatoes, squash and apples, will also be cheaper and more abundant.

By sticking strictly to your planned budget, you may have money left over. Depending on what you already have, what’s on sale, and your timeline, don’t be afraid to add a fun new dish, dessert, or table decoration. It’s your Thanksgiving feast, after all, so it’s good to splurge a bit.

Make your own bread

It always pays to make your own bread and rolls. I know what you are thinking: what about all this work? Well, don’t worry. Look for a no-knead recipe or let your bread maker do the work for you while you sit back and enjoy that heavenly scent wafting through your home.

Stick to classic, inexpensive sides and desserts

Yes, the smell of roasted turkey teases your taste buds for hours as it cooks very slowly. But maybe the real stars of the show are the delicious side dishes – creamy mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, chunky applesauce, creamed corn, bread stuffing, candied sweet potatoes, and cranberries – that dress up. your table with a little color and are economical to whip.

Whether you prefer to stuff your bird or serve your stuffing as a side dish, DIY bread stuffing is so delicious and easy to prepare. Instead of throwing away stale bread, save it for your Thanksgiving stuffing.

For dessert, nothing says Thanksgiving like a traditional pumpkin pie, but you can also substitute it with soft and chewy pumpkin cookies, or a cake with cream cheese frosting. If you have a pumpkin-shaped cake pan, color your frosting orange.

Too much pumpkin? Remember that it is still apple harvest season and you can buy bags of apples for pennies. Try a homemade applesauce and if you have any apples left, make an apple crumble or a serving pie with ice cream for dessert.

Add DIY decorations

Now for the finishing touches.

Do not hesitate any longer and dress your table with your pretty linen tablecloth. If you aren’t using cloth napkins yet, now is a great time to do so; all you need is a pair of pinking scissors and some fabric. If you don’t have pinking scissors, ask a friend who is knowledgeable about sewing if you can borrow a pair. Then cut out an 18 x 18 inch square piece of fabric and voila, you have a simple homemade fabric napkin. These will start to fray after a few washes, so if you want a more reusable towel, use regular scissors and simply hand or machine sew a hem around the outside. Now roll up your cute new creations, tie them with a contrasting ribbon and place one on each plate.

You can make your own place cards by recycling old greeting cards with enough white space to print a name and fold it up, or lay out art supplies and paper and invite your guests to make their own. Or just download printable and customizable place cards.

If you have kids, recruit them to help you create table decorations.

Finally, let Mother Nature help you create a simple yet beautiful centerpiece. If you still have some flowers that bloom in the fall, make a DIY arrangement and you are ready to go. Or set the scene with colorful mini pumpkins, picked pine cones and acorns, and a few candles randomly placed in the center of the table.

Make a party toast

Ah, it’s finally time to sit down and enjoy your festive meal. What better to accompany the meal than a festive Thanksgiving punch? Make a homemade version by experimenting with combinations of apple cider, cranberry juice, and orange juice. Add lemon-lime soda or your favorite seltzer or sparkling water to give it a little sparkle. Once you’ve chosen the right ratio of ingredients for your own signature punch, serve it to your guests, raise your glasses, and toast all your blessings.

By Karen Doll

Karen Doll is a freelance writer and home schooling consultant based in the small village of Wassergass, Pennsylvania. She enjoys writing about home schooling, gardening, food and culture, family life and the joys of raising chickens. Visit him on

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