Money Saving Thanksgiving Ideas

I thought that it might be fun, with the economy the way it is, to make some cheap, homemade stuff for Thanksgiving. Usually we are all running out and spending a lot of money on table and house decorations along with the traditional food selections and accessories like napkins and serving pieces. When we invite family over for a big repast in our homes, we want it to be festive and enjoyable. What is more original and interesting than something we can’t just buy in Walmart, but has a personalized element? Something like homemade table napkins, handwoven fruit baskets, herbal centerpieces or handmade wreaths. Something they won’t see or experience anywhere else in the world. Something that speaks exclusively of you and your Thanksgiving meal.

I have some great ideas, some real cheap, others a bit more pricey. It’s up to you to determine what you have time for and what you can afford as well as what will work with your overall plans for dinner. How many people are coming? Is it just you and the kids or is your entire extended family coming? Are you serving at one table or more? Is this already so deep in your pocket that you just can’t afford anything at all? If so, I have ideas where you can forage the ingredients for free. So all of this I have taken into consideration and want to give you choices that will work for as many of you as possible. So, with no more adieux, here are the step by step recipes:


If you are short on fancy decanters, gravy boats and other serving implements and don’t want to spend a fortune buying new for the dinner crowd, then consider wrapping the bottles in fabric. You can buy fabric scraps or, better yet, cut up pretty fabrics from old clothing items that are headed to the trash. Cut them into VERY large squares and then stand the bottles on the center and pull the edges up around it. Always cut a very large square, as large as possible with the fabric you’re using and if you’ve made it too big, you can trim it at the finish. Pull the edges of the square up and around the bottle and then take the farthest out edges to pull it all together in the middle and tie it. If tieing doesn’t work for you, then wrap a rubber band around the neck and fluff the remaining fabric into a “skirt”. This is also pretty and distracting. No one will even think they are pouring the condiments from bottles instead of scooping them out of porcelain dishes!

This is a great use for old napkins that are fraying or discolored; just remember to hide the flaws inside the finished draping. When all pulled together, just tie it in a bow or a knot, whatever looks good and wala! You have a pretty serving piece! If you don’t want to tie it together or just don’t like that look, then consider gluing it down. You can pull the edges up and around the bottle and fold it over in small pleats until it’s even and flat around the sides. As you do this, add a pat of glue to the top of the fabric where it lays flat and do this with each pleat until it’s all glued down evenly. This is also a nice presentation and looks original. It saves you a ton of money on buying fancy serving pieces and after all is said and done, you can strip the fabric and recycle the bottle! Now, that’s sensible and green!


Photo courtesy of

There are a million ways, it seems, to make a fabric wreath. If you google it, you will find a lot of recipes as well as ready made wreaths. I would like to suggest going to and checking their goods out, as this will help support lots of hungry crafters who work hard all year making lovely stuff and subsisting off pennies from their sales. If you have the money this year, by luck or by wit, then you might consider buying a fabric wreath from and help a crafty girl buy her Turkey this year. For the rest of you, not as fortunate, like myself, I have some general instructions for making your own fabric wreath.

First of all, gather together as much holiday style fabric you can obtain. You can find it for pennies at yard sales, thrift shops and on scrap tables in craft and sewing supply stores. Check your closet first! And ask your friends, second! Look in the trash piles of your neighbors, too! You’d be surprised what you can scarf this way. Anyhow, as soon as you have gathered holiday fabric, by hook or by crook, then you need to get a wreath base. You might have an old one around the house that was never used or maybe your friends do. Otherwise, you can get one for a few dollars at a craft store and for a few pennies at a thrift shop if they happen to have one. Now, once you have the fabric and the wreath base then consider the following methods of making the wreath:

1. Cut the fabric into small strips and tie it around the wreath base in bunches until the wreath is full and fluffy.
2. Take long pieces of fabric and weave it into the base, up and in and around the wires and lock it down by tieing or gluing. Do this until you have a fully covered, fluffy wreath.
3. Cut the fabric into larger strips and tie each piece into a bow around the wreath until all the bows are tightly spread around the wreath and look full and fluffy.
4. Cut the fabric into long, thin strips and weave into into the wiring, tieing one end onto the other, until it is layered on the wreath deep enough to be smooth and wavy.
5. Cut the fabric into small strips with frayed ends (cut them into frays so that they look like little “brooms”). Tie these one, one at a time, next to each other, tightly, but so that the frayed ends stick out. This will give the effect of being floral materials and will have a natural look, similar to a floral wreath. If you are creative and careful, you can create patterns in the fabric that give images or colors that are interesting to look at. This is an idea for the experienced wreather or crafter who has talent and imagination.

After you have completed your wreath, obtain another peice of holiday fabric and tie it into a big bow. Glue it to the top of your wreath and hang it on the wall. Done!


Photo is of Design by Nora Bloseand Michelle West

This is a lovely tabletop display that can greet people as they arrive. Leave it on a table by the door and catch the compliments! You will need to buy some supplies for this one so although it’s not real expensive, it isn’t as cheap as the first two ideas.


Large, oblong Fruit Basket
24″ length of Paper Ribbon
Glue Gun
Any mix of the following dried flowers and herbs:
Bee Balm
Rose colored Yarrow
Queen Anne’s Lace
Yellow colored Yarrow


Of course, if you have any of these flowers or herbs growing wild your part of the woods, then get out and grab them. If you are a gardener and have these in your garden, then you’re there, too. Otherwise, you can get dried herbs in health food stores and dried flowers in craft shops.. But check the woods and your friends gardens first! And don’t be afraid to substitute if you have lovely, fine smelling flowers or herbs right there in your area. The more local, the more natural. The flowers and herbs given are only those shown in the finished project picture above.

Tie the paper ribbon into a simple bow and hot glue it to the front of the basket. Hot glue a single, beautiful bloom in the center of the bow (Bee Balm is shown). Circle the bloom with short stems of golden Yarrow (also shown).

Then, simply fill the basket with the remaining dried blooms and herbs, saving the best for last. Be sure to put the biggest, prettiest blooms on top and fill the bottom with as many fragrant peices as possible. This makes it look lovely and smell fantastic, too. Do not display this in direct sunlight unless you want it to fade quickly. As I said, put it on a table by the front door to greet your guests with beauty and sensory joy!


Photo is of Design by Alyce Nadeau.

Now, here’s a lovely, smelly idea for the home this winter! Start with Thanksgiving and enjoy this all through the holidays. It makes your home smell like a warm kitchen and it’s pretty to look at, too! Hang it on the staircase railing, as a valance over a kitchen window, around the Christmas tree and especially on tabletop trees in the living areas. Come up with your own ideas to use and enjoy this cheap and easy decoration. The recipe is for a 4 foot swag but feel free to double up or even triple up to use it over a larger area.


Electric Drill with a 1/10″ bit
5 dried Pomengranates
16 whole Nutmegs
50 Cinnamon Sticks (2-3″ long)
4 1/2 feet of heavy guage Floral Wire
Wire Cutters
400 Bay Leaves


Using the drill and bit, drill a hole into each Pomengranate, Nutmeg and Cinnamon Stick. Drill in one place, through the center, all the way through. Take the length of floral wire and wrap one end around the pencil. Using the wire cutters, snip the other end of the 4 foot wire into a sharp point. This takes snipping it at an angle. Then thread the materials onto the wire, a handful at a time, in various order as pleases your eye. The Bay Leaves will need to be poked through with the wire but this gauge of wire should make that possible. Poke through them like you would a needle and save yourself time by doing as many at a time as you can. Stack them and poke them. Slide everything on in various order, such as a handful of Cinnamon Sticks, a single Nutmeg and a pile of Bay Leaves, followed by a Pomengranate. If you wish, take a look at the finished example in the photo and duplicate it. Once done, lock in the ends by tieing the ends of the floral wire into a loop to hold everything in place. Hang where ever you like!


Photo of Design by Andi Cleverly and Katherine Richmond.

This is a lovely herbal centerpiece for your Thanksgiving table. I have quite a few projects for table pieces and center pieces and I will be posting them over the coming weeks. Today, though, I thought I would present one of the cheaper ones that require little work to finish. The whole idea behind this post is to make is easier and less expensive, no?


Wood Basket (without handles)
2 blocks grey Florists Foam
Florists Wire
Florists Tape
2 bunches of Cardoon Thistles
3 large white Candles
bunches of dried herbs, any mix of these:


When choosing the herbs choose the ones that dry the darkest and thickest, like Sage and Oregano. Choose a few scented items, too, like Lavender and Artemesia. Get large enough bunches of each kind to fill a handful when dried. If you can’t find them dried, buy fresh and dry them yourself. Simply hang by a string outside in the breeze but out of the sun for a day. Do not dry in the oven, unless you want them breaking up all over the place.

Any size or shape of wood basket will do although the one in the example is round. Wicker baskets work best and the larger the better, but it all depends upon the size of your table and how full up it will be on the big day. Handles on the sides of the basket are fine, just don’t get a basket with an overhead carry handle or it will burn up when you light the candles. Once you choose your basket, fill up the bottom with the florists foam. Try to make the foam even and flat without areas of it sticking up much higher than the others. Separate the Cardoon heads and thistles and make up into three bunches. Place them in three scattered placements on the foam.

Take a short length of the florist wire, about 2 inches, and fold it over double. Twist the two ends together to make a sharp point. Using the florists tape, tape the pointed wires around the base of each candle. In other words, tape a pointed wire in one of three places around the bottom of the candle, taping the wire to the sides so that they point down. Place the candles on the foam together in a triad in the center of the basket. Push down so that the wires sink into the foam and lock the candles into place. If you have hairpins, you can use these instead and tape them on the same way.

Wire handfuls of dried herbs like the Lavender or Marjoram, into bunches by wrapping the wire around the bunch at the base. Push the ends with the wire wrapping into the foam in various places around the candles. Settle them in so that they stay in place. Place singular herbs like Fennel and Sage into the mix, a handful at a time, pushing their stems into the foam. Fill everything up with herbs as you like, in whatever design you choose. For guidance, look at the finished piece in the photo. But it can look any way you want it to. Be creative and use the herbs you are able to obtain. If you can’t find Cardoon Thistles perhaps you could use Lotus Pods or Globe Aramanth. There are many different options; go to those you find familiar.

This arrangement is fragrant and lovely to look at. Light the candles during dinner and enjoy! Just remember to blow out the candles before leaving the table and to NEVER leave the candles lit unattended.


Photo from The Complete Book of Herbs by Clevely and Richmond.

Although you can make this at any time during the year, there is something wintery and holiday like about wreaths in silver and blues loaded with fresh smelling herbs. Perhaps its because of the clean smell from fresh Pine trees in our living rooms and the spicy delight of cinnamon in Apple Pies and Nutmeg in our Eggnogs. There is something natural and fresh about this time of year and nothing brings it home to the soul faster than the smell of fresh herbs and spices.

This is a lovely wreath for the kitchen or the dining room. It brings such strong scents and colors to the area that it really shouldn’t be anywhere else. I mean, what a waste such lovely edible scents would be in the bathroom! So hang this on the wall in the dining room, near the table with the big spread. Or hang it on the wall in the kitchen, near the oven that houses that Turkey.

This is a simple project with only a few materials needed. You can have this done in a few hours so save it for the last.


Hot Glue Gun
Silver Rose Wire
10″ Wicker or Twig Wreath Base
2 yds of 3/4″ Ribbon in color of your choice
AND small bunches of herbs you like, such as:
Golden Sage
Wild Chamomile
Scented Geranium
Lemon Balm
Clove Pink
Sweet Bay
Lemon Verbena
Wild Honeysuckle
Evening Primrose
Rose Geranium
Jerusalem Sage
… or just about any aromatic herb you can find. Check your garden, your neighbor’s gardens and the woods!


Using the glue gun or rose wire, begin by attaching a good overall covering of large leaved herbs such as Golden Sage, Meadowsweet, Sweet Bay or Myrtle to the wreath base. Bunch them up and make a thick layer of it, wiring the stems or gluing them down as you go. Once you have a layer of large leaved herbs covering the base, you can begin gluing or wiring in other herbs.

Taking small bunches of the Lavender, Clove Pink, Santolina or Rose Geranium and start wiring or gluing them onto the wreath, over the top of the layer of larger leaves. After doing this all the way around, dotting the wreath with these fragrant, colorful herbs and filling up the holes as you go, then you will choose the spot for your ribbons. Choose the point at which you want to attach the ribbons by picturing how the wreath will hang on the wall. Do you want the ribbons at the bottom or the top? Perhaps you would like to add it crosswise along the side edge. It’s up to you.

Once you choose the spot for the ribbon, place three medium sized herb leaves, such as Geraniums or Honeysuckle, in that spot and tack them down with glue or wire. These will act as a backing for your ribbon. Make double loops and streamers with the ribbon, binding it with wire to make it look exactly the way you want it to, and then glue or wire the ribbon onto the spot. Then take a few small herbs or blooms from the remaining stash and glue them on top of the ribbon as embellishment. Now, you can set the wreath aside for a few days and allow it to dry a bit.

As the wreath dries out and seems to shrink a little in volume, add more fresh herbs from the remaining stash. This will make it fuller and fuller each time you do this, filling it back out as it shrinks a little every so often. By Thanksgiving you should have a very full, fully dry, lushiously colorful and fully scented wreath that you will just love displaying. In fact, this wreath is no nice that after the holidays are gone you are going to have one hell of a time taking it down. But, take my advice, and after you do take it down, take it apart and use those herbs. They won’t be so nice this time next year and you will probably want to make a fresh wreath anyways. Why waste good herbs and flowers? Use them in potpourri or in cooking or, if it comes to that, toss them in the compost. There is always something good that can be made from herbs and flowers when you take the time to think about it.

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