Shopping ahead for Thanksgiving staples

You most definitely don't need to spring into a state of hysteria just because we flipped the calendar to November. Time--and grocery store savings--are on your side. We asked money-saving experts how getting a jump on our Thanksgiving shopping can save our food dollars and our sanity.

Make a plan
"The key to saving on groceries," says Stephanie Nelson, a.k.a. the Coupon Mom, "is taking time to plan your list and shopping strategy." The time spent planning will be paid off in savings. "Sit down and list the dishes you plan to make and the ingredients you will need to buy." Take a full inventory of your kitchen to know what you already have on hand and what you still need.

Let sales dictate the menu
"Try to only buy items on sale," advises Ellie Kay author of Living Rich for Less. "With a specific menu, you're obligated to buy the groceries on your menu." But when you buy only what's on sale, you let your family eat well and at the lowest price point possible.

Seize the day
Take your list of all the items you'll need for Thanksgiving every time you go to the store. Whenever an item on your list goes on sale, you'll be prepared to strike while the price is hot. This way, you'll gather all the ingredients you need over the course of a few weeks, says Teri Gault, founder of The Grocery Game. while saving money and "the panic of the last minute rush."

Stock up on savings

All our experts agree: stock up. Take advantage of ultra-bargains to plan for meals before and after Thanksgiving. "One year I bought a couple dozen cans of pumpkin for 10 cents after Thanksgiving and made pumpkin bread, muffins and even pumpkin soup all year," says Nelson. Pick up discounted Halloween candy for holiday cookies, extra bags of stuffing, and "if you have the freezer space, buy an extra turkey or two."

Visit the baking aisle
The wind-up to the holidays, as well as the weeks following Thanksgiving, are the cheapest time for baking supplies like flour and sugar, says Gault. Stock up now not only for Thanksgiving pies, but for the holiday cookies on the horizon.

Embrace coupons
"Thanksgiving is a grocery coupon bonanza," says Nelson, who advises scanning the circulars in the two Sunday newspapers prior to Thanksgiving. You can also search for and print coupons online. "You may be able to find a coupon for every Thanksgiving item you need to buy."

Double up on coupons
"Combine store coupons and manufacturer coupons," suggests Kay. "Last year I had a store coupon that game me a special deal on my turkey and a Butterball turkey coupon for $3 off, so I could use both."

Ask your store about price comps
Many stores will match their competitor's prices, saving you time the time of having to drive multiple stores for the lowest prices. "Just take in all the local sale ads and have the store match the sale price from the circulars," suggests Kay. "There may be some restrictions, so be sure you ask for the details at the customer service desk."

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