Thanksgiving has gotten a bad reputation as being a holiday of excess — too much to eat, too much to drink, and too many relatives. It doesn't have to be that way.

Thanksgiving has gotten a bad reputation as being a holiday of excess — too much to eat, too much to drink, and too many relatives. It doesn't have to be that way.

Plan ahead and throw a great Thanksgiving spread that's just the right size for everyone's appetite and your budget. Your relatives? That's a different story.

Look for turkey deals from grocery and nongrocery stores and when you find a bargain, get a bird and throw it in the freezer. By the way, there's no law that forces you to make a turkey for Thanksgiving so why not switch it up this year with a ham or roast beef or even a roast duck?

Instead of going all out with 10 side dishes and six desserts and snacks and appetizers and four different drinks, pare it down to the basic, classic Thanksgiving dishes: a roast, favorite sides, rolls, and a couple of desserts. Think quality instead of quantity. This will make planning and budgeting that much easier.

Once you've got your menu planned, do your research and find all the coupons and sales you can before you venture to the store. Then, armed with your info, write up a detailed shopping list and stick to it once you hit the aisles.

When you get down to it, roast turkey is all well and good, but it's the sides people love. No need to get fancy — stick with seasonal vegetables and buy in bulk (there's a reason sweet potatoes and pumpkin are Thanksgiving standards).

Potlucks are a hallowed Thanksgiving tradition and there's no shame in asking guests to bring a dish. Or dishes, if you fear you'll run out of plates and serving platters. To maintain menu balance, assign dishes so that not everyone shows up with a pumpkin pie.

That's all you need for wine, if wine is your beverage of choice. The thing is, because a traditional roast turkey plus various vegetables presents a variety of flavors, there is not "right" Thanksgiving wine. Dry whites, like a sauvignon blanc, often work well, as do lighter reds, like a gamay or a pinot noir. Or play mixologist and come up with your own Thanksgiving house specialty drink based on seasonally-appropriate cranberry juice, warm up some apple cider, or mull some red wine.