Planning Thanksgiving on a budget

By Tamara Thomas Published:

The holiday season can bring financial stress that burdens your spirit. From purchasing gifts to traveling to planning an elaborate holiday meal, extra expenses make it hard on families this time of the year. Many families skip holiday traditions to avoid overspending.

Skipping the big Thanksgiving or Christmas meal may not be the answer to pinching pennies; choosing to eat a nutritious meal can help you avoid the extra spending and extra calories.

The guidelines of MyPlate suggest that half of your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables. With less pressure to provide large quantities of a special meat, especially for the holiday season, the meal is beneficial for your health and budget.

Fresh fruits and vegetables can be costly at the grocery store but canned or frozen fruits and vegetables are available, perhaps on sale. They also have a longer shelf life compared to fresh fruits and vegetables, so be sure to stock up during sales and buy things you know you will need for holiday meals.

Since some families think a holiday meal would not be a feast without the meat, look at different options to help you stay within your budget. Look for local meats, like ham, and use recipes that include meat as an ingredient instead of a stand-alone dish. Avoid buying too much meat since it doesn’t have a long shelf life and is usually the most expensive ingredient.

The most important factors for a successful holiday meal on a budget are planning and preparation. Making a plan for your holiday meal can save money and time. Establishing a budget is vital since there are extra expenses this time of the year. Include coupons, food stamps and WIC vouchers as a part of your budget. Don’t buy “extras” with the money that you save, unless they will be used for your holiday meal.

Preparing a list for just the items that you need for your holiday meal can also help you avoid spending extra money. After you have created a list, check out your local food sources for items such as meat, eggs, cheese, baked goods and produce from Kentucky producers. If you can’t find the items that you need at your local food source, then go to your local grocery store.

Adding a few things in your cart at the store can cost you many extra dollars at the cash register. Don’t forget to look in your cabinets and refrigerators to see what you already have. Little expenses like salt and pepper, and other small condiments add up quickly. Look for the spices and herbs you will need at discount stores.

Don’t let the expenses of the holiday season be the reason for an empty stomach or an empty wallet. Making healthy choices by following the daily recommendations of MyPlate can provide both health and financial benefits.

For more information on how to prepare and plan your holiday meal, view UK Cooperative Extension Publication Plan for Food Spending at or contact the Franklin County Extension Service.

Sources: Janet Mullins, extension specialist in food and nutrition and the U.S. Department of Agriculture

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