Meaningful Thanksgiving Celebrations, Frugally

I love holidays! Thanksgiving is one of my favorites. Many years ago the kids and I recreated an authentic Thanksgiving meal. The following year, we made American Indian costumes to wear while we ate a traditional meal. All of our research and ideas came from the internet, free of charge! With a little bit of creativity you can go Thanksgiving CRAZY without going “spend crazy.”

painting by Jean Louis Gerome Ferris
painting by Jean Louis Gerome Ferris; Source: Wikimedia Commons

From recipes to crafts to decorations to lesson plans to movies to costumes.. there is an abundance of free and frugal Thanksgiving holiday ideas to help you save money, learn about Thanksgiving, practice thankfulness, study history and cook up a great Thanksgiving day celebration. I’ve gathered a cornucopia of links and resources over the past five years and finally decided to put them all in one place, plus a few more that I’ve found while putting this all together. Enjoy!

Thanksgiving History and Other Information

Think you already know everything there is to know about Thanksgiving? Maybe not! Start here:

Thanksgiving on Wikipedia – generic information about our Thanksgiving holiday.

The First Thanksgiving at History Channel – A look at what the first Thanksgiving was probably like for the pilgrims.

Thanksgiving History & Other Information at GoNewEngland.About.Com – Did the pilgrims eat popcorn? Hmmm…

Take a virtual field trip! The First Thanksgiving at – thirty minute online field trip to meet a Pilgrim and a Wampanoag—straight from Plimoth Plantation.

By Jennie A. Brownscombe (1850-1936) via Wikimedia Commons
Create Your Own Historical Thanksgiving Celebration

Downloadable, Mayflower Dinner PDF (through Doorposts) ~ Create a historical Mayflower dinner in your own home!

From my research, here’s a handy list to help you plan your own original menu!

The Pilgrims’ Menu

Foods That May Have Been on the Menu

  • Seafood: Cod, Eel, Clams, Lobster
  • Wild Fowl: Wild Turkey, Goose, Duck, Crane, Swan, Partridge, Eagles
  • Meat: Venison, Seal
  • Grain: Wheat Flour, Indian Corn
  • Vegetables: Pumpkin, Peas, Beans, Onions, Lettuce, Radishes, Carrots
  • Fruit: Plums, Grapes
  • Nuts: Walnuts, Chestnuts, Acorns
  • Herbs and Seasonings: Olive Oil, Liverwort, Leeks, Dried Currants, Parsnips

What Was Not on the Menu
Surprisingly, the following foods, all considered staples of the modern Thanksgiving meal, didn’t appear on the pilgrims’s first feast table:

  • Ham: There is no evidence that the colonists had butchered a pig by this time, though they had brought pigs with them from England.
  • Sweet Potatoes/Potatoes: These were not common.
  • Corn on the Cob: Corn was kept dried out at this time of year.
  • Cranberry Sauce: The colonists had cranberries but no sugar at this time.
  • Pumpkin Pie: It’s not a recipe that exists at this point, though the pilgrims had recipes for stewed pumpkin.
  • Chicken/Eggs: We know that the colonists brought hens with them from England, but it’s unknown how many they had left at this point or whether the hens were still laying.
  • Milk: No cows had been aboard the Mayflower, though it’s possible that the colonists used goat milk to make cheese.


Fall Leaf Template From Enchanted Learning
Click to view and download this fall leaf template from Enchanted Learning.

Thanksgiving Unit Studies & Lessons

Thanksgiving Lapbooks

25 Days of Thanksgiving for only $1.99

A low-cost selection of Thanksgiving Lapbook printables at Knowledge Box Central

Thanksgiving Lapbook by Amanda Bennett on Homeschool Share

Thanksgiving Printables and Other Activities

Websites chock full of Thanksgiving resources:

Kaboose                            FamilyFun.Go.Com
DLTK                                EdHelper         

Make the Most of Your Pumpkins

Thanksgiving Crafts and Projects

Pumpkin Pie
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Thanksgiving Recipes

A variety of Thanksgiving menus and recipes can be found at

Fun Thanksgiving Snacks & Recipes

**Click Here for a FREE eCookbook from Mr. Food, “Thanksgiving Feasts” **

Good Books for Thanksgiving and Harvest

Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving

This entertaining and historical story shows that the actual hero of the Thanksgiving was neither white nor Indian, but God. In 1608, English traders came to Massachusetts and captured a 12-year old Indian, Squanto, and sold him into slavery. He was raised by Christians and taught faith in God. Ten years later he was sent home to America. Upon arrival, he learned an epidemic had wiped out his entire village. But God had plans for Squanto. God delivered a Thanksgiving miracle: an English-speaking Indian living in the exact place where the Pilgrims land in a strange new world.
Amazon Price: $4.15
List Price: $9.99
Thanksgiving (A FamilyLife Book): A Time to Remember (Family Life Books) Thanksgiving (A FamilyLife Book): A Time to Remember (Family Life Books)

A holiday for celebrating faith, family, and freedom, Thanksgiving Day is both distinctly Christian and exclusively American. Barbara Rainey has created an excellent resource for enabling you and your family to remember the past, recognize God’s hand in our history, and express thankfulness to Him for His goodness today.
Amazon Price: $14.50
List Price: $21.99
Thanksgiving, What Makes It Special? Thanksgiving, What Makes It Special?

Unfolding the history of a blessed tradition, this delightful picture book explores the role God played in our country’s earliest history and how His blessings endure today. From hungry Pilgrims and generous Native Americans to the ample feast of a modern-day family’s Thanksgiving, author Harold Myra helps children — and parents — learn how to enjoy this holiday to its very fullest.
Amazon Price: $10.00
List Price: $7.99
Thanksgiving: A Harvest Celebration Thanksgiving: A Harvest Celebration

Explains the Thanksgiving story and traditions on how they remind us that every day is a good day to thank God .
Amazon Price: $1.99
List Price: $7.99
The First Thanksgiving Feast The First Thanksgiving Feast

Recreates in accurate detail one of the most popular events in American history, with photographs taken at Plimoth Plantation, the living museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
Amazon Price: $1.99
List Price: $6.95
Thankful Tree
Thankful Tree Instructions From Disney Family Fun

All About Thanksgiving Thankful Trees

Quotes About Gratitude

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”  ~Epictetus

Thanksgiving Movies and Music

Thanksgiving: A Windham Hill Collection Thanksgiving: A Windham Hill Collection

Amazon Price: $6.97
List Price: $8.99
William Bradford- The First Thanksgiving DVD William Bradford- The First Thanksgiving DVD

Amazon Price: $11.49
List Price: $12.95
Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower

Amazon Price: $9.99
List Price: $24.95

Thanksgiving Downloadables at (All or Mostly Free!)

Painting by Joan de Joanes
Painting by Joan de Joanes via WikiMedia Commons

Bible Verses About Thankfulness

Christ-Centered Thanksgiving Celebrations

Related Scriptures:• Psalm 69:30; Psalm 100:4; 1Tim. 4:4; Col. 2:6-7; Psalm 7:17; Psalm 106:1; 1Thess. 5:16-18

Celebration Ideas:

1. Plan a Pilgrim scavenger hunt. Give each participant a basket and a list of items the Pilgrims might have been familiar with. Then hide these objects throughout the house or the yard for your kids to find: dried corn, small pumpkins, pinecones, a toy boat, small Native American figures.

2. Corrie ten Boom’s book The Hiding Place, teaches a great lesson in thankfulness. Share Corrie’s story with your kids, pointing out her struggle to be “thankful in all things.” She even thanked God for fleas in her barracks. She later learned that the fleas kept the guards away and allowed Corrie and others to study the Bible undisturbed.

3. Make a Blessing Basket – Place a pretty fall basket containing a pencil and pad of paper in an easy-to-reach location. Throughout the month, encourage family members to jot down ways God has blessed them. Younger children can draw or cut out pictures from magazines. Read these together and give God thanks each day or set aside some time on Thanks giving Day.

4. As a hospitality tradition, invite a few guests for Thanksgiving dinner who have no family and no where to go on Thanksgiving…widows, single adults, college students far from home, etc…

5. Make scripture place cards next to each persons’ place setting at the table. Have a scripture on there about thankfulness to help turn hearts and minds to Christ instead rather than only their food during the dinner.

These ideas have been taking from the Holiday Celebrations page at The Classic Housewife.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17

Resources for Learning About and Practicing Thankfulness & Gratitude

13 Ways to Encourage Thankfulness This Thanksgiving – From “This year, take advantage of the Thanksgiving season and use it as a chance to nurture a sense of real gratitude in your family. The Bible tells us to “give thanks to the Lord for he is good” (Ps. 107:1) and to “enter his gates with thanksgiving” (Ps. 100:4)…”

A collection of Thanksgiving Hymns

Thanksgiving, In the Bible – BibleStudyGuide.Org

Thanksgiving Bible Study, Becoming a Living Sacrifice

Kids Thanksgiving Bible Study

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you find these resources truly helpful, I really do! Get creative and remember to be thankful for your blessings…. Have fun!

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Hey, y’all! I’m Amber and I wear many hats. I drink a ton of coffee and I’m constantly sweeping crumbs off the floor. After 18 years of homeschooling, I’m getting close to graduating my third child and now we are starting over at preschool with our fourth, Lil Miss Mouse. She keeps us young and she’s the main reason for my excessive coffee consumption. Drink up!