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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thanksgiving on a budget...

For us American’s Thanksgiving is just around the corner. I just love Thanksgiving and being able to have a house full of family and friends with the great smells going through a home, and who can forget the yummy food to eat as well!

With the economy the way it is right now, and so many of us being strapped for cash, Thanksgiving can also be a stressful time worrying about the costs. It would be nice to be able to fill our homes with the expensive dinner, the beautiful home furnishings and dream about having some great coffee for our guests from a Rancilio Silvia machine, but it’s just not possible today. Thankfully I’ve found some great money saving tips to have Thanksgiving on a budget.

#1. Go potluck. Not only is this a huge cost-saver, it’s also a great opportunity to hold a pre-Thanksgiving gathering. Invite participating potluck-ers over to create an ultimate Thanksgiving menu, complete with everyone’s favorite dishes. Then, assign a dish to each person (because no one needs three portions of candied yams!).

If potluck just isn’t an option, try these tricks to keep the meal gourmet, natural, and cost-effective:

#2. Buy produce, including herbs, at a farmer's market. This allows you to cut out the middleman mark-up, plus you’ll be supporting local agriculture. Talk to the farmers and see how the food was grown. If you buy eggs, dairy or meat at the farmer's market, you can ask how the animals were raised and whether they were organically grown or grass fed.

Extra Helpings: Hit the farmer’s market near the end of the day – the farmers will be eager to sell off their remaining inventory, putting you in a prime position to haggle for a better deal. The food will taste FRESH and delicious! Try a site like to find a farmer’s market near you.

#3. Focus on quality, not quantity. “Every Thanksgiving, my mother use to make enough food to feed an army,” notes Lisa. Leftovers are great, but going overboard often results in excess food being thrown away. If your family is small, try cooking just a turkey breast (with skin) on the bone instead of a whole bird. Or, if you are like Lisa, and LOVE dark meat, then try buying a half bird - you'll get one huge juicy breast and one thigh/leg.

#4. Get your bird from a local butcher. Butchers often carry high quality free-range or even wild turkey, and they’ll give you a fair price. They can also prepare the meat however you need it, allowing you to reduce waste.

Extra Helpings: Start frequenting your local butcher on a regular basis. Once you develop a personal relationship, you can ask him/her to alert you early of good deals.

#5. Make a list. Avoid spending money on extra and unneeded supplies by planning your menu and creating a shopping list before you head to the grocery store. Check off the items as you put them in your cart to eliminate any mid-recipe drama (“I could have sworn I bought poultry seasoning!”).

Extra Helpings: Try dividing your list into grocery store sections – produce, canned goods, dairy, etc. It saves loads of time and also reduces the chance that you’ll overlook something.

#6. Eat first, shop second. Never go to the grocery store on an empty stomach. Having something in your belly prevents impulse hunger buys that can bulk up your bill.

#7. Make your own stock. Don’t be intimidated by this one – it’s actually pretty simple, and significantly cheaper than the store-bought version. Use the scraps and bones from the bird and other chicken meals from earlier in the week, along with leftover vegetables and herbs that would otherwise be thrown away.

Extra Helpings: Cooking potatoes, yams or risotto in stock adds a delicious depth of flavor, and homemade stock, along with scraping from the roasting pan, yields the best gravy.

#8. Make it BYOB. Supplying alcohol for a crowd can get expensive, so don’t be bashful about asking guests to chip in by bringing a bottle of wine. Everyone appreciates the fact that you’re preparing dinner, and this way, they get to bring exactly what they like.

#9. Decorate with nature. There’s no need to purchase expensive centerpieces. Instead, look to your own backyard or a local park for colorful leaves and aromatic pinecones. Add in a few inexpensive gourds to create a one-of-a-kind seasonal display.

Extra Helpings: A homemade centerpiece is a perfect project to keep the kids entertained while they’re waiting for dinner to be served. They’ll be proud of their creation and you’ll have one more holiday memory to treasure.

#10. Make the meal from scratch. If ever there is a time to roll up your sleeves and dig in, Thanksgiving is it. Throw on your favorite CD, open up your cookbook and hop to it! Forgoing the boxed stuffing, instant potatoes and canned gravy will cost less money and taste better, plus, you’ll be able to control the ingredients.

Extra Helpings: Does cooking an entire Thanksgiving meal from scratch sound like a daunting task? Make it easier on yourself by enlisting help from family members. Little ones can set the table, while older kids and spouses/significant others can peel vegetables, measure spices and mash potatoes.

#11. Keep it SIMPLE! We’ve saved the most important tip for last. Don’t go crazy preparing an endless array of complex, time-consuming recipes. Opt for one extra-special side that you know everyone loves, and then focus on a select number of straightforward dishes (baked sweet potatoes, simple bread stuffing, corn niblets) that are appealing to the eye and the palate.

I hope some of these tips were helpful and you’ll find useful as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches. I hope you all have a wonderful and Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Credit to: Lisa & Christine, founders of Petite Palate gourmet baby food


Elaine said...

You have extended my budget for Thanksgiving shopping.

James Smith said...

Please remove the link to 1stincoffee found here:

Thank you.