Thanksgiving Shopping Tips, Strategies And Secrets

If you're the one responsible for hosting Thanksgiving dinner, it's important that you get started on planning as soon as possible. Not only is there simply a lot to get done, but also the earlier you start your shopping and preparation, the more time you give yourself to plan a wonderful and affordable Thanksgiving. These tips, strategies and secrets should make the mammoth task of getting ready for turkey day a lot easier.

Plan ahead

One of the most common mistakes Thanksgiving hosts make is trying to do things at the last minute. Give yourself a few weeks to prep for the holiday and plan your menu. If your guests are going to be bringing side dishes, make sure that you have their offerings listed and organized. There's no sense buying the ingredients for and making a massive sweet potato casserole when your cousin is bringing her beloved version.

Keep your menu simple

While you may want to show off your culinary skills by adding cranberries and macadamia nuts into your stuffing, it's best to stick to the basics if you're looking to save money and time. Most people are looking forward to classic turkey, sage stuffing and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, so keeping it simple works in your favor.

Don’t forget to plan for Thanksgiving breakfast

When compiling your Thanksgiving shopping list, don't forget one vital part of the holiday: breakfast. That roasting turkey and bubbling casserole will be torturous if you go into cooking with an empty stomach. Consider keeping it simple with cinnamon rolls or one of these easy recipes you can make with refrigerated pie crusts.

Sort your list by grocery aisle

Your Thanksgiving shopping list is going to be the most important part of your grocery store experience, so it's best to keep it organized. Organize your list by shopping by aisle instead of by recipe. A lot of the best Thanksgiving recipes use the same ingredients: flour, butter, chicken stock, onions, fresh herbs, etc. Write out how much of a single ingredient you need per recipe and add them together. If one recipe calls for 2 cups of stock, another calls for 4 cups and a third calls for 1 cup, that information can help you buy in bulk and save money when shopping.

Make 2 lists

After you organize your list by aisle, sort it into nonperishable items and fresh items. Canned broth, frozen vegetables and spices are among the groceries that have a long shelf life, so those can be purchased weeks in advance of Thanksgiving. However, fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables won't keep as long.

Shop your pantry first

Some Thanksgiving staples, like biscuits, are among those recipes you can make out of your pantry. So, make a sweep of your kitchen to see what ingredients you already have. Check what spices are in your spice drawer and how much butter is in the fridge so that you don't end up buying things you don't need.

Clear out your fridge

It can be incredibly annoying to return home with a trunkful of groceries only to find that you have nowhere to put them. Make sure there's plenty of room in your fridge and pantry before you leave the house.

Check the circulars for coupons and sales

One of the easiest ways to save money is to read your grocery store's circular, which can be found in local newspapers and online. Clip coupons and pay attention to things like 10 for $10 sales on gravy, broth, packaged rice sides and more. When you spot these sales, jump on them right away.

Compare prices

You should also use the circulars and the internet to compare prices at local grocery stores so that you know the best place to shop. Perhaps certain items on your list are best bought at one store, while others are cheaper at another. Not being afraid to shop around is one of the best ways to cut your Thanksgiving grocery bill in half.

Consider shopping online

This year, you may want to avoid the grocery store and do your grocery shopping online. This opens up new opportunities to save time and money while grocery shopping as you can buy in bulk, compare sales and avoid hauling heavy hams and 20-pound bags of flour home.

Shop during off-hours

Grocery stores can get packed, especially around Thanksgiving. One of the ways that grocery shopping has changed this year is that you're going to want to avoid crowds, which means going during off-hours, like nights, evenings and mid-day. You'll have space to social distance and the time to go through your list with care.

Take 2 shopping trips

Do two big shopping trips for Thanksgiving: one for those canned goods and nonperishables and another for fresh produce, dairy, eggs and more. Make that second trip just a couple days before the holiday, and pay close attention to how long milk, Brussels sprouts and more items will stay fresh in your fridge and freezer.

Stick to a budget

Grocery shopping can easily become quite expensive, so it's important to create a specific and realistic budget to stick to. Your bill can add up fast, so don't be afraid to know the groceries you should never pay full price for and wait for them to go on sale if need be.

Check items off your list as you buy them

One of the ways you're being rude at the store without realizing it is by taking up the aisle as you dig through your cart to make sure you grabbed cream of mushroom soup, chicken stock and onion soup mix before leaving the soup section. It's also frustrating to get home and realize you've forgotten to buy canned pumpkin. As you put something into your cart, check it off your list.

Be flexible with your list

The best way to get organized is to plan all your recipes in advance and use those as a guide for making your grocery list. This doesn't have to be set in stone, however. Know your recipe swaps and substitutions, and if you see better deals or alternatives while shopping, feel free to make some changes to suit your budget or your needs.

Buy a little more than you think you’ll need

Buy just a little bit more of everything than you think you'll need. You don't want to not have enough butter while making those pie crusts or run out of cranberry sauce before everyone's gotten some. It's always great to have leftovers anyway.

Don’t pay full price for turkey

Choosing the perfect turkey is crucial for Thanksgiving dinner. But, don't overpay for that bird. Around Thanksgiving time, many grocery stores have promotional offers with heavily discounted turkeys, or even ones that are free, often with a minimum purchase amount or alongside select items.

Go generic

To save even more money, skip the brand names. Certain staples that you'll use a lot of, like flour, sugar, butter and stock should always be bought generic anyway and your guests likely won't even know the difference.

Buy containers

There are going to be leftovers to distribute among your guests (or to stockpile for yourself), so prepare accordingly by purchasing some cheap plastic storage containers to give away. Just make sure you're aware of how long your Thanksgiving leftovers will last.

More from The Daily Meal:

Classic Southern Recipes That Are Better Than Grandma's

Cast-Iron Skillet Recipes You Didn't Know You Could Make

Boxed Cake Mix Recipes: Turn This Staple Into 20 Desserts

35 Easy Meatloaf Recipes

Easy Instant Pot Recipes for Beginners