Big family Thanksgiving dinner on a budget

Nov 10, 2010 at 4:15 p.m. ET

Thanksgiving is time for family, friends, and a big meal. If you are serving Thanksgiving dinner for a large group this year, you don't have to break the bank. Follow these tips to create a big family Thanksgiving dinner on a budget.

Big family eating Thanksgiving dinner

1Get a free turkey

Most grocery stores offer an opportunity to earn a free turkey in the weeks preceding Thanksgiving. This type of offer is generally for customers who spend a certain amount at the store during the promotional period. You don't have to spend the money all in one visit, so it's easy to reach the goal amount in several grocery store trips prior to the holiday.

2Prepare homemade food

A large precooked ham from the ham store can cost in excess of $40; a store-bought pie can be $5 or more. Sure, these foods are definitely convenient, but homemade alternatives will cost a fraction of the price. Look for recipes with a limited number of ingredients to cut costs as well.

3Clip coupons

Plan ahead and keep an eye out for coupons and sales on the items you need for Thanksgiving dinner. The newspaper isn't the only place to find coupons. Check out the website of your local grocery store, as well as manufacturers' websites for coupons and specials.

4Skip the soda

Iced (or hot) tea, lemonade, coffee, and water are all very inexpensive drink options for a big family Thanksgiving. Skip soda, juice, and other more expensive beverages. If you want to serve wine, ask your local wine shop for recommendations under $10 a bottle.

5Make it potluck

A gracious hostess will often turn down guests who offer to bring something. This year, let them contribute. Economic times are tough for everyone and a potluck Thanksgiving is nothing to be ashamed about; in fact, potlucks can be a whole lot of fun. Supply the turkey (or other main course) and drinks. Allow your guests to bring appetizers, side dishes, desserts, and other parts of the meal. Keep track of who is bringing which dishes, so you don't end up with five green bean casseroles and no pie!

6Decorate with nature

Bring a little bit of the outdoors inside this Thanksgiving. Create a beautiful (and cheap) centerpiece with leaves, branches, acorns, pine cones, and other natural accents. Your dollar store can also be a fantastic place to find Thanksgiving decorations on the cheap.

7Give thanks

Keep in mind that Thanksgiving isn't about a fancy meal or expensive décor. It's about giving thanks for family, friends, and all the wonderful things we have in our lives. So don't sweat it if your family is using generic paper napkins or drinking a five dollar bottle of wine. The love you put into your Thanksgiving meal is far more important than the cost.

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