NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Are you hosting Thanksgiving this year? From food and beverages to decorations and tableware, the beloved holiday can be a real drain on your wallet, especially if you're entertaining several guests. Thankfully, there are clever ways to cut costs while still creating a beautiful meal and tablescape. MainStreet asked Americans on a budget to share their top tips for planning a fabulous Thanksgiving without breaking the bank. Here's what they had to say.
Use Ingredients Already in Your Kitchen
As you plan out which dishes to serve at your Thanksgiving feast, consider creating some side dishes and desserts with items already in your pantry and fridge.
"This year I saved on groceries by doing an inventory of items I already had and brainstormed different recipes I could create," says Ericka Chatman of Kansas City, Mo., who runs the blog EricaSaves.com.
Need a little cooking inspiration? The website SuperCook allows you to type in ingredients you already have, then searches for great recipes you can whip up using those items.
Shop at Dollar & Bulk Stores
The price of decorations, tableware and serveware can really add up, but you can luckily save big on these and other items at your local dollar store.
"Dollar Tree has a huge selection of Thanksgiving-themed items," says Chatman. "I purchased the majority of my tableware from Dollar Tree, including plates, bowls and mugs in rich colors of golden yellow, purple, burnt orange, burgundy and other in-season colors."
If you're entertaining for a large group, you might want to also consider buying food and supplies at bulk stores.
"Go to Sam's Club or Costco for your forks, napkins, cups and serving pans and utensils to get more bang for your buck," suggests Stephanie Wilson, a singer and speaker from Houston who celebrates Thanksgiving each year with more than 30 of her family members.
Make Your Own Table Décor
Let’s face it: Going out and buying name cards, centerpieces and other table décor can get pricey. One way to cut costs is by making these items on your own, which will also give your table a unique, personal touch.
"Just take stroll around your neighborhood and you can find many great table decorations for Thanksgiving," says Derrick Johnson, a lifestyle expert and designer for Dare to Be Domestic Inc., a Los Angeles-based company that offers a variety of services such as personal shopping and party planning. "This year I plan to use leaves sprinkled with a little glitter tied with a piece of twine to make napkins rings and my aging Halloween pumpkins as centerpiece vessels. I also plan to use a metallic pen and make name plates from small pieces of fallen bark."
Debbie Andersen of Oakton, Va. offers ideas for homemade Thanksgiving décor on her blog Pineapples & Palm Trees. For instance, you can find instructions on how to make a colorful Thanksgiving floral arrangement crafted with items from Dollar Tree and Michaels.
Ask Guests to Bring Something
Just because you're the host doesn't mean you should have to pay for every dish included in the Thanksgiving meal. It's okay to ask your guests to bring a food item or bottle of wine to help share the financial burden.
"In my family, everyone brings at least two dishes," says Wilson. "We use a sign-up sheet to make sure we have enough meat, sides, bread and dessert."
Shop Sales and Use Coupons
"This year I saved on groceries by stalking the sales ads, using coupons and price matching," says Chatman. "I used coupons I found in my Sunday paper on items that I knew I was going to get. I waited for those items to go on sale and I matched them with coupons to get the food even cheaper."
If you prefer to coupon-clip with your smartphone, you can use apps such as Grocery iQ, SavingStar and RetailMeNot to find great deals. Chatman also recommends the cash-back apps Ibotta and Checkout 51 for your grocery shopping.
—Written by Kristin Colella for MainStreet