Fall Entertaining on the Cheap

There's a chill in the air, the leaves are changing colors, and football is back. The fall season is here and we've got some tips on how to entertain for less. The key to cheap fall entertaining is using what nature provides this time of year and doing it yourself. No need to run out and buy decorations or spend a fortune on home-cooked meals. There's bounty for the taking.

Fall Food.

Think about your favorite fall foods. Does pumpkin pie make your mouth water? What about caramel apples? The primary ingredient in these fall favorites are ripe for the picking, inexpensive, and easy to work with. Check out Cheapism's cheap pumpkin recipes, such as pumpkin pancakes and pumpkin soup. To make apple nachos, thinly slice three apples and sprinkle with lemon juice (to prevent browning), lay the slices flat on a plate and top with caramel, peanut butter, almonds, pecans, coconut shavings, chocolate chips, and anything else that sounds appetizing.

If it's Thanksgiving dinner you're hosting, Catie Parrish, chief homemaker and managing editor of, suggests this money saving strategy: Forgo a whole bird in favor of roasted, grilled, or braised turkey legs. Drumsticks are cheap (often around $1 a pound) and packed with flavor, she points out. Plus, they're juicier than white meat so there's no need to brine ahead of time, which makes them a huge time-saver. If you do go the whole turkey route, leftovers can also save you money. Parrish recommends a deep freeze for whatever remains, and you'll have a stash on hand when recipes use pre-cooked chicken or turkey.

Wondering what to serve with turkey? Potatoes are an obvious and thrifty choice for fall entertaining. Parrish likes to dress up mashed potatoes with toppings: Set out cheap and tasty options such as caramelized onions, cheese, and spinach and let your guests add what suits their fancy.

Autumn Beverages.

When it comes to beverages for cheap fall entertaining, apples again come to mind, especially in the form of warm, spiced apple cider. Try this recipe from, which uses ingredients probably found in your pantry and refrigerator: Heat 2 quarts apple cider, 1 orange cut in chunks, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon allspice, 1 teaspoon cloves, a cinnamon stick, and a pinch of nutmeg. The result is sure to be a hit with guests and make your home smell warm and inviting.

For festivities in need of a little more "spice," try a fall sangria. Parrish recommends mixing budget-friendly fruit juice like apple cider, chunks of fresh apples, pears, and grapes plus allspice and a red wine of your choice. You can also add a splash of brandy.

Fall Decor.

Fall decor is so easy and so readily available. Parrish is partial to burlap, which is cheap and rustic-chic, for your fall table. Decorate the top with branches placed down its length and use candlestick holders to display mini pumpkins. Add a few votive candles for that warm and cozy feel.

Try out some cheap fall decor ideas in the rest of your home, as well. Parrish likes to fill clear vases with seasonal fillers that don't cost much at all. Try dried corn, pinecones, cranberries, or walnuts; clementines also work in a footed tureen.

For a welcoming look outside your home, clean out a few pumpkins, add dirt and plant fall flowers, then place the plantings along the walkway or steps leading to your door.

Fall Activities.

Group activities can liven up Thanksgiving dinner or a fall party. Get kids involved by making table place cards out of nature's largesse, such as pinecones, leaves, and bark. Set out some cheap craft supplies (googly eyes, glitter glue, ice-pop sticks, etc.) and see what the youngsters come up with.

Bingo can become a fun Thanksgiving tradition. Get hold of a bingo set and have all the guests bring a few cheap gifts for the winners. The dollar store is a good source for cheap bingo prizes.

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