As a generation, we’re statistically all over the place. If you’ve graduated, you’re more likely to be living in an urban center like Austin, Texas and hopping from job to job, both of which mean you’re likely not living at home. Moreover, with the average starting salary for a 2014 graduate hovering around $45,000, it’s also likely that the cost of traveling makes heading home for the holidays difficult, if not impossible.
Just because we’re not at home doesn’t mean we’re not celebrating. According to a recent study, more than 65% of Millennials have either celebrated a “Friendsgiving” in the past or plan to do so this year.
If you’re one of them, you’re probably stressed about how you’re going to cook for all of your friends without going broke. Having hosted a few get-togethers over Thanksgiving break in the past, I feel you. And I’ve probably made more holiday meal faux pas than most (that includes undercooking the turkey one year). However, I’ve also learned a lot.
In the spirit of giving, here are the seven things that I learned while hosting — and reflecting on — my own Friendsgiving:
1. Enlist Aid.
Whether you grew up working in a restaurant or have no idea how to turn on an oven, cooking for a big crowd is always stressful. Enlist a few friends to help you plan the menu, buy ingredients and bring a dish.
Alternatively, suggest a potluck. Almost everyone has a specialty or, at the very least, a dish that they’re passionate about and want cooked a certain way. Bonus: you save money when you only have to buy ingredients for one or two dishes instead of the whole spread.
2. Plan Ahead.
I live in a tiny apartment with an even tinier oven, and I know I’m not the only one. Skirt disaster by making sure you can cook everything in the allotted time and space that you have. If not, it may be time to text your awesome friend with the giant apartment and ask them for help.
Before the big day, it’s good to look over the dishes you plan on cooking. Even if you’ve bought all of your groceries beforehand, be sure that you have all of the serving platters, cooking trays, cups and silverware that you’re going to need. If you don’t, it’s usually easier (and cheaper!) to look for deals online or hunt around than buying your last-minute cookware from your local grocery store.
Finally, planning ahead for a big group means that you can take advantage of buying ingredients in bulk. There’s nothing worse than shelling out for eight boxes of Stovetop stuffing the day before guests arrive when you could taken care of your shopping the week before at a discount.
3. Be Accommodating.
Sure, a lot of people look forward to Thanksgiving turkey, but what if you’re terrified of poultry and have a bunch of vegetarians to account for? There’re a ton of awesome vegetarian recipes online (like this one for a squash main course) that everyone will love.
Dietary concerns aside, breaking tradition can be fun. One year, we ditched the turkey because no one wanted to cook it. Instead, I cooked up a giant lasagne. It wound up being a lot less headache because we were able to make it the night before and just pop it in the oven the day of.
Have guests clamoring for a traditional Thanksgiving feast? Check out this Buzzfeed post on how to keep it simple — and cheap.
4. Don’t Forget The Leftovers.
13% of adults surveyed say that their favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner is the leftovers (that number would probably be higher if the answer “spending time with family and friends” wasn’t an option). Take advantage and be sure to bring tupperware to take some home. When turkey sandwiches get bland, you can always make enchiladas, chili, ramen or samosas.
5. Keep It Seasonal.
The golden rule of grocery shopping on a budget still applies come holiday season: scour your grocery shelves (or farmers’ market stands) for local, seasonable vegetables. In-season veggies not only taste better and are more healthy, but they also provide a chance to support local growers and farmers.
Skip summer and early fall vegetables like asparagus or lima beans and instead reach for broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower or carrots. (My recommendations only apply to New York: for a list of seasonable vegetables in your area, check out SustainableTable.org).
6. Keep A Lid On The Booze
Just like eating out at a restaurant, alcohol is the easiest way to drive the price of your home-grown Thanksgiving meal through the roof. If you plan on providing the booze, consider looking for a bulk discount from a local store (many wine shops discount by 10% or more if you buy by the case). If your local store doesn’t offer a discount, certain alcohol delivery apps and websites often offer discount codes or freebies.
Of course, the easiest way to account for your guests’ individual tastes is to simply ask for everyone to bring their own favorite drink. Just be sure to stock up on non alcoholic mixers and drinks for those of your guests that may not drink.
Have you ever hosted or participated in a Friendsgiving? Chime in! Share your favorite tips, tricks and stories in the comments below. Headed home instead? Let us know what you’re looking forward to the most!