Thanksgiving on a Budget

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Are you dreaming of a giant and succulent turkey, buttery rolls, mashed potatoes swimming in gravy and warm belly filling stuffing?

Thanksgiving is just weeks away and while you may still be knee deep in Halloween candy, it’s never too early to begin planning out your holiday menu. That includes figuring out how much you’re willing to spend on Turkey Day.

On average, Americans spend $2,875,000 on Thanksgiving dinner food each year. That’s according to Statistic Brain, which also shows that amount to be an estimated $56.18 per household. That’s a lot of food and if you’re already tightening your belts for the upcoming gift-centered holidays it might be causing you a bit of stress.

To help families have a frugal but fun Turkey Day, we offer 5 Tips for celebrating Thanksgiving on a Budget:

Plan the Menu, Stick to the Budget

This may seem obvious, but it really is the most important tip out there. You need to know how much money you want to spend and what you want to spend it on. You also need to know how many people you will be cooking for. If you can only afford a 10lb turkey, but are set to feed a dozen or so people you may need to rethink the rest of the menu.

That’s where our next tip comes in…

Make it a Potluck

Who says you have to do all the cooking by yourself? Enlist friends and family to help put the meal together. If you are playing host, offer to provide the turkey and drinks and then let everyone else fill in the rest. Not only does this help with the last-minute cooking stress, but it ensures that everyone will have at least one thing they like to eat at the gathering.

Bake from scratch

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It might feel like a hassle to spend the hours in the kitchen making pumpkin pie from scratch, but it is a cheaper alternative to buying the pie. You likely already have many of the ingredients sitting in your pantry, which instantly saves you on cost. Desserts are perfect dishes to get out of the way a day or two before Thanksgiving as many taste just as good —if not better —the next day.

Shop Second Hand

Don’t fret if you’re hosting for the first time and don’t have fancy chinaware to serve your holiday meal on. There is an easy way to host an appealing and cheap dinner party without resorting to paper plates. Consider doing your shopping at Goodwill or another second hand store. You may luck out and come across a complete dinnerware set that looks like it has been in in the family for years —in a charming way. If you can’t find a complete set, consider mix-matching pieces to create a Bohemian theme for your Thanksgiving dinner.

And this brings us to our next tip…

Natural Décor

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Professionally done holiday décor and floral arrangements are a perfect way to capture the spirit of the season. But if you can’t quite afford the linen tablecloths or season-appropriate flower centerpieces, there are other options. Decorating with gourds and pumpkins is inexpensive and easy, but you can do more if you are willing to roll up your sleeves and pull out the glue gun. Try going for a woodsy theme by bringing in twigs, branches and fall leaves from outside. Decorate them with glitter spray or beads for a whimsical look to keep the autumn theme going. Forgo tablecloths for runners by cutting a strip of burlap to give the table a rustic look. And you can never go wrong with mason jars filled with wildflowers or berry branches.

Need help creating a personal budget or want more financial assistance? Visit BBB’S Financial Building Blocks page to learn more.

FareStart Serves up Fresh Food and Fresh Starts

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For many, food brings together family and friends. To students at FareStart, food brings the beginning of a lifelong transformation.

A 501(c)(3) charity since 1992, FareStart provides job training in the food service industry to homeless and disadvantaged individuals in Seattle. CEO Megan Karch explains that FareStart “is less about teaching people to cook but more about using food as a tool to help people change their lives. It’s not about creating chefs as much as it is about recreating lives and communities.”

Two core programs support FareStart’s mission, serving approximately 350 people annually – or about 70-80 students each day.

Many students come to FareStart without employable skills, unstable housing, battling addictions and even criminal histories. What unites them is a desire to change and a willingness to learn.

The Adult Culinary Program provides a 16-week comprehensive training program combining hands-on food service training and classroom instruction with individual case management and job placement services. During the program and post-graduation, students have access to support teams that assist with housing, basic needs and life skills training. Within 90 days of graduation (and often much sooner), 93% of graduates secured employment and six months later, about 80% were still employed.

In a similar fashion, the intensive eight-week Youth Barista Training & Education Program provides job training/placement, life skills, employment counseling, classroom and on-the-job training to homeless youth between ages 16-24. Of last year’s youth graduates, 92% have gained employment or continued their education.

For hands-on experience, participants work in FareStart’s social enterprise businesses – FareStart Restaurant, FareStart Catering, and FareStart Café @2100 – which generate a significant portion of the organization’s operating revenue. Each Thursday, the restaurant opens for Guest Chef Night, giving students the opportunity to learn from premier local chefs and offering the public a chance to experience a three-course gourmet meal for $29.95 during student graduations. Often times, students are offered employment from the chefs they work with during Guest Chef Nights.

Try to fight the tears when you hear students and graduates speak of the immense impact that FareStart has had on their lives in the organization’s recent gala video. Travis (current student) shared, “Basically, I got down to two bags… homeless, and I kept hearing the name FareStart. So I came in on a Tuesday and by Wednesday, I had a place to stay, food in my belly and was learning a new career.” Paul, a graduate of the program, said that “My world basically fell apart. Life changes happened but I resorted to drugs and alcohol to try to overcome those feelings and felt diminished, useless, spent… FareStart was a hand up. They grabbed hold of me and helped me until I could stand. Because of that, I now can help other people.”

In addition to meals in their restaurants, FareStart also prepares about 750,000 nutritious meals for low-income daycares, homeless shelters and local schools.

If you’re not already inspired, there’s more to FareStart’s story. Megan says “we started Catalyst Kitchens because we were getting calls from around the country about how to set up this model in their region. We did it to incubate and launch new programs and to set up a network so we can help other organizations scale their impact.” This 65-member international network trains an impressive 3,000+ students and serves approximately 11 million meals annually.

FareStart is one of many local BBB Accredited Charities that meets our comprehensive 20 Standards for Charity Accountability – meaning you can trust that your donation will be used wisely. View their BBB Charity Review here. BBB also provides great giving tips to help donors give wisely.

FareStart was featured as the cover story for our December Torch Talk. Check it out here and subscribe to future Torch Talks by clicking on the light blue “Subscribe” button on the left side of the page.