Creating a super delish, meaningful Thanksgiving with less money–and stress

It's almost the most wonderful time of the year--if it weren't for the grocery bill, stress of hosting, and the seemingly endless stream of turkey sandwiches that follows Thanksgiving dinner. Consider this your survival guide for a Thanksgiving that makes the most of what matters (pie!) and cuts the corners that no one will miss.

Let Sales Dictate the Menu
Ellie Kay, author of Living Rich for Less, advises planning your menu around what's on sale, rather than dreaming up a potentially pricey menu with spendy out-of-season ingredients and shopping later. Stick to the usual Thanksgiving suspects, like stuffing, turkey, and pumpkin pie filling, which tend to go on sale in the weeks before Thanksgiving.

Know When to Buy Canned or Frozen
Don't waste money on fresh ingredients that might be just as good--or better--in their frozen or canned forms. reports that a fresh cheese pumpkin can cost twice as much as the canned version, and could result in a watered-down pie filling, anyway. Frozen vegetables can be both superior to and cheaper than out-of-season fresh ones. Stick to frozen for your green bean casserole.

Read more: Cut your grocery bill with 8 healthy ingredients for $1

Do-It-Yourself Centerpieces

Instead of springing for a bouquet of flowers, try using items you already have around the house or in your backyard. Hostess with the Mostess founder Jennifer Sbranti suggests filling a trio of glass vases with "perfect-for-fall elements like green apples, colorful autumn leaves, twigs, and pinecones." Or use a cake stand to stack three tiers of "colorful gourds in shades of warm yellow, orange, and plum. Tuck a few large flower blooms in the gourds right before the party starts."

Go For Homemade, Not Store-Bought

To get more for your grocery store dollars, go DIY to add a thrifty, homespun touch to your Thanksgiving. "For goodness sakes, don't waste any money buying gross, goopy gravy in a jar," says Erin Bried, author of the book, How to Sew a Button. Though it's earned a reputation as being the domain of expert cooks, gravy is actually a cinch to make. "All you need is a little stock, a few tablespoons of flour and your drippings. It'll cost you less and taste better," says Bried.

Read more: 5 tips to perfect gravy

Grandma knew the same thing was true for pies. "As 94-year-old Beatrice Niedorf told me," recounts Bried, "'People are afraid of pie crusts, but they're not hard to make. And good filling makes all the difference.'" Repair cracks in the dough with water, advises Bried, and cover any imperfections with a scoop of ice cream. "I guarantee you, nobody has ever turned away a piece of homemade pie, especially one made with love. "

Read more: 10 perfect pie recipes

Cut Down on Waste

According to US News and World Report, families across America waste nearly 25% of all food prepared on Thanksgiving. Minimize waste by focusing on family favorites rather than having all the traditional Thanksgiving sides. If your family doesn't gobble up the creamed onions with the same gusto as the green bean casserole, skip them.

Make Creative Use of Leftovers
Turkey sandwiches will only inspire excited fans for so long. Think about more creative, outside-the-box ways to use Thanksgiving leftovers that will get your family for day seven of turkey dinner. Try turkey in enchiladas, tetrazzini and lo mein. One turkey will make a huge amount of stock, which you can freeze and easily substitute for chicken stock in recipes. All turkeyed out? The meat will keep in the freezer for two months and, in the form of soups and stews, will be a sight for sore eyes come January.

Read more: Turkey recipes for your Thanksgiving leftovers

Stretch the Sales with Staples
Mary Ostyn, author of the the book Family Feasts for $75 a Week recommends taking advantage of the Thanksgiving sales by stocking up. "Flour, sugar, and butter are generally at the lowest prices they'll be all year. " Freeze the butter for three months and store flour and sugar in air-tight containers. "This strategy can allow your budget to benefit from a two-week sale long after the holiday season is gone."

Remember the Meaning of the Holiday
The best way to get more out of your holiday that doesn't cost one red cent? Remember what Thanksgiving is supposed to commemorate in the first place. Raise your head from the thick of the kitchen hubbub to give thanks for health, safety, and well-being. Start a gratitude tradition in your family at the dinner table, or begin the day with a trip to a local food pantry to share food with those who have less.

Read more: Easy ways to give back for Thanksgiving

VIDEO: Thanksgiving tips from moms across the country

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