As autumn’s brilliant colors fall off their trees, we begin our Thanksgiving preparations. Most of us look forward to this time of year when we cherish gathering with family and friends, to celebrate our traditions together. Whether you’re planning for a large or small crowd, there are many ways for a family to save money over this Thanksgiving holiday.

Planning ahead is your top priority.

It’s important to have a close estimate of how many people you’ll be feeding. Along with knowing a head count, you can outline a menu for your feast. Creating a menu also helps reduce the expense of your grocery bill and can make you aware of those with food allergies who can’t eat certain food items. While planning a menu, take inventory of your pantry and cabinets. You may need to restock your staples such as salt, pepper, seasonings, or corn starch for gravy and dumplings.

Sales, special offers, and coupons can be put to good use for your Thanksgiving gathering.

Many of the items you need start going on sale early in the season, so stock up in advance. In November, some stores even offer a free turkey with a purchase over a certain amount. If you plan to buy a 20 lb. bird, then “free” is a big savings! Use coupons for the sales items and shop in stores that double or triple coupons and your savings are multiplied.

Call on others to help carry the load on dinner items.

Most family members or friends would love to bring a side dish to help out and this also lightens the load on your grocery costs. Ask a few guests to bring desserts since some of them may arrive after the main meal. Some can bring sodas so that you only have to serve tea, coffee, Kool-Aid or water.

Make travel arrangements in advance.

If you plan to drive your own car, schedule a maintenance check before your trip. If you’re using the above mentioned modes of transportation, then arrange to have someone pick you up after your arrival to avoid the high expense of car rental or taxi.

Look for small ways to make a difference.

The idea of using paper products may offer convenience, but keep in mind it’s probably a lot cheaper to just wash the dishes you already have.

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Another idea for convenience without losing quality is to spruce up boxed stuffing mix simply by using fresh turkey broth with simmered onions and celery.

Keep in mind, Thanksgiving leftovers can be saved for additional meals. Turkey can be frozen for future meals and casseroles.