How to serve up an affordable Thanksgiving feast

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- Sometimes the holiday season can feel like a conspiracy to empty your bank account. And it all starts with a great big feast.

But you don't have to spend a fortune to feed family and friends at Thanksgiving. All it takes is a little planning to eat well on the holiday, and beyond.

“I am thinking by waiting until eight days before Thanksgiving,  folks are going to save at least half,” says Annette Economides. She and husband Steve head up America's self-proclaimed cheapest family. They say the first ingredient you need for a tasty and economical Thanksgiving is patience.

Don't stock up until after next Wednesday's ads come out, “Literally everything is on sale for your Thanksgiving dinner 8 days before Thanksgiving,” says Annette.

And of course the headliner is turkey, “So when we look at it, this is our buy price. If it hits 50 to 60 cents a pound,” says Steve, “you can't get good lean poultry meat for less than that.”

As for how much? Most sites recommend one half to one pound per person. But the Economides say don't go less than a 20 pounder, “Because the bone to meat ratio makes it worth it, and I am going to give you some great ideas on what to do with that leftover turkey,” Annette promises.

As for sides, she says: “Stuffing: no matter how many people are coming, whether it is 15 or 25, I always make two boxes of stuffing.” Then, “Go with green beans, and broccoli. Both are usually on sale that time of year.  Usually cook about 2 to 3 pound of those green vegetables.”

And potatoes are an exceptional deal. “Potatoes a 10 pound bag, 99 cents sometimes, 88 cents the week before Thanksgiving,” says Annette. “The best way to figure that out is about one potato per person."

And you don't have to do, or buy everything, says Steve. “Ask everyone else to bring a signature dish, let them participate in bringing appetizers, side dishes, potatoes, rolls that kind of thing.”

For pies, frozen always go on sale, but so do the fixings, from canned pumpkin, to berries.  ”Normally it is $4.50 a can,” says Annette holding up a can of mixed berries. But the week of Thanksgiving it can be as low as $2.50 a can.”

And now for the leftovers, forget a week of turkey sandwiches. ”We take a 9-by-13 pan, we put leftover turkey in the pan and leftover gravy. Just slather it on top, seal with Saran Wrap, and put it in your freezer."

That’s a turkey dinner several weeks down the road. And they had a suggestion for what to do if you end up with extra dark meat. “Dice it up, put it in here, and slather it with barbecue sauce, and you have barbecue chicken,” says Annette.

They say with some careful planning you can feast at Thanksgiving and beyond, all for 2 to 3 dollars a person. “If you have to vote for a holiday in your family, vote for Thanksgiving. That is the most economical holiday you can provide food for your family.”

The instructions the Economides gave us were for a group of about 15.

Now, because many of these items are such a good price, they suggest stocking up on soups, pudding mixes, stuffing, and berries. If you have room in your freezer, they say buy an extra turkey, because you can’t beat that price for lean meat.

For more money saving ideas with the Economides, you can visit their website: http://moneysmartfamily.com/.