8 ways to plan a budget-friendly Thanksgiving

Hot chili and cold beer are made for each other

Our pro advice for eating and drinking well on this tasty fall holiday — without racking up huge bills

Thanksgiving is the right time for a cozy meal with rich, autumn flavours. And while it’s a Canadian tradition to go full-tilt on this holiday, with a giant turkey and tons of mouth-watering dishes, you can simplify without sacrificing any of your enjoyment. Here are our top ideas to help you do the honours even if this year’s budget is a little less lavish than usual.

  • Serve turkey cuts rather than a whole bird

    There’s no need to stay home roasting a large turkey for the better part of the day. Less-expensive cuts of turkey are easier and faster to cook than fussing over a whole big bird. Plus, you can tailor the ratio of white and dark meat exactly to your family’s tastes.

    Whether you’re cooking turkey breasts or thighs, braising is a delicious, easy way to keep them juicy. Our Pilsner-Braised Turkey the recipe turns out super-tender results and brings your hands-on cooking time down to the bare minimum — once you pop it into the oven there’s no basting required! Plus, the smells of that well-balanced pilsner will entice everyone to the table when dinner is ready.

    Don’t forget to take your dinner beverage cues from your food. After all, if you like to cook with it, you’ll like sipping it, too. With our 800-plus brands to choose from — including plenty of tasty pilsners — we have your Turkey Day selections covered.

  • Stick to simple recipes

    In the mood to try out new dishes, but don’t want to buy expensive, rarely used ingredients? Keep your eyes peeled for recipes that blend simple flavours, uncomplicated pairings and affordable components you’ll use up.

    Another easy way to spend less is to skip the frilly garnishes that are more about photo-ops than adding taste. You don’t need to buy a whole pomegranate so you can sprinkle a tablespoon of the seeds around the turkey platter — it’ll look and taste just fine without them! The same goes for showers of pricey nuts or cheese over your side dishes. Instead, choose recipes with garnishes that give you more bang for your buck; for example, our Pilsner Brussels Sprouts with Bacon requires only a few slices of everyone’s favourite breakfast meat to give the sprouts an upscale, smoky flavour and rugged good looks.

    There are a couple more telltale signs that you’ve chosen a truly simple recipe: Watch for short-and-sweet ingredient lists and quick prep times (less chopping and fewer ingredients to measure out).

  • Serve family-style side dishes

    The upside of a lighter Thanksgiving budget is that everything, from food to place settings, can be ultra-casual. And that means less stress for you.

    Lean in to a more-relaxed holiday vibe by serving budget-wise fresh veggies family-style. A good old-fashioned mash made with potatoes and other inexpensive fresh vegetables is always a hit. (Our Potato, Parsnip & Ale Mash is a delish variation on that theme.) Fall also means that comfort-food root veggies are in season, so they’re more affordable. Try our new Butternut Squash with Lager & Herbed Walnut Salsa and you’ll see how good they can be.

    Frozen produce is a money-saver, too, and requires less prep. Think simple, elegant sheet-pan roasted broccoli spears or butternut squash cubes, which you can cook straight from frozen. Pro tip: Not thawing frozen veggies keeps sogginess at bay and creates nice crispy edges. You can also pan-fry frozen produce in a cast-iron skillet to give it a grilled flavour.

  • Shop your pantry first

    Why buy special ingredients if you already have inventive combos standing by? Get creative with standard pantry items to yield super-tasty results. Try some of these easy ideas:

    • Turn a simple can of beans into a creamy, delicious dip. Drain then purée the beans with garlic, a pinch of dried herbs, a squeeze of citrus juice and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with carrots sticks or pita wedges.

    • Add dashes of soy sauce, fish sauce or other seasonings to gravy made from a simple powdered mix for added savourinesss.

    • Turn roasted brussels sprouts or carrots spicy-and-sweet by coating them with equal parts honey and sriracha before baking. Or turn this combo into a dip or sauce to enjoy at the table.

    • Cook nutritious quinoa according to the package directions and combine with cooked frozen peas. Drizzle on lemon juice and olive oil, and sprinkle your favourite dried herbs or spices (think oregano or cumin) overtop. Toss and enjoy as a hearty side dish.

  • Don’t make heaps of food

    With so many temptations at the supermarket, it’s easy to overbuy for Thanksgiving. But who needs leftovers for weeks? This Thanksgiving, try paring back to just the essentials you need for the big meal. Shop your pantry and your freezer first to see what’s on hand, and then make your shopping list. Get enough to make just the holiday meal plus your annual day-after, all-dressed turkey sandwiches.

  • Skip the mixes and cook from scratch

    Prepared foods and expensive meal kits can really eat up your budget. And it’s surprising how dead-easy some traditional dishes are to make! You can’t go wrong with old-school faves, like our new, super-simple Stovetop Pilsner & Herb Stuffing.

    You can dress up simple from-scratch dishes for less by amping up your favourite condiments and sauces. We suggest beer for the job, of course! Try nutty brown ales to play up umami flavours, and pale ales and wheat beers to bring out fruity notes. We have lots of ideas here.

  • Look outside the box for desserts

    Is a fancy pumpkin pie your Thanksgiving go-to? Try changing it up by getting creative with seasonal flavours. Apples are another inexpensive autumn hero, and you don’t need a big pie to make them shine. Simple baked apples are a lighter option after a rich meal, and they don’t require a ton of ingredients. Still not willing to give up pumpkin? We hear you. Our Pumpkin & Ale Cupcakes
    the recipe will hit the spot with big flavour in a small package.

  • Pair beer with your Thanksgiving lineup

    You already know that beer and food pairing menus are hot. But serving beer with your Thanksgiving feast can also be a budget-wise choice. Here are our top tips.

    • If you love to drink it, you’ll love to cook with it. So give your fave brews a test-drive in recipes.

    • Have some pilsner or pale ale in the recipe? That same beer will pair perfectly with the finished dish.

    • Buying in bulk is smart. At The Beer Store, you can save an average of $9 on a 2-4.

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