Here’s How to Set a Budget Thanksgiving Table Inspired by the Pioneer Woman

updated May 24, 2019
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Ree Drummond, aka the Pioneer Woman, has a major following for her straightforward, delicious recipes. And her approach to her Thanksgiving table comes from the same place — no need to gussy everything up or make things fancy just for the sake of making things fancy! Just work with what you have, stick to what you need, and make everyone feel comfortable.

We studied some of Ree’s past Thanksgiving tables (like this one, for example) and came up with this short list of steps (or tips, if you will) to help you set a festive yet low-maintenance, budget-friendly table. One that lets the food take center stage and one that the Pioneer Woman herself would happily sit at.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

1. Fold bandanas and use them as napkins.

You don’t have to live on a ranch to justify using bandanas as napkins. For starters, they’re often less expensive than actual napkins. And they come in so many bright, fun colors. Mix and match your favorite colors and don’t worry about whether or not they look traditionally Thanksgiving enough.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

2. Use plain serving dishes.

In the past, Ree has gone with simple, solid-colored serving dishes. This way, the food really gets to shine. For our table, we used white dishes to really let the food shine — and because that’s what lots of people already have at home. A white dish from one store is going to match a white dish from another store. This way, you don’t have to worry about coordinating anything.

Bonus tip: Ideally, you’re setting your Thanksgiving table in advance (we suggest the night before). It’s less you have to do on the big day and it also gives you a chance to make sure everything fits. Every year, we like to write out each dish we’re making on slips of paper and assign them to a vessel. This also ensures we know what’s being cooked or served in what and that we have everything we need.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

3. Add a some decorations — but not too many.

Your guests are going to want to see each other. And you need room for the food. So there’s no point in going overboard with the decorations that are going to have to get moved when the food is ready. We’ve seen Ree decorate with just a few small arrangements of flowers, or some mini pumpkins and votive candles, or even battery-powered fairy lights. These items add a bit of fun and texture to the table but can easily be pushed around to make way for the food.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

What we love about Ree’s approach is that, especially for someone who might stress about getting everything just right, it takes the pressure off. It’s the beauty of knowing that just enough is, actually, enough that makes her no-stress table setting a great option.

What do you think? Do you want something more festive and formal or do you love the casual vibe here?