Thanksgiving is about spending time with family – both the family you were born with and the family you’ve chosen. That’s why Friendsgiving celebrations have become more popular in recent years. They give adults a chance to sit down and share a meal with friends they may not get to see much throughout the year.
But these gatherings aren’t always such a blessing for the host. The holidays are already an expensive time, and putting together a feast for a large group isn’t exactly cheap. So how can you throw a Friendsgiving celebration without breaking the bank?
Ask for Help
When you start planning your Friendsgiving, the key is to pitch the idea as a potluck. If you can get your friends to each bring a side or dessert, your costs will be reduced significantly.
Asking for help will also make the experience more enjoyable for you since you won’t have to cook five dishes for 15 people. Plus, your friends may have their own Thanksgiving specialties. One may have an old family recipe for pecan pie, while someone else may be a mac and cheese expert.
You can use a free site like SignUpGenius to decide who’s going to bring what. Insert the dishes you’d like people to bring, including appetizers, sides, and desserts. Friends who are a disaster in the kitchen can sign up to bring alcohol, plates, silverware, cups and other beverages.
Have the Event After Thanksgiving
To really save money on Friendsgiving, host the event a couple days after Thanksgiving. Many grocery stores will have major sales to push their pies, sides, and turkeys. Instead of shopping for TVs or clothes on Black Friday, you can hit up the grocery store.
Before you decide on this idea, make sure your friends will be around after Thanksgiving. This may work better if you go home for Thanksgiving and want to host a Friendsgiving for all your hometown friends.
Opt for Chicken
Turkey is the standard on Thanksgiving, but many of your guests will be fine with chicken. Ask your guests beforehand if they care if you serve chicken instead of turkey this year.
Chicken is usually cheaper than turkey, especially because turkey prices often spike right before Thanksgiving. You can also save time by buying a rotisserie chicken instead of roasting one yourself. Costco has a daily $4.99 rotisserie chicken deal, for example.
Ask about Dietary Restrictions
Dietary restrictions and special diets are more common these days, and it’s wise to ask your guests beforehand if they can’t have a particular kind of food. Not only is it thoughtful, but it could also keep you from having too many leftovers or wasting money making something only a couple people will eat.
Dietary restrictions can also change your budget, so it’s important to plan ahead if this will be the case. For example, if you have a friend who eats gluten-free items, let her bring the gluten-free rolls.
Freeze Food Correctly
Depending on how many friends come to your event, you may end up with a bunch of leftovers. Instead of throwing them away or putting everything in the fridge, you can freeze dishes to save for later.
Before freezing items, divide them into individual serving sizes. For example, instead of putting all the turkey into a gallon bag, divide it into several sandwich bags. That will make defrosting easier and faster, and will make it more likely that you’ll actually go through your leftovers.
Make sure to label the food with the date so you know how long it’s been in the fridge. Every couple weeks, defrost a new small batch of Thanksgiving leftovers.
Compare Fresh, Frozen and Canned
Brussel sprouts are priced differently, depending on whether you’re buying a fresh stalk or a frozen bag. The same goes for most types of food.
Before you buy what you need for Thanksgiving, make sure to compare the cost. Are frozen cranberries cheaper than fresh ones? Look at the price per ounce to compare things correctly.
Use Grocery-Saving Apps
Apps like Ibotta, Checkout 51 and BerryCart give money back when you scan the receipts from a shopping trip. You can also save money beforehand by checking the available offers before shopping.
Make sure to check for coupons and read the weekly ads before you go shopping. The differences may seem minimal, but they can add up quickly – especially if you’re the one buying most of the food.
Shop in Bulk
Some grocery stores have a bulk section where you can pick out spices, nuts, and grains from containers and jugs. You can measure out only as much as you need.
This is an easy way to make a recipe without wasting money. Here’s an example: You need to make the stuffing, and you have to buy sage and thyme. You never cook with sage and thyme, so buying a couple bottles of dried sage and thyme would be overkill.
Instead of buying a full bottle that will go stale by the time next Friendsgiving rolls around, you can buy it in bulk and measure out exactly how much you need.
Bring the right measuring spoon with you to the grocery store. For example, if you need a teaspoon of nutmeg, bring a teaspoon along so you can measure out exactly how much is required for the recipe.
Shop at Different Stores
Start hunting for deals a few weeks before Thanksgiving so you can get the best discounts possible. Many items will be fine in the fridge, the pantry or the freezer. For example, butter, pie crust, a frozen turkey and cans of green beans will all keep until the day of the event.
You can also save even more by shopping at discount chains like Aldi or at a scratch-and-dent store. Make sure to compare prices before you buy. Sometimes it’s easy to assume that one store has better prices, but it’s always best to actually compare costs.
Compare Ingredients vs. Prepared Foods
It’s almost always more frugal to make a dish from scratch, but there are exceptions. For example, making homemade stuffing means you need to buy a couple loaves of bread, celery, butter, onions and more. If you buy a box mix, you’ll spend a lot less and won’t waste any food.
A box mix may not taste as good, but it’s better than a Friendsgiving with no stuffing at all.