Eat Well, Spend Less: Setting An Elegant Table On The Cheap

This month’s Eat Well, Spend Less theme centers around Thanksgiving (duh). I have to admit that I am glad that I am not hosting Thanksgiving this year, as I’ve been struck with pregnancy rhinitis and have been feeling quite awful.

But, in the seasons of life where I feel better, I love setting a beautiful table for a holiday or special event!  It’s so much fun to put together a table that makes your company feel special and really celebrates the occasion, but it often ends up costing as much or more than the meal itself!

It doesn’t have to be costly, though – here’s some simple ideas for setting a lovely Thanksgiving table without spending much of anything!

Last month’s Eat Well, Spend Less post was about the bounty of sales we are seeing on pantry staples and seasonal items.  Be sure to check it out so you know what to stock up on now!

Image from One Good Bumblebee

Build your theme around what you have

If you’re like me, you probably have a closet or drawerful of scrapbook papers and little knick-knacks that you’ve purchased with all the best intentions of doing an amazing craft project or two or twenty.  Now’s the time to go through that drawer or closet and see what you have that could be used for Thanksgiving decorations.

Instead of looking for ideas and then looking in the drawer, look in the drawer and then look for ideas based on what you’ve already got.

Image from Pottery Barn

Buy non-seasonal items

If you need to purchase items for your Thanksgiving table settings, think outside the brown and orange Thanksgiving theme.  If you need tablecloths, disposable may be cheaper, but cloth looks nicer and white tablecloths can be used at any type of party or holiday!  (Check Sam’s Club or other warehouse club stores for decent prices on white linens.)

Disposable tableware can be expensive.  Sure, it’s convenient, but it’s also quite pricey when you use it for gatherings of lots of people (especially if you use it every time you entertain).  Plates rinse off easily, though, so I’ve found that living without disposable plates is really not that hard, even when entertaining a crowd.

I love white dinnerware because it’s so versatile and can be mixed easily without your table screaming, “she didn’t have enough matching plates to go around!”  You can find simple white plates and other dinnerware for very little at most thrift stores.

Once I had a soup party for women at my church and wanted it to be special.  Disposable bowls weren’t going to cut it for special, so I went to Goodwill and found some white bowls for around 15¢ each.  It was probably cheaper than buying disposable goods, they looked nicer, and I’ve used them over and over since then!

Image from Better Homes and Gardens

Mix and match

You don’t have to have twenty matching cloth napkins to set a beautiful table for twenty!  The image above is a great example of how to mix and match linens – and quite honestly, it looks even nicer and more visually stimulating than using matching napkins.

Image from Better Homes and Gardens

Use edible decorations

A great way to decorate your Thanksgiving table without spending a lot is to buy things that you can cook later!  Hard winter squashes and pie pumpkins look great when arranged nicely, and you can actually eat them later, so you’re not actually spending much on decorations.

Apples are beautiful, too, especially when you mix and match all the different varieties that are available!

Setting a beautiful Thanksgiving table doesn’t have to cost as much as the meal.  Get yourself a “it’s what you do with what you got” attitude and you can do it without a separate budget for decorations!



  1. Great ideas, thanks!! Simple Mom sent me.