Confessions of a Thanksgiving Caterer  

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Using a caterer to prepare a holiday meal can cost a pretty penny — up to $150 per person for a party with 18 to 20 guests, according to the National Association for Catering and Events.

The beauty of outsourcing your holiday feast, however, is the countless hours you’ll save on shopping, cooking and cleanup. 

If you hire a full-service caterer, you’re not just paying for someone else to cook the perfect turkey and stuffing. Catering services can include setup, cleanup, utensils,  flatware and servers.  

We asked professional caterers to share insights about their job and tips that even budget-conscious holiday hosts can use to make holiday catering more affordable.   

“Host Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday — or earlier.”

Choosing to have your Thanksgiving meal catered before Thanksgiving could help you save on labor costs, says Lisa Carruth, a spokeswoman for the National Association for Catering and Events 

Many caterers charge a minimum amount based on the number of guests or the amount of food. Paying to have staff for a catering event can cost m 

ore because they are working on holidays, when companies typically provide extra pay. 

Your food is going to cost the same no matter the day, but caterers may require that you meet a higher spending minimum to book events on certain days, says Carruth, who also is the director of catering at Braeburn Country Club in Houston. The higher minimums offset the cost of paying staff.  

For example, events held on holidays and weekends generally have higher minimums. 

“Buffets aren’t always the best way to save.” 

The common perception is that a buffet is less expensive, but plated meals can sometimes be cheaper, depending on the caterer and the size of an event. A carving station for your turkey or ham also will increase your cost because of the labor required, so consider cutting that s to save money. 

“With a buffet, if you have a 100 people, you have to prepare 110 of everything because you have to assume that everyone’s going to take one of everything,” Carruth explains. “Whereas, with a plated dinner, portion sizes are controlled.”  

Buffets typically have more options—such as two entrees—than a plated meal, too, which also can lead to additional costs. When deciding between a buffet and a plated meal, check with your caterer’s pricing before making a wrong assumption about the cheapest option.  

“Heavy hors d’oeuvres sometimes cost as much as plated meals.”

A heavy hors d’oeuvres party can cost as much, if not more, than both plated meals and buffets because they can be labor-intensive affairs, Carruth says. First, they require making tiny bites by hand and making enough pieces to satisfy appetites. You need to make enough hors d’oeuvres to replace what people would typically eat for an entire meal.  

They also often require servers on hand to make sure the small bites are passed around the room and that platters are refilled as they empty.  

But if you want to do an hors d’oeuvres-heavy party and save money, you can have the food set up on tables without a wait staff. 

“So while you’re spending more money on the catering itself, you’re not going to pay for so much labor because everything can just be dropped off, set up and you can typically take care of it based on the size of your group,” she says. 

“To-go will always win over on-site service.”

Picking up your food for Thanksgiving can help significantly reduce your total bill.  

According to the NACE, pickup catering averages $45 per person because staff or service item charges are not included. 

“Many restaurants and caterers offer Thanksgiving meals to go, and allow you to bring your own dishes, so it looks like you cooked,” says Carruth.  

You can save generally 20-30 percent on the total bill because you won’t have to pay for staffing or delivery, she says. Many of these “Thanksgiving to-go” meals are cost effective because everything is done in bulk, and then portioned out for individual orders. 

“Don’t rent your utensils from us”

Providing your own items, such as flatware, glassware and plates, can save you money. You can buy them for less at a discount online or at party supply stores. 

NACE says utensils can be rented from anywhere, at 15 cents apiece and up, but  when the caterer supplies utensils, it takes on the liability and the time and money spent to set up, deliver and clean them. The minimal price is offset by the convenience factor, according to NACE. 

The majority of caterers include the dinnerware and build the cost into the per-person pricing structure, according to NACE. If they do charge separately, they typically line-item it out so you can see the costs. 

“Book your caterer early and be upfront about your budget.”

You typically need to book your caterer three months in advance, but Thanksgiving catering can often be booked more short-term because it is less in demand than Christmas or New Year’s Eve. 

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, for a lot of companies, that’s what called the season. We’re pretty much crazy-busy from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve,” says Carruth.  

When booking a caterer, it’s easier for caterers to first know your budget, and then come up with creative ideas of what they can do with it. “Say, ‘Here’s what I have. What can you do for me?’ ” she says. 

The post Confessions of a Thanksgiving Caterer   appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

8 Things to Buy After Thanksgiving

buy-after-thanksgiving

When it comes to shopping, the days and weeks after Thanksgiving are unparalleled.

You have the twin massive discount days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. You have the seasonal Fall items going on massive sale to make way for the holidays. And you have discounts on things people might buy that aren’t necessarily linked to the holidays, like appliances and other capital equipment, because stores need to make room for next year’s models. Finally, the winter is the “off season” for so many things and buying in the off season can help you save a lot of money.

Here’s a list of things you should buy after Thanksgiving.

1. Electronics

The key to winning Black Friday (and Cyber Monday) is watching the circulars as they are leaked and doing some serious comparison-shopping. High-ticket electronics from brands you recognize like tablets, computers, and video game consoles from Sony, Microsoft, Apple, and more, will all tout mega-deals, the weekend after Thanksgiving. But remember, it’s best not to get carried away gorging on the great deals that pan out because it might leave you needing money closer to the holidays!

2. Leftover Thanksgiving Decorations

Thanksgiving will happen in just 52 short weeks but all those Thanksgiving-themed decorations, and many of the Autumn-themed decorations, will be deeply discounted as stores look to get rid of stock. If you’ve wanted an orange and red wreath or an Autumn-inspired centerpiece, now is the time to start snagging them because in a few short days they’ll be gone.

3. Live Christmas Trees

One sneaky good thing to buy right after Thanksgiving is live Christmas trees. Many live tree sellers will discount them initially to start moving some of their stock and then start selling them at regular price as Christmas draws near. They won’t start discounting them again until it’s time for the procrastinators to buy.

4. Big Ticket Appliances

Stores will discount large appliances as we near the end of the year to clear inventory for newer models. You can expect to see sales on refrigerators, washers, dryers and other large appliances around this time. If you are getting rid of an old appliance, you may find your local utility will haul it away for you or even pay you for them.

5. Cars

Late November is a fortuitous time for a car buyer. As the end of the year draws closer, sales people are thinking about hitting their annual quotas and willing to make deals to move cars. The next model year will have been released near the end of the summer, so previous model years that are still around in November have been sitting for a long time. The confluence of those factors makes late November and December a prime time to strike a deal.

(If you are thinking about buying a car, it’s important to check your credit since a good score will help you qualify for a better interest rate. You can view two of your credit scores, updated every 14 days, for free on Credit.com.)

6. Recreational Vehicles

The same logic for cars also works with recreational vehicles (RVs) but even more so. The winter months are also the slowest in the RV business. People hunker down for the winter and aren’t thinking about making cross-country trips — dealers will still want to sell vehicles.

7. Cookware

Cookware will be discounted because a lot of people will be cooking and entertaining, which means a lot of people will discover their cookware needs an upgrade. Retailers know this so, to win over their share of the market, they will entice shoppers with great deals around this time.

8. Tools

Tools make great gifts and retailers will often offer some fantastic deals on cheap tools. It’s a great time to pick up a tool you’ve always needed for that last project on the list but never had the heart to pay full price for.

You can save a bundle after Thanksgiving if you’re judicious in what you buy. Always comparison-shop and make sure that deal you see before you actually is a deal.

Finally, remember that there are some things that will be deeply discounted after the holidays – things that are classic gifts but rarely get used. Gift cards, exercise equipment, and many other items will be on clearance after the New Year!

Image: Eva-Katalin

The post 8 Things to Buy After Thanksgiving appeared first on Credit.com.

8 Things to Buy After Thanksgiving

buy-after-thanksgiving

When it comes to shopping, the days and weeks after Thanksgiving are unparalleled.

You have the twin massive discount days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. You have the seasonal Fall items going on massive sale to make way for the holidays. And you have discounts on things people might buy that aren’t necessarily linked to the holidays, like appliances and other capital equipment, because stores need to make room for next year’s models. Finally, the winter is the “off season” for so many things and buying in the off season can help you save a lot of money.

Here’s a list of things you should buy after Thanksgiving.

1. Electronics

The key to winning Black Friday (and Cyber Monday) is watching the circulars as they are leaked and doing some serious comparison-shopping. High-ticket electronics from brands you recognize like tablets, computers, and video game consoles from Sony, Microsoft, Apple, and more, will all tout mega-deals, the weekend after Thanksgiving. But remember, it’s best not to get carried away gorging on the great deals that pan out because it might leave you needing money closer to the holidays!

2. Leftover Thanksgiving Decorations

Thanksgiving will happen in just 52 short weeks but all those Thanksgiving-themed decorations, and many of the Autumn-themed decorations, will be deeply discounted as stores look to get rid of stock. If you’ve wanted an orange and red wreath or an Autumn-inspired centerpiece, now is the time to start snagging them because in a few short days they’ll be gone.

3. Live Christmas Trees

One sneaky good thing to buy right after Thanksgiving is live Christmas trees. Many live tree sellers will discount them initially to start moving some of their stock and then start selling them at regular price as Christmas draws near. They won’t start discounting them again until it’s time for the procrastinators to buy.

4. Big Ticket Appliances

Stores will discount large appliances as we near the end of the year to clear inventory for newer models. You can expect to see sales on refrigerators, washers, dryers and other large appliances around this time. If you are getting rid of an old appliance, you may find your local utility will haul it away for you or even pay you for them.

5. Cars

Late November is a fortuitous time for a car buyer. As the end of the year draws closer, sales people are thinking about hitting their annual quotas and willing to make deals to move cars. The next model year will have been released near the end of the summer, so previous model years that are still around in November have been sitting for a long time. The confluence of those factors makes late November and December a prime time to strike a deal.

(If you are thinking about buying a car, it’s important to check your credit since a good score will help you qualify for a better interest rate. You can view two of your credit scores, updated every 14 days, for free on Credit.com.)

6. Recreational Vehicles

The same logic for cars also works with recreational vehicles (RVs) but even more so. The winter months are also the slowest in the RV business. People hunker down for the winter and aren’t thinking about making cross-country trips — dealers will still want to sell vehicles.

7. Cookware

Cookware will be discounted because a lot of people will be cooking and entertaining, which means a lot of people will discover their cookware needs an upgrade. Retailers know this so, to win over their share of the market, they will entice shoppers with great deals around this time.

8. Tools

Tools make great gifts and retailers will often offer some fantastic deals on cheap tools. It’s a great time to pick up a tool you’ve always needed for that last project on the list but never had the heart to pay full price for.

You can save a bundle after Thanksgiving if you’re judicious in what you buy. Always comparison-shop and make sure that deal you see before you actually is a deal.

Finally, remember that there are some things that will be deeply discounted after the holidays – things that are classic gifts but rarely get used. Gift cards, exercise equipment, and many other items will be on clearance after the New Year!

Image: Eva-Katalin

The post 8 Things to Buy After Thanksgiving appeared first on Credit.com.