Tasty tips for hosting a frugal Thanksgiving

KidStock/Getty Images

Want to throw down a truly epic Thanksgiving meal that impresses all your relatives, without letting it gobble up your budget? It’s all gravy.

Throwing a frugal feast that even Martha Stewart would approve of is totally possible, and it’s as easy as pumpkin pie.

I’m also filling you in on how to score a free turkey, what pricey vending machine product might be popping up near you and why sometimes you just need to chill when it comes to the holiday shopping frenzy.

RATE SEARCH: Shop today for the best credit cards from our partners.

Steal of the week

The steal: Your turkey day feast. Serve up those mashed potatoes without having to fork over extra dough.

When is it? Now. Thanksgiving is next week (gasp). The holiday won’t gobble up as much of your money as it has in previous years. That’s because food deflation is causing food prices to plunge, especially eggs, milk, cheese, meat and bread. Good for your wallet, not so much for your diet.

What else do I need to know? While grocers and farmers might have some beef with plummeting food prices, you’re getting the most for your dollar this year.

Here’s how you can save even more at the market this Thanksgiving:

  • Serve up side dishes of in-season produce. For autumn, think root vegetables like potatoes, yams, carrots and sweet potatoes. You can even use this cool chart to see what produce is in-season in your state.
  • Buy store-brand over name-brand items when you can. The products are fairly similar and are way more cost-effective. This is great for things like the can of green beans you use for green bean casserole or the bread you use to make the stuffing.
  • Know your store’s coupon policy, and make sure you are part of its loyalty program. When you’re stocking up on food for your feast, you could be racking up rewards. Take advantage of that.
  • Compare your items not by the listed priced, but by the price per ounce or pound to truly make sure you’re getting the best deal.
  • Score cash back by snapping a photo of your receipt with apps like Ibotta and Checkout51.
  • Freeze your leftovers! Use all that leftover turkey to make soup or sandwiches for lunches the rest of the week.

Bottom line: You can totally feast frugally this year. That’s something to be thankful for!

Where to save this week

Turkey shopping

Turkey prices are definitely something to squawk over. But the bird is the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving feast, and is certainly something to splurge on, right? Maybe not. You can get your turkey for less (and maybe even for free) this year. Here’s where:

  • Weis Markets: Get a free turkey (up to 20 pounds) if you earn 50 Weis Reward Points.
  • ShopRite: If you’re a Price Plus club member, reach your purchase requirement (varies by store location) and qualify for a free turkey up to 21 pounds.
  • Aldi: Get a 99 cent per pound (12-14 pounds) Honeysuckle White turkey.
  • Hy-Vee: Buy a Hormel whole ham, get a free turkey.

At your Friendsgiving

OK, so you’ve gotten the fancy, family feast out of the way. You were able to save on your Thanksgiving spread with Mom and Dad, but now it’s time to turn up with your squad for turkey day. Here’s how to throw an impressive Friendsgiving on a budget:

  • Instead of fancy place cards, print out funny memes or inside jokes to signal where your guests should sit. Because we all have a real-life Grumpy cat in our crew.
  • Ditch the elegant, expensive decor and decorate with things you can find in your backyard, like pinecones and mini-pumpkins. I also love this idea — instead of a tablecloth, put down decorative paper you can write on and create customized placemats.
  • Make it a potluck. Ask each person in your squad to bring their favorite dish, and have your Type A friend whip up an Excel spreadsheet of what everyone’s bringing to make sure there aren’t any repeats.

You can read more about how to pull off a frugal Friendsgiving here.

P.S.: Last week, I filled my subscribers in on how they can use price matching to save while shopping. Don’t miss out on exclusive savings tips! Subscribe here.

RATE SEARCH: Find the right rewards credit card for you, today.

Where you won’t save this week

If you’re like me, you consider buying a Kit Kat from the vending machine as “splurging.” Treat yo’self, right?

The tech giant Snap (aka Snapchat) is taking vending machine items to a whole new level.

The company recently announced high-tech vending machines called Snapbots that will dispense its new glasses, dubbed Spectacles. Spectacles — priced at $129.99 — record 10-second videos and can then send those videos to your phone. Snapbots stay in one location for a limited time before being moved, so Spectacles might be hard to get your hands on.

Savings hack of the week

Struggling to check off everyone on your holiday wish list this year? Consider snagging a few discount gift cards to serve as stocking stuffers this year. Discount gift card websites — like Cardpool.com — are virtual marketplaces where people can sell their unwanted gift cards at a lower price.

Cardpool’s website claims users can buy gift cards for up to 35% off, and sellers can sell their unwanted cards for up to 92% cash back. How’s that for holly and jolly?

We can help you find the perfect gift card. We put together this handy chart where you can compare gift cards based on a number of factors, such as the amount you can load onto the card or whether it can be purchased on and downloaded to a smartphone.

My savings story

I’m all about finding good deals and discounts whenever I can.

But if there’s one thing I’m not about, it’s compromised morals and composure that sometimes overcome frenzied holiday shoppers this time of year. Every year, I hear insane stories about people literally getting trampled and punched while trying to get the best deal at Black Friday or Thanksgiving sales.

Pop a chill pill, OK?

Acting that way is not only embarrassing, it’s concerning. ‘Tis the season to reflect on what really matters in your life, and I can assure you it’s not a flat-screen TV.

If you have your eye on a particular product that is slated to go on sale on Thanksgiving, go for it. But stop there. Before you spend hours hitting up every single store on turkey day, take a sec to consider what you’re giving up. Which is probably quality time with your family and friends.

When it comes to Black Friday, aim to snag those great sales. Yes, the deals are amazing and it’s totally worth it to take advantage of the massive discounts for particular products you’re aiming for, but don’t go overboard. Don’t throw any elbows as you’re rushing through the aisles.

Fifteen years from now, I probably won’t remember that I saved 60 percent on a TV at Wal-Mart. I’ll remember the hours spent around the dinner table with my family during our Thanksgiving feast. Be sure to put your priorities in order.

#Relatable

RATE SEARCH: Find a low-rate credit card today.