Thanksgiving Life Hacks
This article on Thanksgiving life hacks for 2019 is an update of a frugal Thanksgiving blog post I wrote a few years ago. The advice in it is solid, to be sure, but it really needed some additional life hacks to bring it into the here and now. Therefore this is what I’ve done.
I’ve answered some common questions about this food holiday, including “Where can I get a free turkey for Thanksgiving?” and “What are some money saving tips for Thanksgiving?” and “How can I get cheap tickets for Thanksgiving?” I realize that we’re just about to celebrate Halloween. Nonetheless, I wanted to share this advice with you as early as possible. I do hope that you find these frugal holiday turkey and other ideas helpful for saving some money this Thanksgiving.
Where can I get a free turkey for Thanksgiving?
Looking for some Thanksgiving dinner hacks? What about getting a free turkey for Thanksgiving? That would be the best Thanksgiving dinner hack of all, am I right?
I believe that the best way to get a free turkey for Thanksgiving is to use your supermarket points to do so. If you’re like most shoppers, you scan a membership card or loyalty card when you checkout at the grocery store. In many instances you’re earning free money that you can cash in for discounts on gas to fill your car or for a free Thanksgiving turkey.
Usually on national holidays Ibotta will offer some kind of freebie, such as a free beer for dad on Father’s Day or a free glass of champagne for mom on Mother’s Day. (Check out my article on freebies for National Food Holidays for more offers like these.)
Last year, I was able to get my family’s 18-pound Thanksgiving turkey for free by cashing in the supermarket points that I’d earned in the past few months. According to the tag still attached to the turkey, I should have paid about $20 for this mainstay on Thanksgiving. But instead I got a free frozen turkey by using my rewards points–a great way to save on Thanksgiving dinner. It was like getting a free turkey coupon.
Here are some additional Thanksgiving dinner hacks to consider.
Sales on Thanksgiving staples
Even though it seems counterintuitive, you can save on Thanksgiving staples in the days and weeks before Thanksgiving. Many grocery stores will mark down things like pumpkin pie filling, cranberry sauce and cornbread. If you can couple these sales with coupons, you can score big time. It’s one of my favorite Thanksgiving life hacks.
That’s what I did the same last year with cornbread–well, corn muffin mix from Jiffy. Usually, three to four times a year, I’ve found that Jiffy mix will go on sale (your supermarket may differ).
Sometimes Jiffy mix will be available as a freebie offer from an online couponing site. When this happens, I stock up. I did this last year and was able to use that free corn muffin mix in my Thanksgiving stuffing.
Get your groceries from shopping services
If you’ve read my articles Peapod: Is it Worth It? and the Walmart Grocery Pickup Review, then you know that I like getting my groceries from shopping services. These same services can help you save money on Thanksgiving or make your shopping trip easier.
For example, you can use double coupons when shopping with Peapod. I’ll bet you didn’t know that.
Also, Thanksgiving might be the perfect time to try out Instacart. Did you know that you can get your first order delivered FREE when you try Instacart? It’s a great option for Thanksgiving grocery shopping!
Thanksgiving life hacks
Here are a some additional Thanksgiving life hacks that can help you save on your Thanksgiving meal. Some of these tips might surprise you.
Plan your portions appropriately
If there is one holiday where everyone seems to love eating the leftovers, people would agree that it is Thanksgiving. And while it’s fine to have some leftovers, you don’t want to overbuy and overcook, especially if you’re looking to save money on your Thanksgiving dinner budget.
I found a nifty portion planner on the Food Network website that can help anyone figure out how much is enough to buy, based on how many people you’re hosting for Thanksgiving. Here are some Thanksgiving life hacks that can help you plan your portions for five popular parts of the Thanksgiving meal:
Hacks for Thanksgiving appetizers
The rule of thumb for any dips you might have out for appetizers is three ounces per guest. For finger food, budget two to four pieces per person–though, if you know your guests eat a lot, I might double that amount, especially if appetizer time will go beyond one hour. Round out more expensive appetizers, like shrimp cocktail, with plenty of fresh vegetables, which you can buy in bulk to save the most.
Expect a regular sized bottle of wine to provide one glass per three to four guests. If you’re serving wine with appetizers and dinner, you should probably plan to have twice as much wine on hand so you don’t run out.
Hacks for cooking a turkey
Looking for the best way to cook a free range turkey–or even just a “regular” turkey? You’re best bet is to visit Butterball.com–yes, the folks that sell turkeys.
The site has a turkey calculator that you can use to properly estimate how big your turkey should be, based on whether your want leftovers or not. On average, though, most people plan for one to one-and-a-half pounds of turkey per person at the dinner table.
Sides dishes for Thanksgiving dinner
Again, according to how much your guests like (or dislike) stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and the like, you should probably budget 1/2 cup to 3/4 cups per person for each of these side dishes.
Want leftovers? Then cook up one cup per person, leaving you with 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup leftover at the end of the meal.
Thanksgiving dessert hacks
A pie should serve eight people, but if your family likes to cut hefty pieces or always goes for seconds on dessert, you’ll do better to plan for a pie serving four people only. Better yet, to keep your budget (and your waistline) in check, pre-cut or pre-slice the pie into smaller pieces.
Save money on Thanksgiving supplies
I mentioned earlier that I’ve been able to get my Thanksgiving turkey for free in the past by cashing in supermarket rewards points. Clearly, this is a money saver. Another way to save money is to stock up on items that are on sale in the weeks before Thanksgiving.
According to the blog Live Richly on a Budget, some items you may need for your Thanksgiving meal that are likely to be on sale include:
- Baking supplies (chocolate chips, evaporated and condensed milk, cake mixes, nuts)
- Canned goods (soups, broths, vegetables, fruits, sauces)
- Thanksgiving essentials (canned pumpkin, marshmallows, stuffing mixes, gravy)
Clipping coupons makes sense
Also, coupon experts say that in the weeks before Thanksgiving, you can often expect to see two to three times as many coupons for items that you’ll need for a holiday meal. So stock up on those coupons now.
If you rely on your Sunday paper for coupons, take note: Sunday papers do not include coupon inserts on holiday weekends. Don’t subscribe to a paper? You can always get your coupons online.
Another option for finding coupons online is social media. Make sure you “Like” your favorite brands on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.
If brands have an email newsletter, sign up for that as well. At least one of these options is bound to give you a heads up about coupons that, otherwise, you never would have known were available.
The same is true for grocery shopping services like Peapod. I get regular emails from them letting me know which items are on sale that week. Good to know if you’re stocking up.
New to Peapod? Use this link to sign up and save $20 on your first delivery order.
Cashback works for Thanksgiving life hacks, too
Finally, a great way to save money on Thanksgiving is to take advantage of money-saving sites, especially those that help you save money on grocery shopping. Some such websites include those that offer cashback deals.
There are also receipt-scanning apps that put money back in your wallet. You may want to consider downloading them to your smartphone before your next supermarket trip.
My favorite is Ibotta. Another option is grocery shopping on sites that allow you to earn cashback from Rakuten. These includes Walmart Grocery and Instacart. Speaking of Instacart, why not try its 14-day free trial?
Organics can be an affordable option for Thanksgiving
Though some organic food is pricey, not all of it is. There are affordable ways to add organic food to your shopping list. Here are four tips to help you along:
You can find coupons for organic food
Many organic brands will post coupons on their site. I’ve seen them for Stonyfield Farms as well as Kashi (for its cereals and crackers) and Newman’s Own (for its sauces, salad dressings, and more). Coupons.com often carries coupons for organic products. I’ve seen cash back on Ibotta for organic products, too.
When in doubt, visit the website of your favorite organic product and see if you can sign up to receive coupons. Also, don’t forget to “Like” these brands on Facebook or follow them on other social media to find out about coupon offers.
Buy store brand organics
Store brands are often cheaper than brand-name products, and many stores now offer their own version of organic or green products. Safeway has its O Organics line, and Giant and Stop & Shop have Nature’s Promise (which you can purchase through Peapod).
And, of course, Whole Foods has its 365 Everyday Value brand. You do know that as an Amazon Prime member that you get discounts at Whole Foods, right? You can also buy the 365 Everyday Value Whole Foods brand through Prime Pantry.
Shop farmers’ markets in season
Use the Local Harvest website to find a farmers’ market near you, and head over there to buy your food from a local organic farmer. Oftentimes when a certain food is in season, it is cheaper to buy it at a farmers’ market than the supermarket. Plus, you get to support local farmers.
Cheap tickets for Thanksgiving
If you’re looking for cheap tickets for Thanksgiving, you may think you’re out of luck. I mean, the days leading up to Thanksgiving–and the days after Thanksgiving–are some of the most expensive to fly. They can even rival the prices you’ll pay around Christmas and New Year’s.
But did you know that one of the best ways to get cheap tickets for Thanksgiving is to fly on Thanksgiving Day? I’ve done it before and saved big time.
Think about it this way: What time does your family normally eat Thanksgiving dinner? If your family is like mine, you eat later in the day. Therefore, if you have to fly in the same day, it likely won’t be a big deal. Just leave first thing in the morning and you’ll be there in time for dinner, no problem.
Save money and energy when washing Thanksgiving dishes
There’s a lot of dishwashing that’s bound to occur on Thanksgiving. So this these Thanksgiving life hacks focus on the most eco-friendly and cost-conscious way to wash your Thanksgiving dishes. Believe it or not, that would be using your dishwasher.
Most people think the opposite is true. But check this out: some of today’s newer, more efficient dishwashers use as little as five gallons of water for the entire dishwasher load. On the other hand, I’ve read that when you wash dishes by hand, the average person uses 20 gallons of water.
Some people might think that using disposable items for Thanksgiving would be a great way to save water and money. That’s not entirely true.
Some experts estimate that sturdy paper plates cost about a dime each. That means you’re spending $.10 per serving per person on paper plates. That doesn’t sound like much money, but what if you did that at every meal, not just Thanksgiving? That’s $.30 a day per person, multiplied over a year, which comes out to more than $100 per person.
I’ll bet you didn’t spend $100 for each of the plates in your kitchen (unless it’s your good wedding china, then maybe you did). But the point is this: why spend money at all on plates to use at Thanksgiving when you can, in essence, use what you already own for free?
How to avoid a plumbing problem on Thanksgiving
According to data from HomeAdvisor, hiring a handyman and plumber tops the list of most popular home requests during the holiday season. HomeAdvisor reports an increase in service requests for repairing faucets, fixtures and pipes during the months of November and December. Proper maintenance throughout the year can help homeowners prevent hiring a professional for an emergency repair.
I’ve been using HomeAdvisor as a real-life consumer for nearly 10 years. HomeAdvisor and its database of prescreened contractors came to my rescue when the ridge vent blew off my home with a rainstorm barreling towards my town, when an ice dam formed on my roof one winter, and when I needed to have my hardwood floors refinished.
Now I hope that HomeAdvisor can help you avoid plumbing problems on Thanksgiving.
Plumbing maintenance life hacks for Thanksgiving and every day
Here are four regular maintenance tips to prevent plumbing disasters:
- Regularly pour boiling water with soap or baking soda down the drain to avoid buildup in the pipes. If using drain cleaners, be wary of combining multiple products as the chemicals may react violently and corrode the pipes.
- Every few months, throw ice down the disposal to sharpen the blades and place lemon and orange peels down the drain to reduce odors.
- When using the disposal, always run cold water and only put small amounts of food waste down the drain at a time.
- Don’t put grease, bones, coffee grounds, pasta, fibrous or stringy vegetables, or egg shells down your drain as they may clog the garbage disposal.
This last tip is so important–being careful about what you put down your garbage disposal, which will probably be working overtime on Thanksgiving and throughout the holidays. It is the key to avoiding plumbing problems.
Let me tell you about a plumbing disaster in my house. One night I pushed too much pasta down the garbage disposal. Then, it backed up my pipes. I discovered this when my washing machine backed up all over my basement. I found bits of pasta and water all over the place. Needless to say HomeAdvisor found me an emergency plumber in a pinch!
There’s another option for home services–signing up for Amazon Home Services. Amazon Home Services offers customers over a thousand different services from quality, hand-picked pros and backed by Amazon’s Happiness Guarantee.
Top services available for customers to purchase from Amazon Home Services include:
TV Wall Mounting
Smart Home Device Installation
Equipment and Furniture Assembly
Plumbing and Electrical