Thanksgiving is nearly upon us, and now is the time to start planning for the biggest meal you'll make all year. While it may be the biggest, it doesn't have to be the costliest too. In fact, it's easy to make simple substitutions that can keep your Turkey Day budget in check.
But before you head out to shop, make a grocery list. Over-shopping is the easiest way to break your budget, so make a list and stick to it to keep money in your pocket. Try an online and mobile grocery list service, like ZipList, to create and categorize your shopping list, then take it with you to shop as you gear up for the big day.
1) Scale Back on Appetizers: There are so many must-have dishes at Thanksgiving. Beyond the turkey, of course, you've got mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, vegetables and rolls. So avoid pricey appetizers, like shrimp cocktail. Try a self-cut veggie tray of carrots, celery and broccoli to tide your guests over until the big meal.
2) Go Light and Fun with Salads: No need for a heavy salad on Thanksgiving. Skip the Waldorf salad, which can weigh down guests with mayonnaise, yogurt and apples. Instead, opt for a light and fun gelatin salad with mandarin oranges.
3) Save on Side Dishes: It's easy to modify traditional favorites to save money. For green bean casserole, mix frozen green beans with frozen corn. Once cooked, top with Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. You can also see big savings by opting for brown-and-serve rolls over crescent rolls.
4) Buy a Frozen Turkey: Believe it or not, you can save 30-40% (or more) by choosing a frozen turkey over a fresh, organic or free range turkey. Just be sure to give yourself 4-5 days for the turkey to thaw in your refrigerator. If you choose to thaw your turkey in cold water, allow 30 minutes per pound.
5) Bake Your Own Pies: Pumpkin pie is cheaper to make than to buy (and it's so easy to make!). Plus, frozen pie crusts can often be found on sale. Here are a couple of our favorite pumpkin pie recipes: Maple Pumpkin Pie and Pecan Pumpkin Pie.GalTime.com: