After years of attending Thanksgiving dinners in other people's homes, it's finally your turn, and you are pumped. You can't wait to return some of the hospitality you've experienced over the years, and your Thanksgiving dinner will be the best one ever because you are pretty darn good at this. Or maybe you're somewhat of a reluctant host. You got "volun-told" you were hosting because no one else in your family wanted to do it.
Either way, it can be tempting to blow your budget and buy everything you need, whether to amaze your guests with the most glorious Thanksgiving ever hosted or to save yourself the hassle of stressing out at the last minute. Resist! Thanksgiving is a time to get creative, borrow, or even rent, but don't buy any of these things.
Here are five things you should never buy for one dinner.
1. Tables and chairs
You don't have to start pulling out lawn chairs, although that is perfectly acceptable. There are creative ways to provide seating. We always put card tables in front of each of our arm chairs in the living room and add three folding chairs to complete the table. Just make sure to seat someone with a long torso in the chairs if they're low. (This is where place cards come in handy.) We also use our piano bench to seat two skinny people. Need more tables and chairs? Start with your neighbors and go from there. Just remember to drop off a loaf of banana bread when you return them.
2. A roasting pan
How often are you really going to roast a turkey? Borrow the pan, or even buy a disposable one. Or buy a whole turkey, already cooked. We had a caterer friend do ours one year and he even carved it and put it on a tray. I'm not here to judge, and if your guests are, perhaps you need new guests.
This idea goes beyond roasting pans. Anything that takes up valuable storage space and rarely gets used (like a carving board!) should be borrowed or worked around. A small pitcher makes a great gravy boat, for example. I happen to have a 60-cup coffee urn. I don't use it often — no more than twice a year, maybe three times — but enough to justify the storage space. (I lend it out, too, if you need one.) If I didn't have one, a traveler from Starbucks would do the trick.
3. Every single side dish
Chances are good your guests will ask what they can bring. Tell them. Don't be vague. If you really want oyster pie, ask who wants to make it! A lot of hosts provide the space, the place settings, and the main course and leave the rest to everyone else. Don't be afraid to ask people for specific dishes, either. For these big dinners, a host is often more of a planner than a cook.
4. Greenery to decorate the table
First of all, you want your guests to be able to see each other (no large floral arrangements!) across the table. Also, if you have a crowd, you probably need all the room you have on the table for food. If you want something pretty, get it from the yard. A sprig of Japanese maple or a few spotted laurel leaves make all the difference. Rosemary looks and smells nice, although you might not want it as a centerpiece, lest it overpower your meal.
5. Anything you'll never use again.
This should be a no-brainer, but when you're rushing to get everything together, and Amazon Prime is right there on your laptop, it can be tempting to go for it. You might think 36 plain white dinner plates for $120, plus free shipping, delivered right to my doorstep? One less errand. Let's do this!
As the proud owner of that many plain white dinner plates, I support this, if and only if you'll use them on a regular basis. (We use ours every day, and have enough to last a lifetime, even if a few break. At least a few times a year, I use all of them at once for a big dinner.) But if you won't use them again, figure out a workaround. You may even be able to rent dishes if you can't borrow them.
The Biggest Lesson to Learn as a First-Time Thanksgiving Host
The point here is that you should never spend a lot of money — or even a little — on something you'll never use again. It'll just take up space in your cabinets and gather dust. Now, if you come across a vintage porcelain scene involving turkeys, gourds, and other Thanksgiving decor, and you think you'll use that thing every year, I say go for it. (But don't blame me if your partner looks at you like you've lost your mind.) I'm all for extremes in holiday decor, but not unless it brings you joy.
In the end, all people really care about is getting together and sharing a meal. No one will care if your chairs and dishes don't match, or if your floral arrangements are less than elaborate. They'll just be happy to be included. Invite with abandon and figure out the rest!
What other ways are you saving money this Thanksgiving?