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8 Steps to Thanksgiving Dinner on a Budget

As the last of the leftover Halloween candy dwindles, it’s time to turn our attention to Thanksgiving—truly, my favorite holiday of the year. In just three weeks, I’ll be hosting my family for the big feast—at least 13 people in my home. No easy feat, but at least the budget is under control.

After years of perfecting the art of couponing, my fifth Thanksgiving dinner is just another day in the life of a smart shopper. But, if you’re panicking about the cost of your Thanksgiving dinner, check out my strategy for keeping the budget under control, after the jump.

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  • Share the Load 1 of 8
    Share the Load
    It's okay to ask your guests to pitch-in. Not only is a potluck a great way to lower your expenses, it will relieve a lot of the cooking pressure and allow you to sample new recipes! If the idea of setting a beautiful table prevents you from going with this method, remember that you can always transfer items to the serving dishes when your guests arrive.
    Photo Credit: Flickr
  • Plan Your Menu Now 2 of 8
    Plan Your Menu Now
    Don't wait until the week of to plan your Thanksgiving menu—start now so you have time to stock up on the ingredients you'll need. Make a detailed list that includes your turkey, stuffing and all the trimmings.
    Photo Credit: Flickr
  • Be Flexible 3 of 8
    Be Flexible
    If you're too rigid with the menu, you'll end up paying higher prices at the store. Have a menu, but be ready to swap items if you find a better deal. Some things—sweet potato casserole, for example—are a Thanksgiving Day staple, but others can be swapped in & out, as needed.
    We always serve a fruit & veggie tray before the feast, to keep everyone out of my way as I cook, but I don't decide what goes in it until I see what produce is on sale in the few days before Thanksgiving.
    Photo Credit: Flickr
  • Create a Master Grocery List 4 of 8
    Create a Master Grocery List
    Once have a menu, spend some time writing down every. single. ingredient. You want the list to be detailed so you don't discover something missing on Wednesday. The main objective is to steer clear of the stores the day before Thanksgiving.
    Photo Credit: Flickr
  • Search The Pantry 5 of 8
    Search The Pantry
    My pantry gets a thorough cleaning every November. This way, I can find out what ingredients I might already have, crossing off my list as I go. It's also the perfect time to donate extra items to the food banks.
    Photo Credit: Flickr
  • Label Needed Ingredients 6 of 8
    Label Needed Ingredients
    It doesn't do much good to cross items off the list, if they get used up in the weeks leading up to the big feast. This is where my trusty Sharpie gets a good workout. "Thanksgiving—off limits!" is commonly found on crackers, whipped cream and other ingredients I'll need for holiday baking.
    Photo Credit: Flickr
  • Organize Coupons 7 of 8
    Organize Coupons
    Print coupons or watch the Sunday paper for baking supplies and other items you'll need for Thanksgiving dinner.
    (Check out this Butterball printable coupon, for starters.)
    Photo Credit: Flickr
  • Shop Smart 8 of 8
    Shop Smart
    There's more to smart shopping than clipping a few coupons, though. Watch the weekly sale ads to find the remaining items on your list at a bargain price. You also want to be sure you're buying the right amount of things—too much and you're wasting food. Too little, and you'll find yourself back in the store on Thanksgiving day. (Here's a turkey calculator to help with the main course.)
    Photo Credit: Flickr

With the bulk of the planning already behind me, I’m excited to be hosting Thanksgiving dinner for a crowd this year. I can almost taste the pumpkin pie already! What’s your favorite Thanksgiving food?

10 tasty recipes for turkey leftovers … soups, salads, sandwiches, and more!

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