If you’re nervous about having the house everyone will gather at for holiday dinner – any holiday – the best thing you can do is relax and give yourself permission to have fun, according to leading entertaining pros. Experienced grandmothers will also tell you that the best future memories are of the times the power went out, the turkey was charred, or the gravy was a lumpy mess.
Plan Ahead – Be Inventive
Worries about hosting the Thanksgiving meal for family and friends have plagued homemakers in this country for almost 200 years. In 1829, Lydia Marie Child wrote a book entitled The Frugal Housewife; in the following decade, it went through 10 printings. Child, who was newly married at the time, also penned the words to a familiar poem which began, “Over the river and through the wood. . . .” Familiar?
Even Grandma can feel the stress of having the extended family invade her house for the holidays. But the perspective of a few “Thanksgivings past” can shed a little light on what is truly important – and what is not.
The Best Advice – Keep It Simple
The first rule of entertaining, whether family or a roomful of strangers, is that if you’re having fun your guests will have fun. Advance planning will help to eliminate stress and keep costs in control:
- Take stock of what you have – count forks, plates, glasses, and chairs; supplement by borrowing from neighbors. Or, visit the dollar store to stock up on plain white plates and simple glasses.
- Mix and match: Use grandma’s silver, flea market serving pieces and platters, estate sale wine glasses and vintage tablecloths and napkins.
- Buy scented candles at the dollar store to add seasonal flavor to your home. Pile fresh fruits or vegetables in a clear glass bowl, or use a bowl of nuts centered by a chunky candle as a centerpiece. A grouping of broccoli and cauliflower heads would be inventive and colorful.
- Keep the menu basic and hearty: Shop carefully, buy only what you need, and never say no if others offer to bring a dish, whether it’s an appetizer, the sweet potato casserole, or the dessert.
Make a Plan – Have a Budget
In Dallas supermarkets the weekend before Thanksgiving, we found the following specials at various national chains: Frozen basted turkey at $.47 a pound, or fresh turkey at $.99 a pound, with a purchase of $20 in additional groceries; 3 lbs. of sweet potatoes for $.99; 10 lbs. of russet potatoes at $1.29, and Green Giant canned vegetables (all the Thanksgiving favorites) at $.49 each.
We also noticed the following products, all at just $.99: fresh cranberries, 1 lb. bag; 2 liter bottles of Coca Cola, iceberg lettuce and Pillsbury Grands biscuits.
With just a little bit of ingenuity and some careful planning, Thanksgiving dinner for 10 to 12 people will add up to between $30 and $35. Now, that’s something to be thankful for!