Nix the Creamed Pearl Onions (and Other Money-Saving Turkey Day Tips)

Ed Note: Have you seen Pinterest lately? If the Thanksgiving pinboards are to be believed, we are expected to deliver an elaborate spread of turkey, 15 beautifully-presented sides, three pies on elegant serving dishes alongside cute place-settings and a marvelous centerpiece. Looks expensive. Let’s back it up: turkey day doesn’t have to zap your wallet dry. Jenn Fowler of Frugal Upstate is back with more of her fabulous money-saving tips in time for the year’s most delicious holiday. Don’t forget your stretchy pants.

I just love the non-commercial nature of Thanksgiving. For me, one of the best things about this day is that it’s easy to have a lovely holiday without spending a lot of cash. The entertainment is usually free – watching the parades and football games on TV, sitting around the table with family, talking and enjoying each other’s company.  None of those things cost you a dime.

On the other hand, the Thanksgiving feast itself is a big expense. Luckily, it features ingredients that are relatively low in cost (and usually on sale for the holiday), such as turkey, potatoes, green beans, etc. Here are a few tips to help you have a great holiday on even less.

1. Don’t buy it if you can’t eat it.

Thanksgiving is all about the star of the show: The Turkey Dinner. Yet, flip through a ladies’ magazine or spend a few minutes on Pinterest and you’d think that your meal isn’t complete without extravagant tablescapes. Don’t go crazy with the decorations. By the time you get all the food on the table, there isn’t room for all that froofy stuff anyway! If you feel you simply MUST have a centerpiece, find or make something classic that can be used year after year and become a part of your tradition (without costing anything in future years). A vase full of acorns or pears will do you just fine.

2. Nobody really likes that casserole anyway.

Thanksgiving is a feast, but you don’t need to go crazy with the side dishes. Most families wind up with so much food at Thanksgiving that they end up eating it for days. Don’t waste your time and money creating a bunch of “snacky” foods to eat. Take a few moments and survey your family.  What dishes HAVE to be there or Thanksgiving isn’t complete? Are there some that no one really seems to enjoy but you find yourself making because they’re traditional? Consider cutting some of those out to save money, time and your waistband! (Sorry Mom, the creamed pearl onions have got to go!)

3.  The time for coupons is now.

Even if couponing isn’t your thing, take some time and peruse the newspaper inserts and your favorite magazines this fall. You may be surprised at what you find. Cranberry sauce, stuffing mix, canned pumpkin and even those little fried onions folks use on the green bean casserole may have coupons this time of year.

4. Take your time in the grocery aisle.

When heading out to buy your Thanksgiving Feast ingredients, make sure you are a smart consumer and comparison shop. Look at the sales fliers ahead of time to see if anyone in your area is having a great sale on something you need. When you hit the store, take a bit of time to check unit prices so you get the best value for your money. Buying in bulk can save you a lot – but make sure you will actually use it all up in a reasonable time.  Fifteen pounds of sweet potatoes might have a lower unit price than the five-pound bag, but if you wind up throwing out 10 lbs of rotten sweet potatoes in January you’ve just wasted money instead of saved.

5.  Maximize your leftovers.

Saving doesn’t have to end on Thanksgiving Day! Save money and make sure you don’t let those Thanksgiving Dinner leftovers go to waste. Use what you can creatively in meals for a few days and freeze the rest. Turkey can be frozen in meal or recipe sized portions. You can boil the turkey bones for delicous soup to eat now or freeze for later. Leftover vegetables or potatoes can be worked into any number of dishes. Be smart and I bet you can get 3 or 4 more meals, easily!

And most of all, relax, enjoy your family and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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