Hosting Thanksgiving dinner, even for a small group, can be a nerve-wracking experience. How much food should you buy? What should you buy pre-made, and what should be made from scratch? How much time should you set aside? How do you avoid running out of food without being saddled with tons of leftovers? And if you're on a tight budget, all of this stress can be amplified by the sticker shock. Thankfully, we've assembled 11 tips and tricks for saving money while Thanksgiving grocery shopping.
Hosting Thanksgiving dinner is a lot more complicated than just throwing a dinner party. Instead of coming up with your own menu based on your skill level and budget (spaghetti and garlic bread!), you're essentially required to serve more or less a set menu: turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls, potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, pies, and usually a few extra appetizers and side dishes. And don't forget the wine! Needless to say, the price tag can really add up.
Thanksgiving should be a time to sit down with loved ones over a bountiful dinner and give thanks for all the good things in our lives, and hosting one shouldn't bankrupt you. Thankfully, there are some handy tips and tricks to keep in mind while doing your Thanksgiving shopping, and they might even cut your Turkey Day grocery bill in half. Shutterstock
Plan Far In Advance
Give yourself at least a week to plan your menu. Figure out exactly how much food you're going to need, talk to your guests about bringing dishes of their own if you're going that route (which we strongly recommend it you're looking to save money!), and give yourself plenty of time to stock up. This way, you'll be able to pass some of the expenses onto your guests, and will let you make sure you're only buying what you need.
Check Out the Circulars and Compare Prices
Do your research before heading to the supermarket. Visit your local supermarkets' websites to see if they're offering any deals, and scan the circulars and newspapers for any appropriate coupons.
Be Flexible With Your List
Plan all your recipes in advance, and make sure that every item you need is on your list. But it's not set in stone, so don't be afraid to make some on-the-fly changes, especially when it comes to prices. If you're shopping and realize that you've bitten off far more than you can chew, don't be afraid to trim away a couple superfluous ingredients (is that fresh chervil really necessary?) or scuttle a side dish altogether.
Check Off List Items as You Buy Them
The last thing you want to be doing in the middle of a crowded supermarket is digging through your cart to make sure you already grabbed sage (or to get home and discover that you've purchased something twice). As you put something into your cart, check it off your list.
Stick to a Budget
They say not to do your grocery shopping hungry for a reason: Our eyes are often bigger than our stomachs. While Thanksgiving grocery shopping, it's easy to go overboard with all the extra additions and trimmings. Set aside a specific (and realistic) amount of money, and stick to it. The bill can add up a lot faster than you think.
Don't Buy a Whole Extra Turkey
In general, it's suggested that you budget about one and a half to two pounds of turkey per guest. A lot of people will simply buy two turkeys to make sure they have enough, but you don't want to be saddled with an entire uneaten turkey! Don't forget that there's an alternative to buying a whole extra turkey: Just buy an extra turkey breast. This way you'll save money and will guarantee that everyone gets enough. And to save even more money (especially if you're only having a few guests), buy just the breast, and not a whole turkey.
Don't Buy Prepared Items
If you're looking to save money, a good rule of thumb is that preparing something from scratch is always less expensive than buying it pre-made. Side dishes at the deli counter are always significantly marked up, and even frozen pies cost more than the raw materials.
Load Up on the Cheap Stuff
Mashed potatoes and gravy are both incredibly cheap to make, and the starchiness of mashed potatoes, rolls, and stuffing will fill up guests faster than, say, a side dish of fancy roasted mushrooms. iStockPhoto
Buy Less Than You Think You'll Need
Have you ever heard of a Thanksgiving celebration running of food? Probably not, because it doesn't often happen, even if the table isn't overflowing. You most likely don't need to make that second batch of cornbread or stuffing unless you're feeding an especially large, especially hungry group, so save your money. iStockPhoto
Cheap Wine is Fine
As long as there's some wine of some sort, your guests will be perfectly content; there's no need to spend more than ten bucks on a bottle of wine, and most boxed wines are pretty drinkable these days as well. If your snooty uncle absolutely must have his Burgundy Grand Cru, he can bring his own.
Another way to save money is to buy the generic or store brands. Trust us, your guests won't know the difference, and some foods should always be bought generic, anyway.
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