Every year on Thanksgiving we expect the turkey, the trimmings, the pies, mounds of side dishes and overflowing drink. What if you can't afford to do it this year?
My husband and his mom always had a nice, simple tradition.They would make a bunch of peanut butter sandwiches and drive to a mountaintop to sit with each other. They would enjoy simple food and each other's company. While that seems a little austere for most people, you still don't have to spend hundreds of dollars hosting a traditional board-heaving thanksgiving spread to make your family happy.
You can look realistically at your lifestyle and come up with fun alternatives.
What do you actually want to get out of the holiday? Hosting a big meal? Getting together with family? Or perhaps you wouldn't mind creating something more peaceful (and perhaps less boisterous) as a family custom.
Hosting a Big Meal
You can have a big, yummy meal without the turkey and cranberry sauce. Decide to have a large Italian Feast instead with lots of (inexpensive but filling) pasta, and offer different sauce choices like marinara, alfredo and pesto. Make up a ton of garlic bread, roll meatballs, offer a large salad and serve nice simple ices for dessert to offset your heavy meal.
You could also do a Mexican Fiesta on the frugal side, with beans, tacos, ground meat, cheese, lettuce, radishes, salsa and fried dough with honey for dessert.
Or make a stew with meat, potatoes and whatever veggies you have left over from the garden. Call it a Harvest Feast and serve with good, simple loaves of crusty bread with butter. Heck you can even buy milk, put it in a jar and shake it 'til you make butter. Let the kids do the shaking. Have cookies and hot brownies with vanilla ice cream for dessert. :)
I know a lot of people who make a custom of heading to a Chinese buffet every Thanksgiving for their meal. Those are a great deal - you get a huge gut busting meal at nice prices if you choose your place well.
Getting Together with Family
If the company and not the food is what makes you most enthusiastic about Thanksgiving, then you really don't have to worry about the dinner. You can have nice potluck meal that everyone will enjoy. Make it all about the company by putting out the food and letting people eat informally as the day goes on. Have a ton of activities that are the day's focus instead of sitting down to carve a bird.
When I was a kid, my family went to my aunt's house, where there would be many other aunts and uncles and endless cousins. We noshed all day at the BBQ, played backyard volleyball, three-legged, relay and sack races, played Yatzee, Scrabble and RummyQ, had card games and darts, and ran around playing flashlight tag after dark.
Your house could host anything you find fun - do crafts, make puzzles, create Christmas cards from art supplies, play tag football, hide and seek, and Capture the Flag (which, in a good game, can take hours). While the guys watch football, the girls can have a 'ladies night in' with all kinds of pampering fun. Or vice versa if the girls prefer the games!
My neighborhood kids used to collect acorns for months and then get together for a big acorn fight once a year. You could do that with your friends and family on Thanksgiving too. No one says you have to do what everyone else does. Make it your own. No one will remember what you didn't eat if everyone has a good time and is full anyway.
Creating a Peaceful New Custom
You don't have to stay home on Thanksgiving. Go to a state or national park. Hike around or just explore the visitor centers. Head for a drive in the hills. Go to the movies and see everything in the cinema that day with all the popcorn you can eat. Have a movie marathon at home with Star Wars, Harry Potter, classic Bogart films, the James Bond movies or a series of fun retro 80s flicks.
My husband and I are planning on ordering pizza, making a fire, and watching the Lord of the Rings all the way through. We're looking forward to a cozy day with just the two of us. No hosting, no driving, no worrying about hostess gifts or crazy cooking confusion. We'll be staying off the roads and having a great holiday.
Make Your Own Tradition
Think about what you would like your Thanksgiving to be, and give up on the expectations of society. You can give thanks and enjoy the day in so many other ways. The turkeys will thank you for it and so will your wallet. :)
Frugal Recipe Ideas from Amazon -
Stew! 100 Fabulously Frugal Recipes
The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian