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Thanksgiving on a Shoestring: Break the Wishbone, Not the Bank

Because it's such a traditional holiday, Thanksgiving is an easy one to do on a budget.

The least costly way to do Thanksgiving on a budget? Eat at someone else's house.

All kidding aside, it's possible can host a turkey dinner for family or friends, where the wishbone is what's breaking, not your bank.

Epicurious has a plan to help you make Thanksgiving dinner for eight people, on a budget of $80 or less.

Helpful hints from this plan can be adapted into any Thanksgiving meal, including buying things like herbs and produce in season. You'll get more for your money, and the stuff you're buying will be fresher. Buy whatever you can at a farmer's market.

Also, know that a supermarket turkey is just fine! This time of year, grocery stores offer huge savings on the fall-weather fowl - I've seen turkey prices as low as 37 cents a pound - and sometimes you can get a free turkey with points accrued from previous purchases. Brine any turkey to add flavor and improve texture.

Make your own breads, pie crusts, mashed potatoes, gravy and cranberry sauce, rather than buying processed products. They take a little longer to prepare, but they're better for you, they taste better and they'll be less expensive overall. If you fear you'll be overwhelmed with the kitchen to-do list on Thanksgiving Day, prepare what you can ahead of time, and delegate to other family members what you can't. Green bean casserole and candied yams can be prepared a day or two in advance and thrown in the oven before dinner. You can even peel and dice potatoes for your mashed potatoes. To keep them from browning, place them in water right after peeling, along with a tablespoon of lemon juice and some kosher salt. Make sure potatoes are completely submerged. (Before boiling, drain and replace with fresh salted water.)

Don't be afraid to ask guests to bring something, from a side dish to a bottle of wine. Chances are your friends and family will ask, at some point, "Is there anything I can bring? Can I do something to help?" Let them. After all, you are inviting them into your home and doing most of the work. Everyone will be happy to lend a hand or a dish.

For decorations and centerpieces, check your own backyard. Use leaves, pinecones, branches, acorns, mums. Get the kids to help you with making the table look festive.

And when dinner is over, don't stop being budget conscious. Use your Thanksgiving leftovers! Make turkey sandwiches, soups and casseroles. Make turkey stock for soups, risotto, and gravy. Use the leftover mashed potatoes for potato pancakes. Food that gets thrown away is wasted money.


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