Holiday meals are such a wonderful time to spend time with friends and loved ones, and to enjoy the beautiful world of food in thanksgiving. But sometimes holiday meals can be a stressor on our budget.
And if you can fit in a 20 pound pastured turkey into your budget without strain, I might just envy you a teeny-tiny bit.
Thankfully, holiday meals are often a shared project between family members and friends, with everyone pitching in their favorite dish and the load of work and the financial burden not resting on anyone’s shoulders solely.
But what if you are making a simple holiday meal just for your family, or are hosting it and doing much of the food yourself? How do you make it work with your everyday budget? ( Related: Get 25 nourishing Thanksgiving recipes here)
Here are some thoughts.
Share the burden
Like I said above, the more you can share the burden with others, the better! Ask someone else to provide a green salad or wine/beverage, or to bring their favorite holiday dish.
Consider the leftovers
Make good use of the leftovers. Sure, it can be really expensive to buy that turkey, but you can generally make a huge pot of turkey stock out of the carcass, leading to many frugal and nourishing meals ahead. When you factor in how many meals you get out of mostly leftovers, the financial cost evens out a lot.
Save before the meal.
Eating really simple meals using basics is a great way to save some extra for a special meal. Perhaps forgo that fresh seafood, or the fancy coffees bought out, or switch out a few typical meat-based meals of the week (if your body does okay with bean based meals, that is). If you use more expensive cuts of meat on a weekly basic, just use inexpensive chicken drumsticks and ground beef for the week or two before the holiday.
Consider the cost
The average cost last year for a ten serving Thanksgiving meal was $50 dollars. A year or two ago a local high-end market showed a shopping list for the basics for Thanksgiving using their nicer (and often organic) ingredients, and it priced about the same for a feast for six (Note: our area isn’t the cheapest place to buy food and food costs vary by area in the US). I looked through their shopping list suggested and noticed a couple of things that are helpful when considering your budget.
Many items not expensive: First, I noticed that many “holiday food” items are pretty low priced normally. For example potatoes and sweet potatoes are not expensive (I buy mine in bulk bags for a better deal for organic).
It is just one meal. If you need to buy cheaper butter for pie crusts, mashed potatoes and your caramelized sweet potato dish, your health will survive it (though, yes, it’s always better tasting with the best butter!). If your budget doesn’t allow, not being a purist for a day is okay. You can still feed your family and friends a lovely meal using whole foods. For me, I buy a local, though not organic butter as my “compromise” butter. It’s fairly yellow as the cows are pastured part of the time, but they are given non-organic feed too. It’s a good compromise for me when I can’t buy the best of the best for a large crowd.
Buy a turkey breast: You could consider just buying a turkey breast or two instead of a whole turkey. This works well when making a meal for a smaller family or gathering. If you don’t want to miss out on the stock, use the bones from the turkey breast with a couple pounds of turkey pieces (wings, legs, necks, etc) bought separately. If you are concerned that you won’t be able to make good use of the leftover, this is a great option. (Epicurious.com has a lot of great methods for cooking turkey breast).
Keep the meal simple but delicious
Pick your favorite dishes. Often we can get really carried away on Thanksgiving trying to get every single favorite dish in. But that is sometimes not really feasible for the workload required and for your budgeting. For example, our family favorite pie is apple, so I just make sure there I make that one. Pumpkin is my personal favorite, but I can make that some other day to enjoy.
Your meal could look something like this:
- Roasted Turkey Breast with Gravy,
- Mashed potatoes
- Candied Yams
- Green Beans
- Cranberry Salad
- Apple Pie with Whipped Cream.
That’s quite the feast even without rolls, stuffing, three kinds of pies, and a green salad!
Sometimes it serves everyone, not just the cook, to keep the menu simple, so that you can concentrate on making everything well.
What else have I missed? Share your thoughts below!