How to Save Money on Your Thanksgiving Groceries

Jon Lal

Thanksgiving is one week away, and whether you're hosting a house full of people or traveling to see relatives, chances are you're starting to make preparations. The costs for this annual meal can add up quickly, especially when you consider adding in appetizers, beverages, dessert and decorations. Here are a few ways you can save money on groceries for Thanksgiving this year and make sure you don't dip into your holiday shopping budget.

Make a list:

Start from the very beginning of the day and don't stop until after dessert and coffee ends. Make sure you write down every ingredient and item you need for the meal in a list.

Think about the last few years of holiday meals as you consider your menu -- are there certain dishes that always have tons of leftovers each year, or others where there never seems to be enough? You may want to change up your menu to make sure you have enough of the most popular dishes and aren't wasting food from the less popular ones.

Don't go to the store -- yet:

Before you head to the grocery store, you might be able to check off a few things. Rummage through your pantry and see if you might already have some baking supplies or ingredients on hand, and cross off items from your list.

Next, see if there are a few things you can ask your family or friends to bring. If you aren't doing a potluck-style approach to dinner and are instead handling most of the cooking yourself, you can offload some of the costs by getting your guests to chip in. Spread out the requests so that one person isn't too burdened (for instance, asking one person to supply beverages, alcoholic or otherwise). One bottle of wine or liter of soda or juice per family works well. Other items to consider requesting from your guests: appetizers like cheese and crackers, kid-friendly additions to the menu or paper products if you need them.

Take another look at your list and see what else you were able to check off by enlisting the help of your family and friends.

Shop around:

Now that you're ready to start shopping, do a little research to see where you can get the best buys. It might mean more than one stop, but it could pay off in a big way. Look online for the circulars and specials from the grocery stores in your area and compare the best deals. Supermarkets are likely the best bet to purchase your Thanksgiving turkey; some stores might even offer a free turkey to those that spend a required minimum amount. Just make sure you aren't stretching to reach the minimum by buying things you don't need.

Don't forget to check a few other places for your groceries, too. Picking up local produce at a winter farmer's market might mean delicious, fresh fruits and vegetables with the added bonus of a lower cost, and stopping by Target or Walmart for non-perishables might mean better prices than the supermarket.

Buy generic, or look for a coupon:

Some might shy away from buying generic brands when they cook on Thanksgiving, as it's an important meal and you might feel loyalty to certain brand names because of handed down recipes, or you feel it just won't taste as good. In many cases, generic brands are much cheaper and you really can't tell the difference. Try choosing generic for pantry and baking items, milk and any snack foods you'll have out for guests while you cook.

For those items you'd rather rely on the brand names you know and love, search online first for a printable coupon. Following your favorite brands on social media can also pay off when they share special offers and exclusive coupons.

This year don't get too caught up in the pressure of preparing an amazing meal on Thanksgiving. If you plan ahead, rely a little on your guests and put in just a bit more research, you can end up with a delicious result that doesn't leave you with a financial hangover -- so you can better enjoy the time with your family and friends giving thanks, and also have enough left over for your holiday shopping.

Jon Lal is the founder and CEO of coupons and cash back website BeFrugal.com, which saves shoppers an average of $27 per order thanks to coupons plus an average of 7 percent cash back at more than 4,000 stores.