Store managers know that during the holidays people buy more food than usual, so many major grocery stores have a free-turkey offer with a fairly minimal purchase. Just pick the store that has the turkey you want as a freebie. I haven't paid for a turkey in three years.
If you are a smaller family, consider buying just a turkey breast to roast. While the per-pound cost is slightly higher, the overall cost will be lower, and you won't have waste. If you really want the "full bird" effect, perhaps get a large roasting chicken. Even a small turkey is hard to polish off with only a few mouths to eat up leftovers.
Think outside the box when it comes to turkey leftovers. Try different flavor profiles to spice up what you have on hand. For example, you can make: quick curry turkey salad; turkey tacos with a delicious fresh corn salsa; slow-cooked turkey to BBQ pulled-turkey sandwiches; Chinese turkey salad with mandarin oranges/slivered oranges/red onions/ginger dressing; green Thai turkey with curry paste/basil/coconut milk; or even a cold noodle bowl with turkey/peanut butter/salsa /sesame oil/green onion. New flavors like these will make you think of turkey in a whole new way.
Cranberry sauce: If you actually eat it, splurge and buy the cranberries fresh and make the sauce from scratch – it's super easy and is delicious. If you don't eat it, but can't stand the thought of Thanksgiving without it, buy canned: It goes on sale for about a buck around Thanksgiving time. If you don't really eat it, just skip it — a dollar saved is a buck and a half earned before taxes.
If you can bring yourself to buck tradition and serve something else altogether on Thanksgiving Day, you can load up on Thanksgiving goodies the day AFTER Thanksgiving really cheap. This is a great idea if you want to celebrate Thanksgiving on Saturday.
Speaking of after-Thanksgiving sales, buy a few non-perishable items right after Thanksgiving for next year if you have the pantry space: canned cranberry sauce, stuffing mix and canned corn, for example.
Frozen pies: If you are not much of a baker, you're in luck. Frozen pies usually go on sale around the holidays for more than 50 percent off. One might argue that you could perhaps make a better pie, but you probably can't make a cheaper (or easier) one.
Do a pre-holiday cleaning and fill boxes with clothes, toys and household goods to donate. Yes, it's a nice tax write-off, but this habit also curbs any overconsumption tendencies, even at the grocery store.
Holiday staples are usually cheapest during the holidays – it's the rest of the groceries that DON'T go on sale. The idea is that you'll buy inexpensive pumpkin puree but then load up the rest of your cart with "regular," more expensive groceries. The solution? Stock up ahead of time on your non-holiday staples, and buy only your holiday-necessary items in the weeks leading up to the holiday.