Procrastinators, lazy cooks and cheapskates rejoice: Thanksgiving tips for the laid back

It is unfortunate that the stressed and frantic get all the glory during the holidays. Take a deep breath, there is a better way. Instead of competing with the Martha Stewart wanna-be's this holiday season, I decided to step back and take a look at how my relaxed method saves both time and money.

Some may call me a procrastinator, a lazy cook or a cheapskate, but the benefits are undeniable. Not only do I save time and money, I am able to enjoy my family without sweating the cost or worrying about unkind things said in the heat of a marathon cooking/cleaning/decorating session.

How to take advantage of a laid-back attitude this holiday season

It is wise to wait

Save big this holiday season by waiting until the last minute to do your holiday food shopping. Waiting until at least the Monday before Thanksgiving can do wonders for your wallet. Stores will be taking stock of what they have left and clearance sales will start popping up. That same item your neighbor bought two weeks ago, will most likely be half-off.

Save time and money NOT cooking from scratch

Just because you need to be miserly this holiday, you do not be a martyr. Check the cost of convenience items before deciding to make it all from scratch. Pre-made pie crusts, with or without a coupon, often come out to much less than the homemade version. Especially true if you do not have all the baking supplies in your cupboard already. Canned yams are another time and money saver.

Decorate with food and the help of the local home improvement store

Apples, oranges, gourds and herbs can take over for pricey floral arrangements. Resist the urge to impress your guests with your shopping skills. Wow them with your wisdom and creativity. Leave the produce whole and create a plentiful, colorful arrangement, interspersed with candles. If your beautiful holiday platter cupboard is bare, consider using a hollowed out pumpkin to hold a side dish. Simply clean it out and then line with kale leaves before filling. Cutting boards and inexpensive mirrored tiles from a home improvement store can be used to hold cookies and appetizers.

No one will ever know

Take a peek at the lightly bruised fruits and vegetables stuck on the discount rack in the produce aisle. Overripe mushrooms, slightly bruised apples and wrinkled potatoes can round out your holiday meal for pennies on the dollar. Cut up and slipped into stuffing, pies or casseroles -- the imperfections will not be noticed. Same with day-old bread. No need to purchase, or make, fresh bread to go in the stuffing or bread pudding.

Tend the bar

Save money on alcohol this holiday season by making one signature cocktail for each event. Instead of picking up everyone's favorite beer and wine, mix up a quantity of a festive drink to share. Served with flair, your signature drink will not leave anyone lacking. Whip up a batch of hot apple cider rum, mulled wine or a pretty cocktail created from Prosecco and cranberry juice. Garnish your glasses with cinnamon stick or fruit slices and name accordingly.

More by Sylvie Branch:

Gratitude Is Not Just for Thanksgiving

Hosting a Stress-Free Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving Service Projects: Show your Gratitude by Blessing Others

Thanksgiving Decorating Ideas for the Table