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Thanksgiving savings

Published November 17. 2010 05:00PM

With just one week left until Thanksgiving, it's time to create a shopping and savings plan. If you'll be cooking a big meal this year, you're probably dreading next week already all of that cooking, prep work, and the cost of feeding a larger crowd.

Fortunately, being in charge of Thanksgiving doesn't have to be a big headache or a huge expense. Start planning now.

The turkey

First, get an accurate head count. While it's great to have an "open door" policy and offer a loose invitation to the entire family, you don't want to risk running out of food or having too many leftovers. Call those that you'd like to invite, confirm a time and location, and go from there.

While I'm a big fan of leftovers, we tend to get a bit too enthusiastic on Thanksgiving. I once took advantage of an after-Thanksgiving sale and got a great deal on a very large turkey. However, serving a 16-pound bird for two people really isn't practical. We ate turkey for three days, froze the rest, and ate leftovers over the next few months. .

Once you have a guest list, plan to buy about one pound of turkey for each adult. If you enjoy leftovers, have a lot of big eaters, or want to send leftovers home with guests, buy up to two pounds for each adult. Keep in mind that the larger the turkey, the more meat per pound. Smaller turkeys tend to be more bone and less meat.

Side dishes

With the main course taken care of, it's time to think about side dishes.

Unless you're feeding a large crowd, don't bother making a half-dozen side dishes buying extra ingredients can become expensive and time-consuming, and most people won't appreciate the extra effort it takes.

To keep your family and friends happy, pick one to three of their favorite dishes and add in another "special" side dish that you associate with the holidays maybe mashed potatoes, green beans, dinner rolls, and cranberry sauce. Keep it simple. With dessert added in, you're sure to please most people and no one will go hungry.

Adding variety

Looking for more variety? Spread the labor and cost by asking your friends or family to bring a small amount of their favorite side dish. I can fondly remember holidays with my family where every aunt or uncle brought a dish. We could choose from mashed potatoes, potato filling, bread stuffing, macaroni salad, and potato salad. (I have a very large extended family.)

It worked for us because no one person had the burden of buying or cooking everything. While this won't work for smaller gatherings, it can be a great way to get larger families together without too much fuss.

My final piece of advice: Don't eat too much. You'll want to be awake and alert for the Black Friday sales!

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