WRAL SmartShopper

WRAL SmartShopper

Thursday thoughts: Frugal Thanksgiving Tips

Posted November 18, 2010

With Thanksgiving only one week away, it’s time to plan your meal, buy the turkey and make the decorations. Although Thanksgiving doesn’t involve lots of expensive gift giving, it is still easy to overspend when hosting your holiday dinner. Here are some tips you and your wallet will be thankful for this Thanksgiving.


The Meal

Shop the sales and use those coupons: The key to a frugal, yet delicious meal is to shop the sales and use coupons whenever possible. Look for Buy One Get One Free (BOGO) deals and use coupons with those as well. Specific sales for Harris Teeter, Lowes Foods, Food Lion and Kroger are listed in this week’s Grocery Deals post found at the link in the box above. Among the sales you’ll find .39/lb turkey, .27/lb sweet potatoes, .40 dip with sale and coupon, BOGO stuffing, .40 sour cream with sale and coupon, soda for .66/2 ltr., $1 cranberry sauce, .88 celery and much more. These are all great deals and will make a huge difference in your Thanksgiving meal budget.

Stock up: This is the week to stock up on turkey, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and all your favorite Thanksgiving foods. When you find a really good deal, you may want to buy a few extra of the item to use in upcoming holiday meals. With Christmas, Chanukah and News Year’s Eve around the corner, you can never have too many canned veggies, cool whip, crackers or French onion dip! When turkeys are selling for .50/lb or less, buy a second one to put in the freezer and use in the next couple months. This is the best time of year to buy turkey so stock up while the prices are so low. While you are at it, if you have the extra money, buy another one to donate to the local food bank!

Just say YES! When your family and friends ask if they can bring anything to the meal – say YES! Ask them what they would like to bring and scratch one more thing off the list of items you need to prepare/provide. Many hosts make the turkey and stuffing and the guests bring just about everything else when you have a potluck style Thanksgiving. If you are short on plates and silverware, don’t go buy more just for this one meal, borrow them from a guest.

Here’s a recipe sharing tip I really like from Lisa Reynolds, RedPlum’s Mom Saver-in-Chief: “If you’re asking guests to bring their signature Thanksgiving side dish, ask them to bring along a few copies of the recipe. It will get guests mingling and everyone will have authentic recipes to try next year.”

Don’t buy what you can make: When you are watching your budget, keep in mind that cooking from scratch is generally less expensive than buying pre-made items such as pies and rolls. Now is the time to look through your stockpile and see what you can use for the meal.

Don’t make quite so much: Unless you are feeding a group of 100, you probably don’t need 20 side dishes. Consider how many people will be joining you for the meal and cook plenty, but not so much that you have leftovers for 3 months. Your stress level and your budget will be happy.

Look for rebates in stores: Here’s a great tip from Stephanie Harriel at “Watch for NBP (no beer purchase required) rebates on meat or grocery purchases.” Many manufacturers offer rebates on grocery items throughout the year, including beer and wine manufacturers. They are especially plentiful from Thanksgiving through the Superbowl. You can find them on store shelves, on beer and wine displays, in the meat department, on cracker and cookie displays and anywhere in the store. Look for recipe booklets and see if there are coupons or rebates inside. In North Carolina, when a beer or wine manufacturer offer a rebate on an item like turkey or meat, you do not have to buy and alcohol to redeem the rebate. This year I have found rebates for $20 off a $20.01 turkey, ham or deli platter purchase, $4 off an $8 meat purchase and $10 off a $25 Thanksgiving items purchase. If you have been in any recent workshops, you may have won some of those rebates!

The Decorations

Nature, nature, nature: Use items from your own front yard to give your home a warm Thanksgiving theme. Pinecones in a bowl and colorful leaves on the table are beautiful. If you don’t have any real fall leaves to use from your yard, silk fall leaves from the craft store are pretty inexpensive (especially with the 40% off coupons they often offer in the paper and on their websites). For more decorating tips from, click HERE.

Little mini pumpkins: Those cute little pumpkins and gourds are pretty cheap this time of year at the local farmer’s markets and roadside stands. Place them around the house and on the table for some wonderful color.

Shine a light: Candles make just about any decoration seem more special. Inexpensive taper and votive candles can be found at drug stores and craft stores like Michael’s. Use a coupon to sweeten the deal!

Get help from the little ones: Crafts made by the kids are the perfect decoration. They are frugal and the kids were entertained while making them. It’s a two-for-one deal! Check out all the great Thanksgiving craft projects at They have tons of cute craft ideas including place cards, turkey hats, napkin rings, printable coloring pages and much more.

Gifts with a twist: Here’s another cute tip from Lisa Reynolds with, If you want to give your guests a little something to take home with them (other than leftovers!), “wrap tiny gifts (even chocolate) in gold foil; top off with brown ribbons, and place the gifts on the dinner plate. Your table will look fabulous and your guests will love the thought.”

If you have any more tips to share, please post them below. I am truly thankful to all of you for reading the blog, asking questions, making comments, sharing your good deal tips and offering each other support on our money saving journey together! Happy Thanksgiving!



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  • Faye Prosser - Smart Shopper Nov 21, 2010

    Heremeaj - you are so right about the opportunity to donate more when you coupon. We are so lucky to be able to give back a little and still feed our families frugally.

    prettylittleangeleyes - Thanks! I'll be sharing more of Lisa's creative tips in upcoming holiday articles.

  • heremeaj Nov 20, 2010

    One of the most exciting things about saving money is realizing that coupons can help you be a blessing to others. We regularly give away many of the items we get for free and are able to help lighten the load of people who are struggling to put food on the table. Our bills are cheaper overall and we are feeding more people per dollar. A real win-win for everyone. I really appreciate all the small tricks you continue to share that add up to big savings for my family.

  • prettylittleangeleyes Nov 19, 2010

    You know, I thought you had some great tips! Especially about guests bringing printed recipes for others. It sounds like a great way to get people chatting when everyone may not know each other! Thanks!

  • Faye Prosser - Smart Shopper Nov 19, 2010

    Donna - you are so right - I am very lucky to be able to make a job out of what was a hobby. I am sorry about your medical bills, but excited to hear that you haev been able to shrink that grocery bill so much!

    Total - sniff, sniff back at ya. You are being way too kind, but I thank you. As good as you are at couponing/deal hunting these days, I bet your Thanksgiving meal is going to be awesome!

  • t0tAlChA0s Nov 18, 2010

    Faye, I can not thank you enough for all the time and effort you put into the Smart Shopper blog. I look forward to reading it everyday. The only reason I started couponing is because of all the help you were and still are offering. I would be totally lost without you! =) When we sit down for our frugal Thanksgiving meal, I will not forget to be thankful to Faye for helping me make it all happen.

    Thank you Faye!! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.
    (sniff sniff)

  • the2stephs Nov 18, 2010

    Thanks so much for teaching people how to save money! It is a great thing that you are doing and all of us at appreciate what you do!! :)

  • donnaa1374 Nov 18, 2010

    Faye, thank you so much for all you do to save us money. Your job has to be one of the most fun, knowing you're helping save your own family money, but then getting the thrill of recognizing what you're doing for all the other Triangle families out there. It is a real pleasure for me to have met you and gotten the "coupon bug". My husband is so proud that i have been able to "shrink" our grocery shopping bill this year when money has been so tight due to medical bills.