Swifty’s Eats | Giving thanks on a budget

Don’t let Thanksgiving gobble up your cash and time. Turn the holiday into what it was meant to be: a time to gather and thank the ones you care for.

Giving thanks on Nov. 24 by hosting family and friends for a meal is often easier said than done, but with these tips and tricks, you’ll be sure to get through this all-American holiday.

There are a variety of ways to prepare for Thanksgiving, but a successful and somewhat less-stressful celebration relies on three important factors: planning, organization and extra hands.


Ah, the art of meal planning. It is both a savior if you do it right and evil if you do it wrong, or don’t have much experience with it. The Scribe published a story that emphasized three important steps for successful meal planning: finding the right recipes, creating an airtight grocery list and picking a grocery store for your budget. These hold true, especially on Thanksgiving.

Whether you’re new to hosting or have been at it since the silent era, finding the right recipes makes all the difference. There are a variety of recipe websites that publish tried and true recipes, as well as new ones to try on Thanksgiving. So, before you go to the store, make sure you know exactly what you’re making for the main, sides and dessert courses.

After you pick your recipe lineup, it’s time to make a grocery list. I find it best to categorize the list based on the layout of your chosen grocery store. A list also reminds you of the exact quantities you’ll need to create that masterful meal. (Whatever amount of butter you put on the list, you’ll need more, trust me.)

Go to the grocery store that you feel most comfortable navigating and that’s kind to your wallet. Don’t attempt to search for ingredients in a store you’ve never been in, as this will only make your shopping experience worse and that much more stressful. It’s important to go as early as possible too; plan to coordinate steps one and two as early as three weeks before the celebration.


You’ve survived the planning stage and you’re getting ready to start preparing your show-stopping dinner; it’s time to get organized. In order to stay organized, follow the French, always. The phrase “mise en place” literally means “putting in place” or “to gather,” but it’s often associated with kitchen organization.

Mise en place encourages you to be as organized as possible and in order to do so, organize what and how you’re going to cook certain meals based on their prep/cooking time. Prep can seriously eat into your cooking time, especially if you’re inexperienced in the kitchen, so it’s a good idea to prep even the day before, if your ingredients can last overnight. Mise en place also refers to your equipment, so make sure your knives are sharp, pans are clean and stove is lit.

Extra hands

If you’re like me and the kitchen is your domain, you might have trouble asking for help to create that perfect meal, but don’t underestimate the power of extra hands.

When starting the process for Thanksgiving dinner, recruit some friends and family to carry the load and let them know what your plans are. If you’re struggling to get everything on the table, don’t be afraid to ask friends and family to bring sides or desserts to the celebration. Sharing the responsibility of Thanksgiving makes it that much more enjoyable and less stressful.

It’s OK to get overwhelmed. Thanksgiving is a beast, but if you follow these tips, you’ll be sure to slay it and still have time to be with the ones you love.

Swifty’s Tips

  • If you’re rethinking turkey because it’s become too expensive ($1.92 per pound as of last week) or you simply detest is, here are some alternatives. Try Cornish hens or glazed ham. If you’re vegetarian, consider mushroom wellington or veggie lasagna.
  • I get that a trip to the grocery store two to three weeks before Thanksgiving sounds steep, but it’s worth it to beat the crowds and have a loaded freezer ready for the holiday.
  • Arranging what you cook first in order of their prep/cook time is vital for a meal like Thanksgiving dinner. I prefer to prep and cook all the desserts before anything else so I don’t have to worry after all the plates have been licked clean. Next, I prepare all the sides, but before cooking them, prepare and begin cooking your main course, then finish the sides off as the main is in its last phase of cooking.