Friendsgiving hosts tell Moneyish that getting pals to kick in cash or casseroles – or crowdsourcing your menu on Google Docs – trims stress and expenses.
Friendsgiving is finally getting a seat at the grown-ups’ table.
The Thanksgiving alternative, where friends who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) be with their families for the holiday cobble together a turkey dinner themselves, has evolved from a low-key potluck to a full-blown holiday tradition as big as the Macy’s Parade balloons.
Look no further than the Food Network, where the premiere episode of Guy Fieri’s new “Guy’s Ranch Kitchen” series kicks off this Sunday with Guy whipping up his own Flavortown Friendsgiving. Target has $8 “Friendsgiving” candles, and Etsy vendors are hawking $10 “Friendsgiving” banners and $20 gold-printed “Thankful as F—” plastic cups to throw the most Instagrammable meal ever.
Brooklyn video producer Lindsay Meeks, 33, says she’s reserved a fresh 15-pound turkey at her local Bushwick butcher that will probably run her $100, which she’ll brine for up to 24 hours before her Friendsgiving dinner. She and her wife have spent between $90 to $120 on “yuppie turkeys” for each of the seven previous Friendsgivings they’ve thrown for parties of 10.
“We very rarely make a full formal dinner with all of our friends around the table, so if I’m going to actually cook, I’m going to do it correctly,” Meeks, whose family lives in Texas, told Moneyish. “It’s a pain for us to go to our hometowns every year because of the cost of the flights … and most of our friends can’t really get home, either.”
Actor Cheyenne Nelson, 34, originally from Arkansas, agrees that dropping between $200 and $250 to host a Friendsgiving buffet for 20 to 25 buds in her Astoria, Queens apartment is a bargain compared to surging airline fees to fly home.
“It just makes sense for people like me, who aren’t able to spend $700 for a round-trip flight home for a two-day holiday, to spend the day in your city with your friends,” Nelson told Moneyish. “And younger people have jumped on this bandwagon of, ‘Well, if we have to make our own Thanksgiving ourselves, why not make it the best that it can be?’”
They’re not the only ones turning the tables on Turkey Day. Payment-sharing app Venmo revealed Monday that the word “Friendsgiving” – which began trending in 2014 – was used more than 25,000 times in payment notes last year (a 141% increase from the year before) with the average person making a $28.70 Friendsgiving payment to a pal.
And while almost half (45%) of surveyed Americans said they were going to a Friendsgiving last year – usually the weekend before or after the actual Thanksgiving Thursday – most of them are 20- and 30-somethings like Meeks and Nelson who work or study in cities far from their families.
Plus, friends are less likely to pry into your personal life (“When are you getting married? Why haven’t you started having children yet?”) or get into uncomfortable political discussions, since your buds probably already know your business, or are on the same page as you where politics are concerned.
“The kitchen is often the most overlooked and left-out room in the house, as Seamless and dining out are often chosen over slaving away over dinner after a long day at work,” mused Lauren Josey, 28, from Brooklyn. “Friendsgivings are a great time to slow down, and for the culinary-inclined to show off their skills to a group of close friends without pressure or judgment.”
As fancy as Friendsgiving is getting, it only needs to be as expensive as you make it. So several hosts dished their tried-and-tested tips to trimming expenses (and stress) while planning the perfect potluck.
Stock up on groceries now. “I’m a no-antibiotics person, so my turkey and chicken gets expensive – especially the week of Thanksgiving – so I watch for sales the weeks before,” said Nelson. “As soon as I see antibiotic-free Perdue chicken on sale this week, I’m buying it and putting it in the freezer.” She also shops around online for the best price for her other supplies, and decides which greens she’s making depending on what’s on sale. “If I see two bags of beautiful, trimmed green beans for $2.50 each, I might cook those instead of Brussels sprouts for $6 a pound,” she said.
Make a Google Doc. Megan Cummings, 25, from Astoria, spent $250 throwing her first Friendsgiving alone three years ago. So crowdsourcing the drinks and dishes with a Google Docs sign-up sheet has helped bring her costs down to $175. “The Doc holds people accountable, which takes the burden off of you having to bug everybody – like, ‘Hey, Dave, you still haven’t told us what you’re bringing yet,’” she said. Josey has also used Facebook groups or Google spreadsheets to organize who’s bringing what. “This allows each person to determine their own level of involvement as far as costs and time preparation. I’ve spent about $50 hosting, and as a guest around $15,” she said.
Mix up homemade with store-bought. Chef Julie Hartigan, owner of culinary consulting company Cooking w/ Julie who throws a Friendsgiving every year, told Moneyish you can mix and match. “There’s no rule that every single item has to be made by you … and with some re-plating and easy garnishes to gussy things up, you’ll have a gorgeous spread,” she said.
Consider a Friendsgiving brunch. “People’s schedules are often packed with nighttime festivities, and brunch is a lower-cost meal to prepare,” said Chef Hartigan. “I rely on comforting casseroles done in my slow cooker such as ‘Egg & Tortilla Bake’ and a fruit salad. And instead of buying expensive French Champagne for mimosas, stick with lower-cost but just as delicious prosecco from Italy, or cava from Spain.”
Use paper plates and plasticware. The last thing you want to tackle after cooking all day is washing dishes. “Besides, no one has sets of dishes that can feed 12 or 20 people,” said Nelson. “I use the heavy disposable plates, and the plastic cutlery that looks like silver.” And Cummings buys seasonal paper plates and napkins each year right after Thanksgiving, when they go on sale, and saves them for next Friendsgiving.
Make it BYOB. Stocking a full bar gets expensive. Provide non-alcoholic soft drinks, and ask guests to bring their own wine or beer. If you have the time, however, making a bowl of punch or a batch of mulled wine is a cheap way to pour alcohol in bulk. “An inexpensive way to create a delicious flavor profile in punch is to use tea as a base – it’s much less expensive than store-bought mixers, too! Try my recipe for Clementine Ginger Tea Punch or Hibiscus-Gin-Pomegranate Punch,” said Chef Hartigan.
Serve dinner buffet-style. “It’s much easier to have people load up their plates in the kitchen, and then eat wherever they can – at the table, on the couch, standing over the piano – than a sit-down dinner,” said Nelson, who also scatters finger foods and appetizers around the apartment, so guests can find things to nibble on without going back to the kitchen. Chef Hartigan also suggested using Post-It notes to mark a spot for each dish on your buffet table ahead of time, and rinsing and placing all of your serving pieces in advance.
© 2018 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved