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Beating Thanksgiving Sticker Shock

The price of your average turkey has gone up by a third since last Thanksgiving - and that's not even including all those side dishes you love.

But there are ways to save money on your holiday feast - you can even get turkeys for free - if you follow the advice given by All You magazine Senior Editor Amy Goodman on "The Early Show" Friday.

Turkeys cost about $1.05 per pound this year, according to The Food Institute.

Goodman says the average weight of turkeys purchased for Thanksgiving is 16 pounds, so a 16-pound turkey would cost $16.80, compared with $12.64 a year ago.

That's because of a whopping 56 percent increase in the cost of bird feed, the institute says. Also factoring into the increase: There are 2 percent fewer turkeys being produced -- 242 million.

So what's a shopper to do? Goodman says -- shop smart!

COMBINE COUPONS: Big poultry companies like Butterball offer printable coupons on their website. Combine these with deals from supermarkets to get more turkey for less dough.

BUY WHAT YOU NEED. A turkey breast is pricier per pound, but you get more meat and less bone than on a regular bird-and, if you're cooking for a small crowd, you'll waste less.

FROZEN TURKEYS ARE CHEAPER THAN FRESH ONES, but the quality is usually good. Be forewarned, though: frozen turkeys can take four or five days to defrost, so advance planning is crucial.

SHOP AROUND: At Stop & Shop, the price of a frozen turkey is $.99/lb, while a fresh one is $1.49/lb. Both are marked down right now. At Fresh Direct, fresh is $1.99/lb and frozen is $1.59, so the difference seems to be about $.50/lb-a significant difference when you're talking about a 16-lb bird.

What about a kosher turkey

If you want to get a slightly fancier bird, but don't want to pay a lot more, consider buying a kosher one. While pricier than a conventional turkey, they're less expensive than organic or heritage turkeys. Because kosher turkeys are salted, many people prefer the flavor, and you save yourself the trouble of brining a regular bird.

What other items are costly this year?

Menu items for a classic Thanksgiving dinner including turkey, stuffing, cranberries, pumpkin pie and all the basic trimmings increased about 1.3 percent in price this year, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Yellow onions are up 22.7 percent; fresh sweet potatoes, up 22.6 percent; and white potatoes, up by about 17 percent. Meanwhile, other staples are costing less: fresh celery, canned apples are down 12.3 percent, and canned green beans and corn and fresh cranberries also decreased.

The key is to be a smart shopper. Supermarkets want you to buy all of your Thanksgiving ingredients with them, so they'll offer great deals on the centerpiece of the meal-the bird. Check newspaper circulars and the web to see who will give you the most bang for your buck...

There are ways to get a free turkey?

Your local grocery chain may offer a free turkey if you spend a certain amount of money through their loyalty card.

For example, at Shop Rite, you need to spend $300 between Oct. 17 and Nov. 25, and you'll get a free turkey.

If you're experiencing financial hardship, some local United Way chapters are giving out turkeys, and same story for the Boys and Girls club-some groups are giving them out. The Salvation Army does free Thanksgiving meals at some of their locations, but they don't hand out birds.

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