Hosting Thanksgiving on a Budget

This time of year can be very expensive. The cost of three holidays in three months can add up. Last month, I told you how I celebrate Halloween on a budget. Now, I’m going to share my tricks for hosting Thanksgiving on a budget. Usually, the food is the largest expense for Thanksgiving. If you’re feeding a large number of family members and friends, your grocery bill could be pretty high. I’m going to share my tricks for hosting Thanksgiving for 9 adults and 4 children for under $50.


Holidays can be expensive. Here are some tips for hosting Thanksgiving on a budget.


When I first got married, both my family and my husband’s family wanted us to celebrate Thanksgiving with them. We went to my grandparents’ house for lunch. Then, we drove an hour and a half to his mom’s house for dinner. It was a long, exhausting day. Plus, we really didn’t need two huge meals in one day.

Once we had children, both sides of the family wanted to spend time with us even more. We followed the same schedule for J’s first Thanksgiving, but it was even more difficult with a baby in tow. I vowed to never do that again.

The next year, I invited everyone to my house for Thanksgiving. Both sides agreed to come, and I was so excited! I thought this was going to be perfect. No driving, only one meal, and J would get a nap.

I didn’t consider the time it would take to clean my house, the money I would spend on food, or the time it would take to prepare all the food. My trip to the grocery store cost $250, and that was just the food for Thanksgiving. It didn’t cover any of our other meals for the week. I spent the afternoon and evening the day before Thanksgiving cleaning my house. Luckily, it was a half day at school. Then, I woke up at 5 in the morning to start preparing the food on Thanksgiving. As soon as all of my guests left, I collapsed into bed.

Even though I was more exhausted that year than I had been the previous years, I was determined to continue hosting Thanksgiving. J had a lot more fun, since he wasn’t being dragged from one house to another. Tony and I enjoyed staying at home and being surrounded by loved ones from both of our families. I needed to find a way to save some time and money on our Thanksgiving celebration.

Thanksgiving Foods

It’s not Thanksgiving without a lot of good food. I needed to find a way to get lots of food for less money. One way to do that is to have everyone bring something for Thanksgiving dinner. However, I’m a control freak, and I like to make everything myself. I did ask my sister-in-law to bring a dessert, since she makes delicious baked goods.

That meant I needed a turkey, potatoes, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, vegetables, and rolls. The first year I hosted Thanksgiving, I went a little over the top. I tried to make potatoes two different ways, stuffing two different ways, and four different types of vegetables. I even bought fresh cranberries and made my own cranberry sauce. Since then, I’ve simplified my menu, and that’s saved so much time and money.

Obviously, the turkey is the most important part of Thanksgiving dinner. It was also the most expensive part of dinner that first year. I didn’t have a preferred shopper club card at that time, so I had no idea grocery stores let you use points toward a turkey. By the next year, I had a Giant Bonuscard and got my turkey for free. That alone saved over $30.


Holidays can be expensive. Here are some tips for hosting Thanksgiving on a budget.

Another trick I learned is to spread out my Thanksgiving grocery shopping over several weeks. If I wait until the week of Thanksgiving, some of the items I need are on sale. However, I end up paying full price for other items. If I start looking for sales at the beginning of November, I’m usually able to get better deals on foods I know I’ll need. This week cans of vegetables are only 44 cents. I’ll stock up on green beans and corn. I know these won’t go bad in the next few weeks, and I’ll have two sides ready to go. Green bean casserole is a favorite at our Thanksgiving table.

In addition to saving money on food at Thanksgiving, I’ve also found ways to save time preparing it. As I said, I’ve simplified my menu. I make the turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy, my Nana’s stuffing recipe, green bean casserole, corn, and roasted carrots. I am able to sleep in Thanksgiving morning and still get all of the food prepared in time for dinner.

Thanksgiving Decorations

Luckily, Thanksgiving isn’t a holiday that requires a lot of decorations. I just like my table to look nice for my guests. I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on my tablecloth, placemats, and napkins. Last year, I waited until after Thanksgiving to look for sales. Kohl’s had all of their Thanksgiving decorations on sale for 50% off. I also had a 30% off coupon that came in the mail. I was able to buy my tablecloth, placemats, and napkins all for $15. Now I won’t feel bad if something spills and ruins my tablecloth. (That’s what happened to my last one.) I will just buy a new one after Thanksgiving this year.


Holidays can be expensive. Here are some tips for hosting Thanksgiving on a budget.

I wasn’t even looking for a Thanksgiving centerpiece, but I happened to be at Michael’s looking for craft materials for my classroom. On my way out, they had all sorts of flower centerpieces, and the basket of leaves with candles caught my eye. It was 75% off, since again it was after Thanksgiving. I snatched it up and love the way it looks with my tablecloth.

Holidays can be expensive. Here are some tips for hosting Thanksgiving on a budget.

A few simple changes made Thanksgiving a lot less stressful for me. If you’re hosting Thanksgiving, remember that you can give your guests a great experience without spending all of your time and money on the event. Look for deals at the grocery store in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. Plan a simple, yet delicious, menu that your family will love. Then, remember to sit back, relax, and enjoy your guests when dinner is over.  The dishes can wait.  I hope you have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Holidays can be expensive. Here are some tips for hosting Thanksgiving on a budget.

How do you save money when you host Thanksgiving?

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15 thoughts on “Hosting Thanksgiving on a Budget

  1. I hated going to both family’s Thanksgiving (it seemed to take the joy out of both celebrations) so we decided a long time ago to alternate where we spend the holiday. That said, I love that my side of the family does the big pot luck where everyone brings their best dishes, and when I do the hosting I’ll use that method!

    My best hint is that Aldi and Trader Joe’s are both good for solid inexpensive wine choices, if that’s part of your regular celebration.

    1. You’re exactly right, Emily! Thanksgiving was no fun when we had to go two different places. I enjoy having everyone at my house, especially now with two kiddos. I can’t imagine dragging them from one house to another. I’ll definitely be checking at Aldi and Trader Joe’s for wine this year. Thanks for the suggestion!

  2. We visit family for Thanksgiving. We used to do the same as you drive from one family to the other family. That was when my grandparents were both alive. We would do one for lunch and one for dinner. Their homes were not that far apart, but our home is an hour and a half away from where I grew up. So it was a huge full day event. Now we just visit one place for Thanksgiving, and we all bring dishes to share. That way the burden isn’t so great on the host. And there’s more than thirty of us that sit down for dinner, so there’s a great variety of foods. I do love getting a turkey over Thanksgiving and either keeping it till Christmas or having it another time of the year, since the prices are so great.

    1. Wow! If I had 30 people at my house, I would definitely have everyone bring something. I don’t know where I would put all the food, though! You’re right – it’s a great idea to buy a turkey now even if you don’t need it for Thanksgiving. They are so much less expensive.

  3. Tara, you have such good suggestions on budgeting that I totally relate to. I’m from a very small family and we alternate years to be at each other’s houses. It’s so much simpler to deal with. It sure can get expensive if you wait till the last minute to shop.

  4. These are great suggestions! I love shopping for decor after the holiday has happened – that’s when you get the best deals! I need to be better about buying ahead of time, though. Thanks for sharing your tips!

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