Thanksgiving prep stressing you out? Wondering how you’re going to get everything done in time for the big day and stick to your budget at the same time?
We’re here to help! Whether you’re traveling home for the holiday or hosting a houseful of guests, we’ve got you covered. Here are 15 clever Thanksgiving hacks to save you time, stress and money as you prepare for Turkey Day.
1. Book your flight early
If you’re flying home for Thanksgiving, book your flight as early as possible – preferably in September. According to the travel app, SkyScanner, booking a Thanksgiving flight in September can save you 4 percent off the ticket price.
2. Travel light
You likely won’t be gone for long. Plus, if you’re going home, you can always dig up something to wear if you haven’t packed for every occasion. Why waste all that time packing and pay for extra bag-checking?
3. Get an accurate guest count as early as possible
If you’re hosting, this should be your first step – even before you start thinking menus and recipes. Find out exactly how many guests you’re expecting for Thanksgiving dinner so you don’t overcook or need to run out at the last minute for more groceries.
4. Plan your menu early
Draw up an exact menu as early as possible before you start stocking up on ingredients. This way, you won’t pick up random food items just in case you may end up needing them.
5. Take stock of your pantry and fridge before shopping
Don’t buy a thing until you know what you already have at home, this way you won’t be unpacking three cans of pumpkin filling from your grocery bag only to find you already have four cans sitting in your pantry.
6. Shop early and shop the sales
Most supermarkets spread their sales weeks before the big day. Save big by picking up what you need, as it gets marked down in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. As always, be sure to monitor coupon sites like Coupon.com, Flipp.com, and RetailMeNot, as well as local circulars, to see what’s on sale before hitting the stores.
7. Use a cooler as a fridge
As you cook your way through your menu, refrigerator space will become a precious commodity. Make room by using a cooler to store bottles of salad dressing and condiments you don’t need for Thanksgiving. Fill the cooler two-thirds of the way with ice so your banished foods don’t go bad, and keep it in the garage until your fridge is roomy once again. Use the space these items leave behind in your fridge to store the dishes you’ll need for the great feast.
8. Use pennies instead of pie weights
You need to pre-bake your pie shells before filling them, but you don’t want the shells to puff up and crack. Professional bakers recommend using a pie weight to keep this from happening, but there’s no need to waste money on yet another kitchen gadget. Instead, line your pie shell with foil and then fill the center with pennies or dried beans to keep the dough weighed down as it bakes.
9. Keep your mashed potatoes in your slow cooker
No one wants cold and lumpy mashed potatoes with their turkey. But how do you keep them soft and smooth when every burner on your stovetop is occupied in the hours leading up to Thanksgiving dinner? With this hack, of course! After preparing your potatoes, spread some butter on your slow-cooker insert, add some heavy cream or milk and then pour in the potatoes. Keep the temperature on low and stir occasionally to keep the spuds soft and creamy.
10. Use aluminum foil instead of a roasting rack
There’s no need to rush out and buy a pricey roasting rack so your turkey can cook evenly. You can get the same results by fashioning a rack out of aluminum foil. Twist some foil into thick ropes and weave them across the bottom of your roasting pan until they’re strong enough to hold your bird.
11. Spray-paint plastic fruit instead of springing on expensive décor
You can find fake fruit for super-cheap at dollar stores-or you may already have some at home. Spray-paint the fruit in gold, silver or any colors that match your décor for a festive look that doesn’t break the budget.
12. Buy a frozen turkey
Frozen turkeys are a lot cheaper than their fresh counterparts, and if you prepare it well, no one will be able to tell the difference.
13. Buy in bulk
You can save a ton on your ingredients by buying in bulk. If you can’t see yourself using up a mammoth sack of potatoes or an enormous amount of cranberry sauce, find a friend who is also hosting Thanksgiving dinner and ask about splitting the cost and the item. You’ll still save a ton off the regular price.
14. Skip the appetizer
Appetizers can take a ridiculous amount of time to prepare, and you don’t want your guests filling up on miniature fried wontons before you bring out your turkey with all the trimmings. Consider skipping the appetizer this year and just starting with a tossed salad.
15. Cook most things from scratch
Convenience is important, especially when your to-do list outpaces your available time, but some shortcuts are just not worth the cost. Instant mashed potatoes and store-bought gravy don’t come close to the authentic version and can be a real waste of money.
Sometimes, though, if preparing something yourself means purchasing a pricey item for a small end-product, like pumpkin pie filling or cranberry sauce, you’re better off going with the premade stuff.
If you don’t think you can possibly do it all without buying as much premade as you can, split the smaller items on your to-do list with a neighbor or a friend who is also hosting dinner, and share the goods. We promise not to tell your guests.
Wishing you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday from all of us here at Directions Credit Union.