Thanksgiving dinner is a wonderful time to gather around the table with the ones that you love. Use these tips to save time and money while you're preparing for it, along with keeping you stress-free!

Oven mitt pulling turkey for Thanksgiving dinner out of oven, from Fun Cheap or Free

November is a great time of the year. You've been focusing on your gratitude all month long and you're totally stoked about hosting Thanksgiving! But the walls are starting to close in on you because now you're thinking about all of the time it's going to take you to make everything. And the money that you're going to be dishing out for this event. Oh, and now you're really starting to stress out about it all!

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Hold the phone! There. is. no. need. to be freaking out about any of this. Seriously! We have got your backs, Freebs. You're about to get some of the best time and money-saving tips that will help you to keep your stress levels low for this Thanksgiving dinner. (P.S. You can also use these tips for Christmas dinner… and Easter dinner… and any other time you're hosting a large dinner gathering. Score!) We even have a FREE printable to help you keep everything organized so you won't forget anything!

To start us off, the first thing that you want to do is…

PLAN OUT YOUR THANKSGIVING DINNER MENU

Woman writing meal plan in notebook, from Fun Cheap or Free

First and foremost, have a plan! Start planning your Thanksgiving meal at least a week (or more) before the holiday begins. Figure out how you're going to cook your turkey or other meats. You may want to oven-roast them, stick them in a fryer, throw them on the grill, put them in a smoker… Decide how you want to cook them now so you can make sure you have everything that you need to do so.

Make a list of the recipes that you would like to make and print them out or save them on your phone so they're easily accessible on the big day. If they're new recipes, you may want to try making them ahead of time to make sure they taste good and you know how to make them. Nobody wants to feel the pressure of making a new dish for Thanksgiving dinner!

Then, get in touch with all of your guests that will be coming to figure out how much food you'll need to have. Write down what each family is going to bring and if it'll need to be put into the oven. If they're asking you what they can bring, suggest food that doesn't need to be put into the oven if you're running low on space or time (such as drinks, deviled eggs, or a dessert).

Write down everything that will need oven space at your house on Thanksgiving day, including the temperatures that they need to be baked at. This will help you determine your cooking schedule that we'll get to in just a few!

COME UP WITH A SHOPPING LIST

While you're planning your menu, go ahead and make a shopping list of everything you'll need. Break your list into non-perishables and perishables. You can buy your non-perishables a few weeks in advance to help break up the spending and fit into your grocery budget. Wait to buy your perishables a few days before. It would be bad if your veggies got all wilty before you could use them! (Make sure you store them the right way to keep them fresh!)

Another tip is to pre-order your turkey from the store to make sure you aren't scrambling to find one the week of Thanksgiving. Turkeys usually go on sale at the beginning of November, so you could buy one and freeze until it's time to thaw and cook it. However, if you miss the early train, then pre-ordering is the way to go. Nobody wants to be running around like a mad person the week of Thanksgiving trying to find a turkey for dinner!

HOW TO SAVE MONEY ON THANKSGIVING DINNER

Thanksgiving dinner foods on a counter, from Fun Cheap or Free

One of the BIGGEST ways to save money on your Thanksgiving dinner is to be smart at the grocery store. Use these awesome grocery shopping tips that will help you to get the most bang for your buck at the store. While you're at the store, use some of our favorite money-saving apps to earn money back during your shopping! Shopkick is one that's so easy to use, just open your phone as you're walking into the store. Use our Shopkick signup link and get $5 when you use the code FCF and take your first action in 7 days!

If you wanted to save time as well as money, then use Walmart Grocery Pickup (get $10 off your first $50 purchase) or even Instacart for all of your Thanksgiving dinner supplies. Having someone else do your grocery shopping sounds pretty good, right?! It's also really good for preventing impulse buys, so it's really a win-win!

STOCK UP AND SAVE

There are some key grocery items everyone should be stocking up on in November! If you miss the chance to stock up on these items, many of them won't go on sale again for another 365 days. That's a crazy long time to wait for another sale. If your family uses these items on a regular basis, save yourself from having to buy them at full price throughout the year and stock up now! You can even stick some of these products in the freezer so they'll last longer.

Does your family use any of those on a regular basis? It's always a good idea to keep your kitchen well-stocked so you can shelf cook whenever you need to. Come see what our kitchen staples are HERE.

PLAN WHAT YOU'RE GOING TO MAKE AHEAD OF TIME

Make-ahead Thanksgiving dinner foods on a table, from Fun Cheap or Free

Did you know that there are a TON of Thanksgiving foods you can make or prep ahead of time to save on time and stress?! Make your pies a few weeks in advance and freeze them (minus the pumpkin pies, they don't thaw well, unfortunately). Put your stuffing together a day or two before and stick it in the fridge until you're ready to pull it out and bake it on Turkey Day. If you want more of these awesome tips, then be sure to check out our make-ahead Thanksgiving food post!

COME UP WITH A THAWING SCHEDULE

If you're working with frozen foods, such as turkey or rolls, make sure you give them enough time to thaw all the way before you need them! A good rule of thumb for thawing a frozen turkey is to allow it 24 hours for every 5 pounds. That could be two or three days that it's thawing in the fridge! Pretty much anything else needs two days to thaw in the fridge, like turkey stock, gravy, pies, rolls, and soup.

COME UP WITH A COOKING SCHEDULE

This is definitely key for maintaining a low stress level on Thanksgiving! Look at your list of all of the food that needs oven space and figure out what needs to go in when so it's all ready when it's time to eat.

Turkey is easier to carve when it’s warm versus hot, so plan on it being done 30 minutes to an hour before you’re wanting to eat. Schedule sides to bake together at the same temperature. Have that oven filled to the brim, if possible! If there's not enough stovetop space, take advantage of your slow cooker for keeping things warm, such as gravy or mashed potatoes.

USE OUR FREE PRINTABLE THANKSGIVING DINNER PLANNER

You read that right! We wanted to help simplify your life even more to help you make the most of your time. You know we're all about living a productive life, so why would the holidays be any different?

Print out our free printables and start filling them out as you go through everything you'll need to buy, plan, prep, and do in order to make your time on the big day better spent. (Remember, you can use these for any holiday or big family get together where you need to plan out the meal!)

Thanksgiving dinner printables on a counter, from Fun Cheap or Free

SIMPLIFY YOUR THANKSGIVING DINNER

There are so many things you can do to simplify for the holidays! Here are some of the best tips:

  • Use paper products instead of fine China. If you are less formal, this is an easy way to save you hours of doing dishes and gives you more time to visit with your guests and family!
  • Let people help you! Don't try to put the entire meal together on your own. Let them bring food and let them help you once they arrive.
  • Keep your menu simple. Stick to only those recipes your family loves and cut out any extra recipes that don't seem to be people's favorites.
  • Cook a turkey breast instead of a whole turkey. Turkey breasts can be cooked in a slow cooker and are much easier to carve and bake.
  • Remember the real meaning and purpose behind the holiday season. It's not a time to be stressed and run around, unable to enjoy the holiday. Keep your focus on family and relishing the moments you have together.
  • Keep your meal plan simple, do a lot ahead of time, watch for the best deals, stock up when items are on sale, and you will be set!

What's your favorite thing to make for Thanksgiving dinner? Let us know in the comments! Hope you all have a fantastic Thanksgiving!

Turkey, green beans, and potatoes in a baking dish, from Fun Cheap or Free

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Check out ShelfCooking.com, from Fun Cheap or Free

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Happy Turkey Day!