As thrilled as I am to be hosting (and therefore not to have to deal with one of the busiest travel days of the year), I’ll be honest: I’m a little stressed out. Not because I think our families won’t get along — they’re all great people, it should be swell! — but because I’ve never cooked a holiday meal, let alone one featuring a meeting of future in-laws. And as much as I know they will all love the meal regardless, I’m starting to feel immense pressure to make sure it goes perfectly. I’m doing everything I can to make sure my home looks the part, that we plan ahead for the food and that everything goes as smoothly as possible the day of the feast.
But, of course, I also don’t want to go overboard when it comes to Thanksgiving Day spending. We have seven total people to feed, and on top of food and drink costs, we’ve already found ourselves stopping at HomeGoods to check out the tablecloth and festive placemat situation. In order to plan ahead as much as possible, I decided to reach out to a few cooking and finance experts to get the best possible advice on budgeting for the holiday. Here’s what they had to say:
1. THINK LIKE A CHEF TO PLAN HOW MUCH MEAT YOU NEED
This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s something I could definitely miscalculate: planning the right amount of food for the people you’re hosting.
Rick Camac, the Institute of Culinary Education’s Dean of Restaurant & Hospitality Management, says to be sure to consider people, portions, and yield, especially when it comes to getting your turkey:
Yield means what useable product you get after the bird is cooked down and ready to serve.
[Assume you need] 8 ounces of protein per person. This is a lot, but who doesn’t overeat for Thanksgiving, and who doesn’t want leftovers? If you’re serving more than one protein (such as a ham and a turkey) obviously cut numbers in half, meaning 4 ounces of turkey and 4 ounces of ham…Assume a 50% yield on average. You’ll likely get a tad better, but this is a good estimate. So, for 10 people, being served 8 ounces each, you need 5 lbs. of yield. That would call for a 10-lb. turkey. Personally, I’d order 12 lbs. to be sure but, that’s me.
Buying too much turkey isn’t the end of the world, especially if you can use the leftovers to make something delicious (my favorite is turning it into a shepherd’s pie). But over-buying also means you have a bigger chance of letting your turkey go to waste — and losing money because of it. Use Camac’s yield rule to make sure you get the right amount.