How Much Should Thanksgiving Dinner Cost?

Last year the American Farm Bureau Federation's (AFBF) estimated that the average cost of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner -- featuring a turkey and all of your favorite fixins -- for 10 people came to just under $50. Factor in...

Last year the American Farm Bureau Federation's (AFBF) estimated that the average cost of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner -- featuring a turkey and all of your favorite fixins -- for 10 people came to just under $50. Factor in forecasts predicting a rise in turkey prices by as much as 20 percent this year due to a widespread avian flu outbreak, the cost of feeding your friends and family your usual season spread may soar even higher. Despite these challenges, it is possible to minimize costs while maximizing your meal with some planning and preparation. Let's take a closer look at a few tips and tricks for serving up Thanksgiving dinner with a side of savings.

Thanksgiving dinner
Meal planning is a must.

1. Plan Ahead

Before you even think about shopping, make a menu. Which dishes were most successful last year, and which went untouched? Savvy menu planning ensures efficiency, both in terms of cooking time and financial investment. Not to mention -- who wants to store leftovers that no one liked enough to eat the first time?

2. Be Vigilant

Know prices on key ingredients and keep an eye out on grocery stores sales throughout the year. Canned foods, in particular, keep for anywhere between 12 and 18 months, so items like cranberry sauce and green beans can be purchased in advance and stored in your pantry. "Buy one get one free" deals, meanwhile, can halve costs on certain items.

Familiarizing yourself with prices also spares you from falling victim to misleading "sales." For example, a 10 for $10 deal on canned corn at your local supermarket is not the deal you think it is if the grocery store across town is selling single cans for just $0.85 each."

Even if these items aren't cheaper throughout the rest of the year, buying them in advance apportions the cost so your pre-Thanksgiving grocery store tab doesn't pack such a wallop.

3. Turkey Time

While turkey deals may be harder to find this year, persevering shoppers will still find bargains. In fact, many grocery stores will sponsor promotions offering free or low-priced turkeys for in-store spendings over a certain amount to entice shoppers to spend their sought-after Thanksgiving meal dollars there.

Of course, not all turkeys are created equally. If your Thanksgiving dinner calls for an organic, heirloom or other speciality turkey, many farms and markets offer "early bird" specials for advance orders before a certain date. Reserving your gobbler early also ensures that you get the type and size turkey you want.

Still cooking in those disposable foil pans? Invest in a good roasting pan. While the initial investment may seem steep, it will last forever -- sparing you year after year of unnecessary expense. One more reason to go with a roaster? Your bird will cook better.

4. Know When to Skimp and When to Splurge

While some items merit high-quality ingredients as a matter of taste, others are just as flavorful when prepared with generic store brands. Items which usually offer big savings with no sacrifice of quality include dry ingredients like flour and sugar, as well as store-brand frozen vegetables.

Thanksgiving dinner
Thanksgiving meal savings? We'll toast to that!

5. Spread the Love

While you may not want to ask your guests to make a financial contribution to Thanksgiving, it's perfectly acceptable to ask guests to bring a favorite side dish or dessert. Not only does this remove some of the financial burden from you as the host, but it also allows guests to feel like they're making a contribution. One money-saving rule of thumb at Thanksgiving or any time of year? When people offer help, take them up on it.

Lastly, while planning and preparing your Thanksgiving meal, remember that spending time with friends and family is what it's all about. If black truffle mashed potatoes, an artisanal turducken, and foie gras stuffing are outside your budget, a classic -- and cost-friendly -- Thanksgiving meal offers appeal all its own. Then again, if you do feel like breaking the bank this year, there's always the New York's Old Homestead Steakhouse's $35,000 Thanksgiving feast for four. To find the roasting pan of your dreams and so much more, browse cookware and beyond at one-stop destination for all things cooking and kitchen, Cilantro The Cooks Shop.