This year, more than ever, many families will be looking for ways to cut costs at the Thanksgiving table. Give your wallet (and yourself) a break this coming holiday and choose simple, economical foods for less stress and less mess.

Skip the Traditional Turkey or Ham

Rotisserie chicken, ready to eat. Purchase one (or more) of these chickens from your grocery store the day before Thanksgiving. These are often only $5-$6. They come pre-marinated or pre-seasoned, and can be stored in the refrigerator overnight and reheated on Thanksgiving day per the instructions on the label. You won't have as much meat for leftovers, but what is left can be used for soups, stews, casseroles, and chicken salads.

Hot ham sandwiches. There are a variety of recipes for these. They can be made from toast or hamburger buns, although grocery stores often have dinner rolls at very low prices in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. These are a great dish to make ahead of time and store in refrigerator or freezer. Leftovers can be used in school lunches.

Plan Meals Using Simple, Inexpensive Foods

Use beans as a side dish. Beans are an economical food, whether you purchase them dry or canned. They can be prepared a number of different ways, but for something easy and usually enjoyed by kids and adults alike, make a bean dip and serve with crackers or tortilla chips.

Potato dishes. Potatoes are also economical, but mashed is not the only way to fix them. Boiled potatoes with salt, pepper, butter, or oil are simple and do not require the use of milk or cream or other ingredients that cost more money.

Use lunch leftovers for supper. If your celebration includes both meals, reheat meat and side dishes, add snacks to the meal, and perhaps have one new dessert.

Choose one meal to follow with dessert. Lunch or supper, take your pick.

When having guests or extended family, make it a potluck. Ask every family to bring one dish (salad, dessert, side) to share with the group. This helps out considerably if the host family is preparing the meat/main dish.

Research holiday meal deals. If you're not a cook, or just want a break on the holiday, check out prices at local grocery stores and restaurants for Thanksgiving meal packages. These can include a turkey or ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and bread rolls. Some places will charge a different price for a cooked meal versus one you have to cook yourself. Take into consideration your own cooking costs (use of oven), time, and effort.

Serve up snacks. If you are hosting lots of guests, set out inexpensive, simple foods for in-between meal snacking. Snacks can help ensure that children stay happy, everyone has food to eat during family activities, and no one is starved for supper.

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