These gadgets and simple products will elevate your hosting game so you can focus on celebrating with those you care about. 
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Credit: Courtesy of the Merchants

Welcome to Thrifty. A weekly column where associate nutrition editor and registered dietitian, Jessica Ball, keeps it real on how to grocery shop on a budget, make healthy meals for one or two and make earth-friendly choices without overhauling your entire life

Thanksgiving is arguably my favorite holiday of the year. I love food and cooking—especially when I have a chance to gather around the table with people I love and share it. This is one of my primary motivators for putting together an over-the-top Friendsgiving party each year with my friends before everyone parts ways to celebrate with their respective families. I roast a turkey, make a pumpkin pie, cook one too many side dishes and generally go all out. 

That said, I am on a pretty tight budget so I have to be more strategic to plan something that doesn't break the bank. To execute the ultimate Friendsgiving, there are a few tools that will go a long way in helping you have a stress-free (or lower stress) day. Here are 10 budget-friendly kitchen products you need for hosting the best Friendsgiving gathering.

1. Digital Read Thermometer

OXO Good Grips Chef's Precision Digital Instant Read Thermometer

Especially if you are roasting a turkey or cooking meat of any kind, a digital instant-read thermometer is well worth the money. Forget the "slice and check" method that you might have used before. Getting an actual temperature read takes away the guesswork so you can feed your guests something delicious, well-cooked and safe. Even beyond holidays or Friendsgiving, this is a tool I use all of the time.

2. Slow Cooker

Cuisinart ® 3.5 Qt. Programmable Slow Cooker
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Crate & Barrel

There are few cooking methods more forgiving than slow cooking. Leave your Slow-Cooker Garlic Mashed Potatoes in for an extra 30 minutes? Not a problem. Need an easy cocktail for a crowd? Simmer our Slow-Cooker Hot Cider with Brandy and leave it on warm when it's done so guests can easily enjoy a flavorful cup. Using a slow cooker allows you to set it and forget it, making it easy to multitask, which is a huge selling point when you're preparing to host a group. We even have a variety of slow-cooker Thanksgiving sides that are packed with flavor and will make your day a little easier.

3. Kitchen Scale

Taylor Digital 11lb Glass Top Food Scale Black
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I am not a person who loves to measure. In fact, I typically don't measure and just eyeball it when I cook…but that doesn't work so well for baking. When I'm baking or making anything where I need an accurate measurement, I lean on my digital kitchen scale. Not only is it way easier to use than individual cup and spoon measures, but also it saves you from doing a bunch of extra dishes (which is especially appealing if you're like me and don't have a dishwasher).

4. Small & Large Tongs

Mini Tongs
12" Tongs With Silicone Heads

When I'm cooking, tongs become an extension of my hand. I use them to stir, flip, transfer and move just about anything. Personally, I like to have a smaller pair for more delicate things like vegetables and tossing salads and a larger pair for flipping or transferring meats. Especially when you are moving something large or heavy, silicone heads can help you from scraping your cookware or accidentally cutting into your food. Get a pair of Mini Tongs and 12" Tongs with Silicone Heads from OXO for less than $20 a piece.

5. Kitchen Timer

Polder® 100-Minute Digital Mini Timer
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Bed, Bath & Beyond

Multitasking is all fun and games…until you forget your cheesy casserole under the broiler and it's burnt to a crisp. Get one or several of these to help keep you on schedule since there are many moving parts around this holiday. Plus, an inexpensive kitchen timer is lower risk to touch with dirty hands than your phone. I love this Digital Mini Timer because it has a magnet so I can set it and stick it on the fridge so it's out of the way.

6. Tablecloth

Harvest Plaid Tablecloth
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Bed, Bath & Beyond

While this might not be something you use when you're cooking, having a kitchen table and festive tablecloth will save you a lot of stress while you're hosting. This Harvest Plaid Tablecloth from Bed, Bath & Beyond is simple and budget-friendly while adding a nice aesthetic to your space. Plus, it helps to protect your table from any accidental spills or scratches. Bonus points if it's less than $20 and machine washable like this one. (P.S.- check out these other Friendsgiving decorations for every budget.)

7. Trivets

Acacia Trivets
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Crate & Barrel

Instead of using a dozen different serving platters, bring foods right to the table with a stylish yet affordable trivet. Trivets save your table from burning and let people serve themselves as they wish. No need to interrupt conversation by heading back to the kitchen for seconds (it is Friendsgiving, after all). Not to mention, it will help save you dishes.

8. Large Wooden Platter

Long Serve Board
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West Elm

I like to have a cheese board and a few appetizers set out as people arrive. Plus, this can help buy you some time if dinner is (inevitably) taking a little longer than expected. Make your apps feel more elegant by serving them on a wooden platter. This Long Serve Board from Eden Serveware Collection is a budget-friendly option that looks way more expensive than it actually is.

9. Matching Wine Glasses

Nattie Red Wine Glasses, Set of 8
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Crate & Barrel

I know I know, red solo cups technically work just fine. But for less than $30, this set of eight Nattie Red Wine Glasses will help level up your Friendsgiving from feeling like a college party. You don't have to use them all night, and you might have more than eight guests, but having these on hand will come in handy for many hosting occasions to come.

10. Large Water Pitcher

Impressions Pitcher
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Crate & Barrel

One great way to keep people out of the kitchen (and out of your way) is to fill up a large pitcher or two with drinks that are easily visible. They can be filled with big-batch cocktails or infused water for when people want a break from booze but still want something flavorful and fun. Plus it's easy to refill and keeps people from going to the sink every time they need some water (which, at this point, is probably full of dishes).

The Bottom Line

Hosting a Friendsgiving party is a great way to reconnect with people you might have missed last year and is a great way to show you care. Some of the most special moments I've had with friends are when we are gathered around the table too blissfully full to take another bite. However, it's no secret that hosting can get expensive fast. These gadgets, tools and serving products will help elevate your Friendsgiving without breaking the bank.