Thanksgiving dinner party on a budget

This year, we are having thanksgiving dinner at our home.  It won’t be too many people though, a total of 7 adults and 2 children. So, not a huge reason to panic. Nonetheless, I do think some planning is in order to minimize hassles and expenses. These are the steps I am taking to make sure I am well organized. I hope they can help you too.

First: determine the size of your dinner party and also how much you would like to spend on this dinner. I would like to spend no more than $50 to feed dinner to 7 adults and 2 children.
Second: With the number of people attending in mind, figure out the menu you would like to serve. Try not to overreach. You do not have to have every item in your menu be a gourmet dish. Try to have simple dishes with ingredients that provide a sophisticated accent to your menu. Compile the recipes you intend to use and write a shopping list. To determine the size of the turkey you need to get, count the number of people who will be eating the turkey. Then with that number consider the following guidelines:

  • Allow for 1 pound uncooked whole turkey per person if you want to have some leftovers. Or up to 1.3 lbs per person if you would like more leftovers
  • If cooking a turkey breast, allow for 3/4 lb per person or if using boneless turkey breast then go with about 1/2 lb per person.
  • If you are buying a pre-stuffed frozen bird consider using about 1.25 lbs per person.

Third: consider starting your shopping early. Scan the grocery sales fliers weeks in advance in order to get needed items while on sale (those that can be bought ahead). Don’t forget to use coupons if you find any available for the items you need. I figure that I can buy most of the items I need in advance except for fresh vegetables and fruits. Also consider making items from scratch instead of buying pre-made. I plan on making dinner rolls from scratch using my bread maker to make the dough instead of buying brown-and-serve rolls. Finally, don’t hesitate to ask guests to help you by bringing some dishes or by coming early to help you cook. My in-laws are bringing one of the desserts and they are coming in Wednesday night to help me cook on Thursday.

Fourth: Write out a game plan. Review your recipes and figure out how many of these items can be cooked in advance to prevent a last minute crunch. In my menu, I know I can make the soup a week in advance and freeze it. I can also make the pie the day before. The side dishes are simple recipes that can be cooked while the turkey roasts. Also consider using technology to your advantage. I will use my bread maker to whip up the dinner roll dough. I also intend to use my toaster oven for some of the needed baking.

Fifth: Expect the unexpected. Keep in mind that no plan is ever foolproof. In my case, I am not going to be surprised if I start having contractions that Thursday morning, ha ha!

With that in mind, here’s my menu and game plan:

Appetizers: Deviled eggs, vegetable tray and dip, cheese and crackers.

Soup: Butternut squash soup, except I won’t use the cream cheese but fat free evaporated milk

Main dish: Roasted Turkey (gravy without the alcohol) and stuffing (family recipe)

Side dishes: Caramelized sweet potatoes (family recipe), green beans and shallots, glazed carrots and roasted Brussels sprouts (easy on the butter).

Bread: Sweet dinner rolls

Dessert: Chocolate Pecan Pie and pumpkin cheesecake brought by the in laws.

Game Plan:

Sunday before: make soup and freeze, do last minute shopping for perishable items.

Tuesday: Begin defrosting turkey and prepare broth for gravy.

Wednesday: Begin brining turkey and make pecan pie.

Thursday: In the morning boil eggs and prepare vegetables for vegetable tray. Around lunch time, prepare stuffing and begin roasting the turkey. Meanwhile prepare side dishes. Cook roasted Brussels sprouts in the toaster oven and caramelized sweet potatoes in the oven with the turkey. Prepare dinner roll dough in the bread maker. Set to bake as soon as turkey comes out of the oven. Meanwhile prepare gravy with turkey drippings. Sit down and eat.

I am really hoping to spend less than $50 on this, mostly because I have a few of the items I need already in my pantry. I have butter in my freezer that I bought on sale a few weeks ago. I also got the pecans for the pie for free, as well as the crackers. I have also started looking for coupons that I could use. So far I have found coupons for brown sugar, light corn syrup and hummus dip. I expect my biggest expense to be the turkey and I am already checking out prices for this item in the grocery stores around me. I will post an update on how much I ended up spending after the event. Wish me luck!