How to Stretch Your Thanksgiving Food Budget

Hosting Thanksgiving dinner can be stressful; for first-timers it can be a near nerve-wracking experience. Faced with guests and a limited budget, many hosts and hostesses may eliminate dishes, invite fewer guests or serve smaller portions in an attempt to save money. Here are five tips to feed all your guests, serve all the dishes in your menu and have money left over.

Make A Thanksgiving Menu

Write down a menu of items you would like to serve. Perform an inventory of your pantry and compare it to the ingredients needed for your dishes. If necessary, research ingredient substitutes to make a dish that costs less. For example, if a dish calls for using brandy, substitute brandy extract from the grocery store.

Ask guests what dishes each guest would like to have; people often choose the same dishes such as green bean casseroles, pumpkin pies and turkey.

Allow Guests To Contribute To The Dinner

Guests are more than happy to showcase their culinary talents by bringing their signature dishes to Thanksgiving dinner. Arrange the dishes ahead of time in order to have a wide variety of foods for guests to sample and avoid duplications. Plan ahead to ask each guest what his or her best dish is and whether he or she will bring it to the dinner.

This frees up part of your food budget, allowing you to serve other dishes or make more of the items you want to serve. I have enjoyed great success with this over the years; several friends look forward to the annual invitation so they can bring dishes that delight everyone. Thanksgiving becomes a true feast at my home.

Stock Up On Store Sales

Make a list of ingredients you need and take it with you when you shop for groceries. Scan newspaper ads and online ads from your favorite stores. When a needed item is on sale, purchase what you need ahead of time. Staples such as flour, sugar and spices will last for months; purchase frozen foods up to a month in advance.

Buy paper plates, cups and so forth on sale. Dollar stores offer these items as well; compare costs before shopping to save the most.

Take Advantage Of Store Bundle Deals

Many stores offer bundle deals. For example, a customer buys a pre-made name brand pizza crust and pizza cutter. The customer then receives a four-ounce package of store brand shredded cheese, a four-ounce store brand package of sliced pepperoni, an eight-ounce store brand can of pizza sauce and a pizza stone free of charge.

Match as many bundle purchases as you can to your ingredients list. If one or two items, purchased or free, are not on your list but you receive something that is, you save money.

Maximize Coupons And Unit Pricing When You Shop

Magazines, online coupon sites, newspapers and friends are great sources for coupons. When you go shopping, take them with you and compare the after-coupon cost of name brand items to store brand items.

Use unit pricing to find the best deal. Unit pricing is breaking the item down into sections, such as “price-per-each” or “price-per-ounce.” This makes comparing products of different sizes easier. A box of 36 plastic forks for $.50 and one that contains 100 forks for $4.95 is easy to compare. Divide the cost by the number of items. Forks cost .013 each in the first box and .049 in the second. The first box is the better buy.

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