Hosting Thanksgiving dinner on a budget can be stressful.
There’s all the mouths to feed. The cartload of ingredients. And what’s more, the pressure of preparing a feast to impress. It’s enough to break the bank – and the Thanksgiving spirit.
To help you enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday, we’ve prepared a list of cost-saving tips, complete with a sample Thanksgiving menu and recipes. With it, you can host Thanksgiving dinner for a crowd even when you’re on a tight budget.
Tips for hosting Thanksgiving dinner on a budget
1. The Centerpiece of your Table: The Turkey
The Thanksgiving turkey often hogs the table space – and your budget. However, there are a couple ways to lower the cost. First, purchase only the size you need. Generally, you want to budget one to one-and-a-quarter pounds of turkey per adult and closer to one pound per child over four years of age. Don’t be afraid to purchase a bone-in turkey breast instead of a full turkey or even choose another meat (like Cornish hens) that may be more appropriate for the size of your gathering.
In addition, some grocery stores offer a free turkey if you purchase a certain amount of food in the month leading up to Thanksgiving. Inquire at your favorite local grocer.
2. Share the Load: The Potluck
Are you inviting friends and family over? Feel free to ask them to contribute to the dinner by bringing an item to share like rolls or drinks. Similarly, turn it into a potluck with everyone contributing a side dish.
3. Enough Variety: The Menu
Most people find that there are too many Thanksgiving menu items to be able to enjoy all of them. Cut back this year and pick three or four sides to pair with your main dish versus the typical six to eight. For instance, you could pick a vegetable, a potato (sweet potato or mashed), a stuffing, and a dessert. You’ll have a good variety of items and it’ll be easier to control cost.
4. Think Before You Shop: The Plan
Before purchasing groceries, create a plan for what you will cook and which recipes you will use. Then, create an ingredients list and check your pantry for any items you already have. In addition, before you go to the store, check for any coupons you may have. Finally, look for sales during the month and weeks before the big day on canned or frozen foods.
5. Cooking from Scratch: The Home Cook
One of the largest increases in cost of food yearlong is the purchase of pre-made or processed foods. When you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner on a budget, making food at home from scratch can save quite a bit of money. For example, if you are making a stuffing, you can purchase day-old bread at a lower cost. There is no need to use fresh made bread or packaged stuffing mix.
6. Shopping Smart: The Season
Food prices fluctuate, especially produce. Plan on purchasing seasonal items to help lower the cost of your overall holiday food bill. In Montana, apples, winter squash, barley, beans, garlic, onions, potatoes, and carrots are all currently in season around Thanksgiving.
7. Cook What You’ll Eat: The Quantity
Finally, consider how much you’ll make. While it’s great to have leftovers, don’t feel like you have to make double the food. Especially on your splurge items, it’s okay to only use the amount of food you’ll eat at dinner.
We have prepared a sample ‘Hosting Thanksgiving dinner on a budget’ menu that will feed at least six people. The meal includes:
- Herb-roasted turkey breast
- Green bean casserole
- Maple-roasted sweet potatoes
- Classic herb stuffing
- Pumpkin pie with brown butter streusel
Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast
- 1 whole bone-in turkey breast, 6 1/2 to 7 pounds
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
- 2 teaspoons dry mustard
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons good olive oil
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 cup dry white wine (or use chicken broth instead)
- ¼ chicken broth
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Place the turkey breast, skin side up, on a rack in a roasting pan.
In a small bowl, combine the garlic, mustard, herbs, salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice to make a paste. Loosen the skin from the meat gently with your fingers and smear half of the paste directly on the meat. Spread the remaining paste evenly on the skin. Pour the wine into the bottom of the roasting pan.
Roast the turkey for 1 3/4 to 2 hours. About an hour into cooking add the chicken broth into the bottom of the roasting pan. Roast until the skin is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees F when inserted into the thickest and meatiest areas of the breast. If the skin is over-browning, cover the breast loosely with aluminum foil. When the turkey is done, cover with foil and allow it to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes. Slice and serve with the pan juices spooned over the turkey.
Classic Herb Stuffing:
- 12 ounces whole-grain bread, cut into 3/4-in. cubes
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 cups chopped yellow onion
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1 cup chopped carrot
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh sage
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 1/2 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2 large eggs
- Cooking spray or unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Arrange bread cubes in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes or until golden, stirring after 10 minutes. Place the bread cubes in a large bowl.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add onion, celery, carrot, and garlic; sauté 10 minutes or until vegetables are very tender. Remove pan from heat; stir in parsley, sage, salt, and pepper. Add onion mixture to bread; toss to combine.
Combine stock, butter, and eggs in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle stock mixture over bread mixture; toss. Let stand 10 minutes or until liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally. Spoon bread mixture into a 2-quart glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes or until browned.
Green Bean Casserole:
- 2½ pounds green beans, trimmed and cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces (about 8 cups)
- 2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon white or black pepper
- 2½ cups low-fat milk
- 1½ cups fresh whole-wheat breadcrumbs or ½ cup shredded or crumbled cheese
Position racks in upper and lower third of oven; preheat to 425°F.
Toss green beans in a large bowl with 1 tablespoon oil until well coated. Divide between 2 baking sheets and spread in an even layer. Roast, stirring once and rotating the pans top to bottom about halfway through, until tender and beginning to brown, 20 to 25 minutes. (If using frozen or canned green beans, skip these first two steps and heat beans in microwave or on stovetop until hot)
Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until very soft and golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Add flour, salt and pepper; cook, stirring, for 1 minute more. Add milk and continue to stir, scraping up any browned bits. Cook, stirring, until the sauce bubbles and thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat.
When the green beans are done, remove from the oven. Preheat the broiler.
Transfer half the green beans to a 2-quart, broiler-safe baking dish. Spread half the sauce over the green beans. Add the remaining green beans and top with the remaining sauce.
Combine breadcrumbs and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a small bowl (skip this step if you are topping with cheese).
Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture (or cheese) over the gratin. Place under the broiler and broil, watching closely, until the gratin is bubbling and beginning to brown on top, 1 to 5 minutes, depending on your broiler. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Maple-Roasted Sweet Potatoes:
- 2½ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1½-inch pieces (about 8 cups)
- ⅓ cup pure maple syrup or honey
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Arrange sweet potatoes in an even layer in a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. Combine maple syrup, butter, lemon juice, salt and pepper in small bowl. Pour the mixture over the sweet potatoes; toss to coat.
Cover and bake the sweet potatoes for 15 minutes. Uncover, stir and cook, stirring every 15 minutes, until tender and starting to brown, 45 to 50 minutes more.
Pumpkin Pie with Brown Butter Streusel:
For the crust
- 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
- Pinch of fine salt
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
- 2 Tbsp. ice water, plus more if needed
For the streusel
- 5 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- ½ cup finely ground challah breadcrumbs (from 6 or 7 1-inch cubes, reserved from the stuffing recipe)
- 6 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
- 6 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
For the filling
- One 30-ounce can canned pumpkin pie mix
- 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup whole milk
- 2 large eggs, beaten
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 425˚F.
Prepare the crust:
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt, and whisk to combine. Add the butter and, using your hands, combine the mixture until it resembles coarse meal with pea-sized bits of butter. Sprinkle the water on top and stir with a fork until it comes together, about 30 seconds; if the dough is too dry, add more water, 1 tsp at a time. (Alternatively, use a food processor to mix together the dry ingredients, then pulse in the butter to combine. With the machine running, add the ice water through the feed tube until the dough just comes together.)
Turn the dough out onto a large sheet of plastic wrap. Use the ends of the sheet to gather the dough together and flatten it into a disk. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the streusel: Using a mini food processor or a coffee grinder, pulse the bread cubes to form breadcrumbs; you will need ½ cup breadcrumbs. In a small pan, melt the butter and cook over medium heat until it is just browned and just stops bubbling, 5 to 7 minutes. Turn off the heat, then stir in the brown sugar and breadcrumbs to evenly coat. Stir in the flour until dry and crumbly. Let cool completely.
Prepare the filling:
In a medium bowl, combine the pumpkin pie mix and flour until smooth, then stir in the milk and eggs.
Assemble the pie: On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 13-inch round using a lightly floured rolling pin. Gently and loosely roll the dough onto the rolling pin, then transfer the dough to a 9- to 10-inch pie plate and unroll it, being careful to keep it centered. Gently press into the edges and sides of the dough to fit the pie plate, trimming or folding under and crimping any excess overhang.
Pour the filling into the pie crust. Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350˚F and bake until set around the edges and slightly wobbly in the center, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Scatter the streusel evenly on top, covering the pie crust with strips of foil if too dark, then bake until a toothpick inserted just off of center comes out clean, about 15 minutes more. Let cool on a rack at least 2 hours.