There have been several times in my life when Thanksgiving came around and I was not financially prepared. I’m referring to when I was in college, or when my children were born and I had to spend money on diapers versus putting on a great Thanksgiving dinner, or post-divorce when every penny was used to make sure the children were taken care of, or when the boiler in the house decided to call it quits and I had to spend $7,000 the week before Thanksgiving to get it fixed!

During these times I perfected what I call Thanksgiving hacks – meaning ways to get Thanksgiving dinner prepared for friends and family – many of them….at a fraction of the cost using simple modifications.

A few of my favorite Thanksgiving hacks include skipping the huge turkey and just buying a large turkey breast, or buying a bunch of turkey legs – which looks so cool on a platter!!  And of course – mashed potatoes!!

A turkey breast will roast in the oven for about 90 minutes – then slice and add gravy on top and voila – the main course is done! This particular hack costs approximately one-third the price versus buying a whole turkey – and it cooks in about 90 minutes versus 6 to 8 hours for a whole bird!

My other favorite hack is the turkey leg – think Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm!  Buy about 12-15 turkey legs for a party of 8 people and simply use a rack or spread out in a pan with salt, pepper and olive oil and roast in the oven for about 35-45 minutes.  Depending on the size – you will need to just follow the directions on the package.  I can tell you that it makes an incredible centerpiece and is always a conversation starter – that platter of turkey legs just looks so cool!

Next up is mashed potatoes – because potatoes are versatile and economical – I use a large dutch oven pot to cook these beauties.  Start with a 5-pound bag of potatoes and quarter each potato – add to the dutch oven pot and fill with water leaving about 2 inches from the rim.  Turn on heat to high – then boil for about an hour.  Drain the cooked potatoes and return to the dutch oven, add garlic, salt, and pepper to taste along with 1 cup of milk (or even better buttermilk!) along with a stick of Horizon unsalted butter – mash it all together and you’re pretty much done!  Make sure you have some pumpkin pie on hand – your local Albertson’s or Ralph’s both carry great pies for the holidays.  Don’t forget to use the 99 cents only stores for your tablescape and Thanksgiving is served!