With so many stores opening on Thanksgiving this year to allow you to get a jump start on your holiday shopping, it may feel like the whole Thanksgiving meal, and giving thanks for being with your family, are getting shoved to the side. With that frenzy may come the temptation not to dress up your Thanksgiving table with any beautiful place settings or centerpieces.
I’m here to say that even if you plan to rush out after the meal to hit the mall, you still can create easy DIY Thanksgiving centerpieces that will give your holiday table the “Wow” factor you want without busting your budget or taking up too much of your time. It really is easier than you think.
With a little creativity of my own, plus some ideas from design experts, I’ve put together these 6 cheap easy DIY Thanksgiving centerpieces. I’m confident that if you like what you see, you can make these on your own as well without much time, effort, or—and this is key—money.
Clementines and Nuts: For less than $10, I picked up a bag of clementines and a bag of whole walnuts at the grocery store, and put them together in a hurricane glass bowl, which I already owned. (At the holidays, I’ll layer Christmas ornaments inside this same bowl.) This cheap easy DIY centerpiece is perfect for the Thanksgiving table or even the mantel over the fireplace. And I love that every time my daughter Annie walks by, she steals a clementine to eat. What a great way to sneak in healthy snacks, too!
Trifle Bowl: Got a trifle bowl that you won’t be using for any desserts on Thanksgiving? Then use it for a sophisticated yet super easy Thanksgiving centerpiece. The folks at The Pampered Chef, who supplied this picture of their trifle bowl as a centerpiece, suggest filling the bowl with fruit, grasses of the season, or even walnuts and acorns (from your yard—free, of course) to create a festive showpiece for your table.
Candy Centerpiece: Thanks to a post-Halloween sale on candy, plus coupons I’d gotten off Coupons.com, I was able to snag three bags of M&Ms for practically nothing. I simply poured them into this mini crystal pitcher from Tiffany that my husband and I got as a wedding present 21 years ago to create a sweet centerpiece that can also double as part of the dessert course. The fact that the M&Ms are the colors of the fall season make it a perfect match with my Fiestaware plates, also in a harvest color.
Bowl of Nuts: You might think about putting out a bowl of nuts for your guests to enjoy as an appetizer. But what about using that bowl of nuts on your table as well? After the folks at CVS sent me a few containers of their Gold Emblem brand nuts and chocolate-covered almonds, I decided to use them to create a simple yet delicious Thanksgiving centerpiece. Adding to the festive feel are branches from the pine tree, vinca vine, and coral bell plants in my yard—all snipped for free to add a little je ne sais quoi to this cheap easy DIY Thanksgiving centerpiece.
Beautiful Branches: Keeping with the theme of using flora from your yard to make free centerpieces, I love these forsythia branches in a glass vase, courtesy of Catie Parrish, the Chief Homemaker at Wayfair.com, this cool online catalog of home goods. Of course where I live, forsythia are definitely not in season around Thanksgiving. So you can substitute branches of whatever is in season in your yard. Or spend a few bucks to pick up fake forsythia branches at your favorite craft store, which you can keep and reuse in other DIY centerpieces you may make for other occasions down the road.
Festive Pumpkins: Got pumpkins left over from Halloween? You can use them in one of two ways as centerpieces. You can spray paint them fun metallic colors—this image is courtesy of Krylon paint—and pair them with neutral-hued candles. Or you can carve out the pumpkin and use it as a vase to hold cut flowers. I got that latter idea from Celebrations.com expert Mar Jennings.
Finally, I can’t let the notion of Thanksgiving centerpieces go without first giving a nod to my Jewish heritage and acknowledging that for the first time since the late 1800s, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah occur on the same day. According to experts this phenomenon won’t occur again for another 70,000 years. Some are calling this melded holiday Thanksgivukkah. If you’re Jewish and hosting Thanksgiving, why not just use your Hanukkah menorah and some dreidels as your makeshift centerpieces? You probably have all the supplies you already need for lighting the candles or playing a mean game of dreidel. This way you can combine the two holidays to create the easiest and cheapest DIY Thanksgiving—and Hanukkah—centerpieces of all.
Leah Ingram is the author of 14 books, including two on frugal living: Suddenly Frugal: How to Live Happier and Healthier on Less (Adams Media, 2010) and Toss, Keep, Sell: The Suddenly Frugal Guide to Getting Organized and Making Money from Your Stuff (Adams Media, 2010). She is also the founder of the popular frugal-living blog called Suddenly Frugal. Right now if you subscribe to Suddenly Frugal, Leah will send you an exclusive freebie. Each week here on Parade.com she’ll be covering different money-saving ideas as well as profiling frugal celebrities. If you have an idea, let her know. In the meantime, follow her on Twitter @suddenlyfrugal and “Like” Suddenly Frugal on Facebook.