As a retailer and a mom to young children, I have to say that no other season is quite as exciting as the Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Years trifecta.  The excitement, the stress, and, of course, the inevitable shortage of money is always a challenge.  As such, it is time to plan your Thanksgiving feast in the most low key, inexpensive way possible.  You don’t want your kids to look back on this day and remember a stressed out mommy crying into lumpy gravy.  Without further ado, here are some tips for a stress free Thanksgiving:

Step 1. Time to shop.  The biggest meal expense is the turkey.  Thankfully, grocers are fighting to give away their birds at a loss in hopes that you will purchase all additional trimmings/meal items from them.  Expect to pay no more than 50 cents a pound which will set you back $7-$10 dollars.

Step 2.  Purchase store brands.  All store brands are typically manufactured by a name brand.  Trust me, your local grocer does not have a salt, diaper, milk, and cookie factory; just different packaging for the exact same product at a lower price.

Step 3.  Below is a basic price list for Thanksgiving dinner as retail grocers slash prices like crazy to “win” the customer:  Turkey ($8), Gravy Mix ($1), Stuffing ($2), Cranberry Sauce ($2), Corn ($1), Instant Mashed Potatoes ($1), Rolls ($3), Frozen Pie ($4), Cool Whip ($1), Gingerale ($1), Margarine ($1)

Step 4. Prep is key.  Thaw the turkey for 4-5 days. Put the cool whip in the fridge and pre-bake your pie the night before. Cover pie loosely with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature.

Step 5.  Select a calm piano soundtrack to play while preparing dinner.  Use this track every holiday to invoke positive audio memories with your kids.  If stressful events are occurring, simply turn off the music until you get the situation under control.

Step 7. Set the table 40 minutes before the turkey is done.  Make sure the gingerale is chilling in the fridge and take out a stick of margarine so it is soft for the rolls and potatoes.

Step 6. Half an hour before your turkey is done, pop the pie and rolls in the oven to reheat.  Warm the gravy as you make your stuffing and potatoes.  Next, put the corn into a microwave safe bowl and heat for two minutes.  Slice up the cranberry sauce while you wait for the corn.

Step 7. Put all food on table, pray, then devour (about 10-15 minutes).  Clear empty plates and bring out dessert plates, pie, and thawed whip topping.  Eat until unable to move.

Step 8. Create a tradition.  Play a board game, watch a Christmas movie, light some candles.  Whatever you do, be consistent.  Children need traditions to memorialize the holiday.  Give them a tangible routine and build memories for years to come.

Trust me, you could spend a fortune and countless hours making a memorable dinner with homemade braided rolls and lattice pies.  This is simply an option that may be better suited to parents that are stressed, working, or low on funds.  No matter your situation, I wish you the best.  Happy holidays.