Are you looking forward Thanksgiving break? It gives you the perfect excuse to relax all day while watching the Macy’s Day Parade and football, eating some delicious foods, and spending time with the important people in your life.
When I was in college, I was lucky enough to have extended family nearby, but I rarely made the long trip (Florida to Virginia) home for Thanksgiving. It would have been a short and expensive trip, and I knew I would be back a few weeks later for winter break. The reality is that many college students can’t get home for Thanksgiving break since it’s just a long weekend, so they find another place to spend the holiday. If you’re being welcomed into someone’s home, it’s important to be a good guest. This obviously includes minding your manners and cleaning up after yourself, but you might want to consider how you can contribute to Thanksgiving too. This can be tricky, especially for a college student on a budget!
Whether you are going home to your immediate family, spending time with your extended family, joining a friend and their family, or planning a Friendsgiving, there are many easy and creative ways to contribute without breaking the bank!
How You Can Contribute to Thanksgiving Dinner:
- Volunteer to bring a food item. This is a pretty common idea! Thanksgiving is all about the food, so offering to bring one of the dishes usually goes over pretty well, especially since it means less to do for for the host.
- Make a pie or dessert. Whether you have a go-to pre-made pie or you plan to bring a homemade dessert, choosing to bring a dessert course can be really helpful to the host. (They don’t have to worry about oven space or timing, for example.) A quick Pinterest search for “Thanksgiving desserts” will yield a ton of great ideas!
- Bring a salad or veggie tray. Continuing with the theme of food, you could also offer to bring a side dish or appetizer. Salads are easy to make, involve cheap ingredients, and complement any meal. You might consider bringing a variety of dressings to give guests a choice. Veggie trays are also always a hit; with all the calories being consumed, it’s important to throw something healthy into the mix. This won’t cost a fortune, and the host will greatly appreciate having one less thing to worry about and prepare!
- Bring a loaf of bread. Thanksgiving just isn’t complete without rolls, croissants, or bread. Offering to bring a fresh loaf or a dozen rolls can complete the meal without costing much. Think about presentation as well. Consider asking the host about their color scheme and bring the bread in a basket wrapped in a matching napkin.
- Make a centerpiece. If you’re artsy, offer to make and bring a centerpiece for the table. This is a kind and creative gesture that your host will love, and hopefully, use at future fall gatherings! It will certainly add a festive ambiance to the meal and can be an affordable way to contribute, as long as you don’t have to buy too many supplies. Looking for inspiration? Check these out!
- Bring gourds. If you’re not super crafty, but like the centerpiece idea, consider bringing gourds. These traditional Thanksgiving fruits have decorated many homes and tables for years. You can usually find them in a variety of sizes and colors, so grab a few and use them to arrange a simple, but merry, centerpiece.
- Make or bring a decorative wreath. A Thanksgiving-themed wreath is a wonderful gift to bring for your host, but make sure to ask whether they’re already displaying a wreath on their front door. This type of wreath can either be bought or made, but it’s a lovely way for the host to remember your contribution throughout the season and in future years.
- Bring a host gift or little goodie bags. A wreath is one type of host gift, but there are plenty of others! You can bring a bottle of wine (if you’re of age to purchase it), a scarf, a book, candles, or anything else that your host might enjoy. Gifts are a great way to thank someone for their hospitality. Another option is to find out how many guests will be at dinner and make small goodie bags for each person. You can include things like candy or little decorations. Check out these ideas for some inspiration!
- Bring something for the kids. If you know there will be children at your Thanksgiving dinner, you can offer to bring a game or activity for them to do. We all know that kids can get bored while adults talk and eat, so this is a great way to keep them occupied and make everyone happy. Consider bringing Thanksgiving-themed coloring books, activity pages (word searches, mazes, etc.), or actual board or card games for the kids. Even if the family already has some games at their house, fresh new games are always a hit!
- Offer to do the dishes or help clean up. Acts of service like these are totally free, but hugely helpful! If you know you can’t afford to bring much, or if your host tells you they already have everything they need, then offer your service. You can set and clear the table, wash dishes, or help put away any leftover food.
- Be the photographer. Another free act of service is to offer to be the holiday photographer. You don’t have to be an expert with cameras, or even have one nicer than your phone! So often, people are so caught up with cooking and eating that they forget to take pictures. If you make sure to capture everyone at different times, it will create lasting memories that guests will be thankful for. Just remember to plan a way to share the photos with everyone (a clever hashtag, maybe).
- Plan a group game or activity. There are several types of activities you can plan, but consider something a little active. Games like cornhole, capture the flag, and flag football can quickly become tradition and are a great way to get moving before or after a big meal! You could also try rallying everyone for a long walk after dessert (trust me, it helps with digestion). If the weather prevents outside activities, think about bringing a board game or a deck of cards for after dinner.
- Bring a family dish. This idea is mainly for a Friendsgiving event: Have everyone contribute to a potluck-style Thanksgiving dinner by making and bringing a dish that their family eats each Thanksgiving. This way, all guests get to enjoy a little bit of their family’s tradition while trying new dishes that are well loved by others! Just make sure that you have a good balance of appetizer, main, side, and dessert dishes. This doesn’t have to only apply to Friendsgiving, though. You could bring a little bit of your family to any Thanksgiving you’re spending away from home. Offer to bring a family favorite for dessert, or make your grandma’s famous cornbread!
We hope these ideas are inspiring and that you find one that works for your holiday situation. Have a wonderful and relaxing Thanksgiving!