7 Ways to Save on Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving means giving thanks for all the good in our lives. It also means stuffed turkey and gravy, pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes. It’s a time-honored tradition of spending time enjoying a delectable holiday meal while in the company of those we love. It can also mean spending an awful lot of money.

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the average host cooking a Thanksgiving dinner for 10 guests will spend approximately $50 on the dinner alone. Of course, if you’re expecting more than 10 guests or you tend to overspend when hosting, your costs can easily top that amount. Between the turkey, ingredients for that luscious holiday meal and décor to set the ambiance, hosting a Thanksgiving dinner is not cheap.

Looking for ways to cut back without compromising on the quality and festivity of your meal? Look no further! You know that here at Insight we love to keep your wallet plump. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of seven easy ways for you to save on your Thanksgiving costs this year.

1. Verify your guests’ attendance

Before you start writing up a spectacular menu or a detailed shopping list, check to make sure you have an accurate head count of the guests and family members who will be joining you for Thanksgiving dinner. You don’t want to end up with a fridge full of leftovers. Verify that all who are invited are indeed planning on showing, and only then begin planning your menu.

2. Find out what your guests like

While you’re doing your invites, ask for your guests’ individual tastes. You don’t want to forget that Great Aunt Martha is on a strict gluten-free food plan or that your cousin’s spouse is a vegetarian. Aside from specialized diets, ask about particular foods your guests like to eat and those they won’t touch. If something on your menu isn’t very popular with your guests, skip it – even if you think it’s an essential Thanksgiving food. This way, you won’t exhaust yourself over a pumpkin soup that nobody will touch or end your holiday meal with trays full of leftovers and lots of hungry guests.

3. Make it a potluck

Slash your spending and your stress in one step by answering an enthusiastic “yes!” to every guest who asks if they can bring something. Don’t just say anything’s fine, though, or you might have seven desserts. Instead, create a Google Sheet with your planned menu and let your guests add what they’d like to contribute to the meal. This way, they’ll know exactly what you need, you’ll know what they’re bringing and best of all, you won’t be doing all the cooking yourself.

 4. Serve on smaller plates

Most people will load up their plates to capacity, regardless of the plate’s size. Curb the wasting at your table by using smaller dinnerware. Let your guests load up all the way without leaving half-full plates. They can always refill if they still want to eat more later.

5. DIY décor

You can set a beautiful holiday tablescape without blowing your budget; all it takes is a little imagination. Shop the local dollar store for discounted décor that still packs a punch, like colored vases, silk flower arrangements, and other centerpieces. Look for easy, inexpensive DIY ideas online. Finally, get creative by using things from around the house or yard as your décor. For instance, you can create a whimsical candleholder by gluing cinnamon sticks around a candle or design an autumn-themed centerpiece with leaves and pine cones which can be found at your local craft store. You can take a look at our blog on frugal fall decorating for more inspiration.

6. Shop the sales

Grocery stores and shopping centers tend to run specials on turkeys and other Thanksgiving staples starting as early as Halloween. Plan your menu several weeks in advance so you can take advantage of these sales. Keep it flexible until you see the circulars and then base your dishes on the ingredients and produce that’s cheapest. Also, be sure to shop around for your turkey! Supermarkets tend to have the best deals on the birds, with some even running free turkey deals when you spend a specific amount on other groceries.

7. Cook from scratch

Most everything is less expensive – and tastes better – when it’s homemade. Think gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing and apple pie. Start your cooking well enough in advance so you don’t find yourself relying on too many convenience foods and paying the price both in cash and taste. Your wallet and your guests will thank you!

When you gather around the table with family and friends this Thanksgiving, you can be thankful for all the good in your life without feeling guilty over how much you spent on the meal. All it takes is a little planning!

What are some of your best Thanksgiving dinner hacks? Share them with us in the comments!

Give a Toy to Share the Joy!

trainlogoInsight is proud to support the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve as they bring hope and holiday cheer to less fortunate children through their Toys for Tots program.

Help us share the joy of the holidays! Simply bring a new, unwrapped toy to any of our branches by Friday, December 9. We’ll make sure your donations are delivered to well-deserving children in time for Christmas.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a difficult time, you can request toys on the Toys for Tots website. Click on “Request A Toy” and follow the instructions to find the Toys for Tots campaign in your local area.

5 Tips to Host Thanksgiving on a Budget

Thanksgiving Dinner.jpgThere’s no doubt that the holiday season can be expensive, and maybe a lavish Thanksgiving feast just isn’t in the books for this year. If you’re not riding the gravy train, it’s still possible to cook a delicious Thanksgiving meal that doesn’t cost you an arm and a (turkey) leg. Here are some easy as pie tips to help you host a wonderful Thanksgiving on a budget!

  1. Make it a potluck. You don’t have to tackle the whole menu by yourself! In the true spirit of Thanksgiving, get everyone involved and ask them to bring one of their favorite dishes. Just keep a list of everything that everyone is bringing so you can make sure to have all of the Thanksgiving staples on the table.
  2. Stick to your shopping list and budget. Create your menu and budget well in advance. Bring your Thanksgiving shopping list with you on your regular grocery store trips to pick up non-perishable and frozen items when they’re on sale. You can also check your grocer’s weekly ad for current sales.
  3. Start from scratch. Pre-made items are often full of preservatives and seldom taste better than homemade items. Instead of buying powdered mashed potatoes, make delicious mashed potatoes with this simple recipe. You can also make a yummy stuffing with this easy recipe.
  4. Buy a frozen turkey. The turkey is usually about 40% of the cost of the meal. Opt for a store brand frozen turkey instead of a fresh one. Just remember to allow ample time for thawing. Click here to see how you can safely thaw your turkey.
  5. Find decorations at the dollar store. Believe it or not, the dollar store has some great decorations for the holiday season. Check out your local dollar store to see what you can find! Click here for 70 cheap DIY fall decor ideas.

We hope these tips help you stress a little less and enjoy time with your family during Thanksgiving! Do you have any other great tips? Comment and share them with us!

2015 Holiday Events in Central Florida

holiday events.jpgThere’s plenty to do this holiday season with free (or low cost), family-friendly events all over Central Florida. Check out the list below and join us as we are out and about in December!

Citrus County
From Inverness to Homosassa, there are several events to attend in Citrus County. Music, festivals, parades and chili await you and your family! Click here to learn more.

Hernando County
From boat parades to Candy Cane Acres and train rides to the North Pole, Hernando has some serious fun lined up! Check out all the details here.

Lake County
The Villages is ready to celebrate the holidays! Christmas is certainly on the list, but there is also a great Menorah Lighting Ceremony to check out.

Leesburg’s calendar is jam packed with fun events for the holidays, including the Festival of Trees, Holiday Concert Series and Christmas Wine Walk!

Light Up Clermont is December 3 – 5. This is a “can’t miss” event for those in the South Lake area. Enjoy holiday music, a tree lighting ceremony and much more!

Marion County
The City of Ocala has some great holiday events lined up! (Hint: check out their skating rink!) Click here to learn more.

Orange County
Lake Eola Park is packed with events this holiday season, including Holiday Movie in the Park, What’s Up Downtown for the Holidays and the Tree Lighting Celebration. Check out the details here.

Seminole County
The Big Bang Bazaar on December 6 is a sure bet for the creative artists out there! Bring the whole family out to enjoy handmade arts and crafts and more.

On December 12, Children ages 12 and under can enjoy An Afternoon with Santa at Magnolia Park. The evening also features face painting, cookies, crafts, games and more! (This one costs $4 per child, but adults are free.)

Volusia County
On December 5, Check out the annual Christmas Parade put on by the City of Deltona! Click here for details.