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How to Have Thanksgiving on a Low Budget closetsamples
Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude, family, and feasting, but it doesn't have to mean emptying your wallet. In this comprehensive guide, we'll show you how to have Thanksgiving on a low budget without compromising on the joy and traditions of the holiday. From planning your menu to creating a warm and inviting atmosphere, we've got you covered.
How to Have Thanksgiving on a Low BudgetImage credit: Freepik

How to Have Thanksgiving on a Low Budget

Thanksgiving is about celebrating the spirit of gratitude, not overspending. Here's how to make it happen:

Start with a Budget-Friendly Menu

Create a menu that's both delicious and affordable. Opt for seasonal produce, choose budget-friendly recipes, and consider a potluck-style gathering where guests bring dishes to share. Try the following steps:

  1. Create a menu that's both delicious and affordable: The emphasis is on selecting dishes that are not only mouthwatering but also economical.
  2. Opt for seasonal produce: To save money, choose ingredients that are in season during the fall, which is when Thanksgiving is celebrated. Seasonal produce tends to be fresher and less expensive.
  3. Choose budget-friendly recipes: Look for recipes that use affordable ingredients and are easy to prepare. This can help you keep your food costs down.
  4. Consider a potluck-style gathering where guests bring dishes to share: Instead of preparing all the dishes yourself, encourage your guests to contribute by bringing their own homemade dishes. This not only reduces your workload but also spreads the cost among the attendees, making it a more cost-effective way to celebrate.
Here are some examples of budget-friendly Thanksgiving recipes:

  1. Roast Chicken: If you're looking for an alternative to the more expensive turkey, roast chicken is a great option. It's flavorful, easy to prepare, and usually less costly.
  2. Mashed Potatoes: Potatoes are an affordable and versatile side dish. You can make creamy mashed potatoes with butter, milk, and some seasoning. You can do this from scratch with whole potatoes or buy pre-packaged potatoes mix.
  3. Stuffing: Making your own stuffing with inexpensive ingredients like bread, onions, celery, and herbs is a cost-effective choice. You can also add sausage or apples for extra flavor.
  4. Green Bean Casserole: Green beans, cream of mushroom soup, and fried onions make a classic and budget-friendly side dish.
  5. Pumpkin Soup: Using canned pumpkin, you can create a delicious and affordable pumpkin soup. Add some spices and cream for extra flavor.
  6. Vegetable Tray: A colorful vegetable tray with dip is both budget-friendly and healthy, providing a fresh contrast to the richer dishes.
  7. Cranberry Sauce: Homemade cranberry sauce is simple and inexpensive to make. All you need are cranberries, sugar, and water. (or you can just buy it already canned if you prefer)
  8. Sweet Potatoes: Baked or mashed sweet potatoes with a drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon make for an affordable and delicious side dish.
  9. Gravy: Making your own gravy from pan drippings is a budget-friendly way to enhance the flavor of your dishes.
  10. Pumpkin Pie: Baking your own pumpkin pie using canned pumpkin is a cost-effective dessert option. You can also make a graham cracker crust for additional savings.
These budget-friendly recipes allow you to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal without breaking the bank.
How to Have Thanksgiving on a Low Budget
Image credit: Freepik

Shop Smart

Make a detailed shopping list and look for deals, discounts, and coupons. Buy in bulk to save money and choose store brands over premium labels. 

  1. Make a detailed shopping list: Before heading to the store, create a comprehensive shopping list of all the items you'll need for your Thanksgiving meal. This helps you stay organized and avoid impulse purchases.
  2. Look for deals, discounts, and coupons: Keep an eye out for special promotions, discounts, and coupons in newspapers, online, or at the store itself. Many supermarkets offer seasonal deals on Thanksgiving ingredients. Using coupons can significantly reduce your grocery bill.

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  3. Buy in bulk to save money: Purchasing items in larger quantities, especially non-perishable goods like canned goods or pantry staples, can be more cost-effective in the long run. Just ensure that you have enough storage space.
  4. Choose store brands over premium labels: Many stores offer their own brand of products at a lower cost compared to well-known, premium brands. Often, the quality is comparable, and you can save money by opting for store brands.
By following these steps, you can maximize your savings while still getting all the ingredients you need for your Thanksgiving meal.
How to Have Thanksgiving on a Low BudgetImage credit: Freepik

Decorate on a Dime

Embrace DIY decorations with items from nature, like colorful leaves and pinecones. Repurpose what you have and get creative with table settings.

  1. Embrace DIY decorations with items from nature: Rather than purchasing expensive decorations, consider using items found in nature, such as colorful leaves and pinecones. Collecting these items can be a fun and cost-effective way to bring the beauty of the season into your home.
  2. Repurpose what you have: Take a look around your home for items that can be repurposed as decorations. For example, mason jars, old glass bottles, or even unused picture frames can be transformed into charming decor pieces with a little creativity.
  3. Get creative with table settings: Design unique and visually appealing table settings using what you already own. Consider using mismatched dishes, vintage silverware, and fabric remnants as table runners or napkins. You can also create personalized place cards or centerpieces with minimal expense.
By embracing these DIY and repurposing ideas, you can create a warm and inviting Thanksgiving atmosphere without the need for costly decorations. It's an eco-friendly and budget-conscious approach to holiday decorating. 
Here are some Thanksgiving DIY (Do-It-Yourself) decoration and craft ideas to add a personal touch to your holiday celebrations:

  1. Thanksgiving Wreath: Create a festive wreath for your front door using dried leaves, pinecones, and a circular base. Add a ribbon or a burlap bow for a finishing touch.
  2. Fall Centerpieces: Gather a variety of colorful fall leaves, place them in a clear vase or mason jar, and add a candle for a beautiful centerpiece. You can also use mini pumpkins, gourds, or acorns for variation.
  3. Leaf Garland: String together colorful leaves to make a garland. Hang it across doorways, mantels, or along the dining table for a rustic touch.
  4. Handmade Place Cards: Craft personalized place cards using blank cards, colored paper, and markers. Write each guest's name and embellish with fall-themed drawings or stickers.
  5. Pinecone Turkeys: Paint pinecones to resemble turkeys, then add googly eyes, colorful feathers, and a construction paper beak and wattle to create adorable table decorations.
  6. Cornucopia Centerpiece: Craft a miniature cornucopia using a rolled-up paper cone. Fill it with small seasonal fruits, like grapes and mini apples, and place it at the center of your table.
  7. Thankful Tree: Create a "Thankful Tree" by collecting twigs and placing them in a vase. Cut out leaf-shaped paper and encourage guests to write what they're thankful for, then attach the leaves to the tree branches.
  8. Handprint Turkey Art: Have the kids get involved by making handprint turkey artwork. Paint their hands in fall colors and press them onto paper to create turkey feathers. Add a beak and googly eyes to complete the turkey.
  9. Mason Jar Candle Holders: Paint or decorate mason jars with fall-themed designs, then place tea lights inside for cozy candlelit ambiance.
  10. Gratitude Banner: Create a banner that spells out "Thankful" using cardstock or colored paper. Have each letter decorated by different family members, expressing what they're thankful for.
These DIY projects not only add a personal and unique touch to your Thanksgiving decor but also provide a great opportunity for family and friends to come together and celebrate gratitude.
How to Have Thanksgiving on a Low BudgetImage credit: Freepik

Plan Fun Activities

Keep your guests entertained with budget-friendly games, crafts, or a movie marathon. It's not just about the meal but the quality time spent together. 
Instead of investing in costly entertainment options, you can plan enjoyable activities that are easy on the budget. Consider board games, card games, or even creating a DIY craft station where guests can engage in creative projects together. Alternatively, you can organize a movie marathon, where everyone can watch their favorite films or classic Thanksgiving-themed movies
Thanksgiving is not solely about the delicious feast, but also about coming together with family and friends to enjoy each other's company. Engaging in games, crafts, or watching movies can foster a sense of togetherness, create lasting memories, and enhance the overall Thanksgiving experience. It's a reminder that the holiday is about gratitude and spending quality time with loved ones, regardless of the cost of entertainment.
By focusing on these budget-friendly entertainment options, you can make your Thanksgiving gathering memorable and enjoyable without overspending. It's a great way to bond, share experiences, and celebrate the spirit of the holiday.
How to Have Thanksgiving on a Low Budget
Image credit: Freepik

Setting the Mood

Create a warm and inviting atmosphere that doesn't cost a fortune. Setting the mood for Thanksgiving involves creating a warm and inviting atmosphere that enhances the spirit of gratitude and togetherness. Here are some tips on how to set the mood for this special holiday:

  1. Warm Lighting: Use soft, warm lighting, such as candles or string lights, to create a cozy and inviting ambiance. Lighting plays a crucial role in setting a relaxed and festive mood.
  2. Festive Music: Create a Thanksgiving playlist with your favorite holiday and autumnal songs. Music can uplift spirits and add to the celebratory atmosphere. Don't have a music subscription? Just make a YouTube playlist for free! You may have ads, but it is budget friendly! (And don't forget to Subscribe to Closet of Free Samples on YouTube while you are there!)
  3. Nature-Inspired Decor: Incorporate natural elements like colorful leaves, pinecones, and seasonal flowers into your decor. These items not only look beautiful but also connect your celebration to the season.
  4. DIY Decorations: Embrace do-it-yourself decorations that reflect the essence of Thanksgiving. Crafting your own centerpieces, place cards, or table settings can add a personal touch and create a warm atmosphere.
  5. Gratitude Corner: Set up a gratitude corner with a chalkboard or a large sheet of paper where guests can write down what they are thankful for. This encourages everyone to reflect on the true meaning of the holiday.
  6. Aromas of the Season: Prepare dishes that fill the air with the enticing scents of Thanksgiving, like roasted turkey, cinnamon, and baked pies. These aromas can evoke feelings of comfort and anticipation.
  7. Dress Comfortably: Encourage guests to wear cozy and comfortable clothing. This sets a relaxed tone and ensures everyone feels at ease.
  8. Share Stories and Traditions: Encourage guests to share their Thanksgiving memories, traditions, and what they are thankful for. Storytelling can deepen the sense of connection and gratitude.
  9. Gratitude Prayer or Speech: Start the meal with a gratitude prayer or a short speech about the importance of Thanksgiving. This reminds everyone of the holiday's purpose.
  10. Games and Activities: Plan fun activities or games for guests to enjoy after the meal. This keeps the festive mood going and ensures quality time together.
By incorporating these elements, you can create a warm and welcoming atmosphere that truly captures the essence of Thanksgiving, fostering a sense of gratitude, togetherness, and celebration. 
How to Have Thanksgiving on a Low Budget
Image credit: Freepik

Thanksgiving Games and Activities

Here's a list of Thanksgiving games and activities to keep your guests entertained and create wonderful memories:

  1. Thanksgiving Trivia: Create a list of Thanksgiving-related trivia questions and have a friendly competition to test everyone's knowledge about the holiday.
  2. Turkey Trot: Organize a fun run or walk in your neighborhood or local park on Thanksgiving morning. It's a healthy and communal way to start the day.
  3. Pumpkin Decorating: Provide pumpkins and art supplies for guests to decorate their own pumpkins. You can have a decorating contest with prizes for the most creative designs.
  4. Scavenger Hunt: Design a Thanksgiving-themed scavenger hunt for kids and adults. Include items related to the holiday and have participants search for them in your home or yard.
  5. Charades: Play a Thanksgiving-themed game of charades where guests act out words or phrases related to the holiday without speaking.
  6. Gratitude Bingo: Create bingo cards with spaces for things people are grateful for, and play a round of Thanksgiving-themed bingo.
  7. Thanksgiving Craft Station: Set up a craft station with supplies for making place cards, decorating gratitude rocks, or creating DIY decorations.
  8. Fall Nature Walk: Take a group walk to enjoy the autumn scenery, collect leaves, and appreciate the beauty of the season.
  9. Pie-Eating Contest: Organize a pie-eating contest with various pie flavors, and let guests compete to see who can finish a slice the fastest.
  10. Thanksgiving Mad Libs: Provide Thanksgiving-themed Mad Libs for some laughter-filled storytelling.
  11. Touch Football: Organize a casual game of touch football in the backyard or at a nearby park. It's a Thanksgiving tradition for many families.
  12. Movie Marathon: Host a Thanksgiving movie marathon with classic holiday films. Provide popcorn and cozy blankets for a cinematic experience.
  13. DIY Cornucopia: Have guests create their own mini cornucopias using craft supplies and small items like mini gourds and fruits.
  14. Turkey Bingo: Play bingo with a Thanksgiving twist, using images of turkeys, pumpkins, and other holiday-related symbols.
  15. Leaf Pile Fun: If you have a yard with leaves, gather everyone for some leaf raking and jumping into piles.
  16. Storytelling Circle: Encourage guests to share their favorite Thanksgiving memories, family stories, or personal anecdotes.
  17. Thanksgiving Karaoke: Sing your hearts out with a selection of songs that celebrate gratitude and togetherness.
  18. Table Games: Place board games or card games on the table for guests to enjoy after the meal.
These games and activities can add a delightful touch to your Thanksgiving celebration, ensuring that everyone has a memorable and enjoyable time together.

Psst... Check out these free games while you are here!
How to Have Thanksgiving on a Low Budget
Image credit: Freepik


Q: Can I still have a traditional Thanksgiving meal on a budget?

Yes, with careful planning, you can enjoy all the traditional dishes without breaking the bank. Opt for cheaper cuts of meat, and consider a potluck-style gathering to share the cooking responsibilities.

Q: How can I involve my family in the budget-friendly preparations?

Get everyone involved in the planning and cooking. It's a great way to bond and share the holiday spirit. Plus, it reduces the burden on one person's budget.

Q: Are there any alternatives to turkey for the main course?

Absolutely! Consider chicken, ham, or even a vegetarian centerpiece. They can be more budget-friendly and equally delicious.

Q: What about accommodating dietary restrictions or preferences on a budget?

You can plan a diverse menu that caters to everyone by focusing on budget-friendly ingredients that can be adapted for various dietary needs.

Q: How can I ensure my guests have a great time without extravagant spending?

Plan activities and games that require little to no expense, and encourage your guests to contribute to the fun. It's about creating lasting memories, not lavish spending.

Q: Any tips for minimizing food waste and saving on leftovers?

Portion control is key. Serve smaller portions and encourage guests to take leftovers home. Use leftover ingredients creatively in post-Thanksgiving meals.
How to Have Thanksgiving on a Low BudgetImage credit: Freepik


Having a memorable Thanksgiving on a budget is not only possible but can be a rewarding experience. By focusing on what truly matters – spending time with loved ones and being grateful – you can create a wonderful holiday without the financial stress.
In conclusion, Thanksgiving on a low budget is not just achievable; it can be a truly rewarding experience. By crafting a budget-friendly menu, embracing DIY decorations, and providing engaging activities, you can celebrate the holiday without financial stress. Remember that Thanksgiving is about gratitude, quality time spent with loved ones, and creating cherished memories. As you gather around the table, sharing stories, laughter, and love, the true spirit of the holiday shines through. So, this Thanksgiving, let your heart be as full as your plate, and may the warmth of togetherness be the most precious gift of all.
XOX Signature
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