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  • Writer's pictureKathie Scalf

Giving Thanks Without Breaking the Bank

Somehow I’ve blinked and the holidays are upon us, with the Feast of a Thousand Yellow Carbs charging full steam ahead this week.

I was, and still am not, prepared.

Between my busy work schedule keeping me on the road half the month and other pressing life matters, I have not taken a single step toward hosting my parents for 3 days and executing a multi-course holiday meal, my largest of the year.

With all that being said, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I will prevail, in spite of the laughable contents of my bank account and cryable workload on my plate. My parents would certainly understand if we kept things to a minimum, as they’re much more modest people than myself, but I derive all my holiday joy from gifting the ones I love with a standout meal and memorable experiences while they’re visiting, especially considering how little they travel.

Whether you’re rolling in cash and just looking for more meaningful ways to bond during the holidays beyond posing for the perfect insta pic, or you’re like me and Butterballin’ on a budget, follow along while we explore some ways to give thanks without breaking the bank!

When it comes to the main event, Thanksgiving dinner, there are plenty of ways to cut costs. Taking shortcuts in your preparation can save you time and money without compromising quality if you execute correctly. While shopping, most grocery stores have markdown sections, particularly on produce, where they’re practically giving away food that is going out of date the next day. Here you can find potatoes, apples, peppers, onions, squash, and citrus that are perfect for crafting your holiday meal. Check the markdown bakery racks for rolls, baguettes and desserts that can be dressed up with your own creative butter blends or sugary toppings. If you plate and top accordingly, no one will think for an instant that your pecan pie came courtesy of Kroger.

You can also cut corners by getting a little help from your boxed friends. My absolute favorite holiday side dish is dressing, and it’s one of the only things I don’t do homemade, but I make it my own. Take a box of StoveTop and instead of boiling with water, swap it out with a can of flavorful chicken broth and half a stick of butter. Add chopped onions, celery and apples and cook as directed in a pot. After it’s done, spread in a casserole dish and finish in the oven so the top gets nice and crispy. This dish costs less than $4 to make. If you want a cheaper and less time consuming alternative to fresh green beans, drain a couple cans of Italian cut, add to a skillet with butter, garlic and seasonings. And keep an eye out for deals on turkeys at your local supermarket; most of them run crazy cheap deals in conjunction with a small additional spend on groceries. For example, Kroger is running their turkeys on sale for $0.49/lb if you have a Kroger card and spend $25.

Another fun alternative way to feed a crowd for cheap is to go potluck style! If you’re not married to tradition, I love this idea of the host handling the bird and telling everyone else to make and bring their favorite side dish. It’s an awesome way to get new recipes, learn more about your loved ones and you could even make it a fun contest to see whose is the most popular. I also think it’s perfectly ok to make your event BYOB if you’ve got a drinking crowd. As the host, make a big batch cocktail like festive fall sangria, then let everyone else bring their beverage of choice.

Also, don’t be afraid to venture away from tradition and create your own memories! Nobody is holding a gun to your head and making you eat turkey and fixins. Make a big pan of lasagna or a pot of spaghetti that feeds a crowd, or even a “bring your own soup” party; the reason for this season is gratitude for all your many blessings and there’s no rule that says they have to be honored in feathered form.

Finally, if you’re seeking family fun that doesn’t involve spending an arm and a leg at a crowded theme park, there are plenty of low budget options. I’m a huge fan of game nights, so pull out your family favorite board games that have been tucked away in storage. Instead of dragging everyone down to the theatre and dropping $20+ each for movie tickets, create the perfect home theatre experience with a build-your-own popcorn bar, cozy blanket and pillow forts, and old holiday classics. Or If you’re an outdoorsy family, bundle up and head for a hike to burn some of those leftover calories. We live in the best place on earth for exploring nature, and there are trails for all levels of hikers.

No matter how you spend your holiday, I hope the theme of gratitude and thanks is front and center. In an increasingly negative and divided world, this is a perfect opportunity to acknowledge our many blessings and appreciate the people who mean the most.


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