Friends are the family you choose, and celebrating with friends around Thanksgiving has become a holiday of its own. Friendsgiving isn’t just a backup plan for those of us who can’t travel due to the expense or a busy work schedule. For many, it’s just another way to celebrate the Thanksgiving tradition among friends. According to Facebook, last year over 75,000 Friendsgiving events were created on the social network alone, and mentions of Friendsgiving doubled on Venmo.
If you’re taking the helm as host for Friendsgiving this year, you’ll need to do a little planning and budgeting. Otherwise, your ambitions for an epic feast may turn as sour as old cranberry sauce. Consider these tips to put a memorable meal on the table without making a huge dent in your bank account.
Make It a Potluck
Unless you grew up with a huge family, you probably don’t know what it’s like to cook for a dozen people. Why start now? Host a potluck Friendsgiving and ask everyone who attends to pitch in with a dish.
Let guests choose from a list of food categories to ensure that the staples are covered—we’re guessing you don’t want to end up with six different kinds of green-bean casserole. Solidify the potluck menu ahead of time and confirm that everyone knows what they’re bringing. For those friends who don’t like to cook, there are plenty of other essentials to cover, such as tableware, napkins, and beverages.
The obvious question remains: who cooks the turkey? It’s the most labor-intensive and pricey dish—for a party of 10, the turkey can cost as much as half of the total price of a Thanksgiving meal.
In most cases, the host takes on the task of cooking the turkey and making the gravy. You don’t want a friend lugging a 20-pound bird around town in a tray of hot liquid. That said, getting a friend to help with this portion is invaluable. It’s a greasy, day-long event, but it’s worth the time.
Use DIY Decorations
A tasteful Thanksgiving centerpiece can go a long way toward creating a festive atmosphere for your guests and only requires a few seasonal pieces that you can find on the cheap. Shop for colorful gourds, such as pumpkins and squash—you can use them for a future meal. Snag a few holiday-scented candles from the dollar store. Grab a handful of fall leaves from the backyard or swing by a local florist and grab some fresh greenery then scatter it artfully on the table.
Try substituting pine cones and cinnamon sticks for flowers—they last longer and maintain their decorative relevance throughout all the winter holidays
Plan for Leftovers
Wasting food costs American families thousands of dollars per year. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food waste accounts for 28% of all garbage that is sent to landfills in terms of weight. At the same time, millions of Americans are. It’s a shame to let Thanksgiving food go to waste.
Since everyone has ostensibly brought a dish and paid up to defray costs, they’re also entitled to Friendsgiving leftovers. Ask people to bring storage containers so they can take food with them when they leave.
You can freeze some of the staple Friendsgiving dishes, such as turkey and stuffing. Keep in mind that pies and cooked vegetables don’t freeze well—eat these as soon as possible.
Chip In; Give Back
Potlucks are cost-effective, but you don’t want a few people stuck paying way more than everyone else. And what about that pricey turkey and red burgundy? If one person picks up the majority of the food or beverages, figure out a donation amount and try to settle up before the dinner if possible. It’ll help everyone avoid any awkward nagging emails or texts. For Chime members settling up is instant when you use Pay Friends.
While you’re deciding how to divvy up the costs of the event, why not consider pooling money together for a donation to a local food bank? It will amplify the feelings of goodwill long after the leftovers are gone and address a troubling need among millions of Americans who struggle with food insecurity.
Once the turkey hits the table, be sure to take some time to actively appreciate being in the company of good friends and food. A little gratitude goes a long way to not only strengthen your personal relationships but to also make you more mindful of the forces and people that helped you get where you are.