Monday, November 24, 2008

Saving $$ for Thanksgiving

The Internet's full of great food and entertainment ideas for Thanksgiving.

Try this one. (Tip Hero is brand new to me, but has terrific ideas for a wide range of subjects.)

My all-time favorite site, MoneySavingMom, has a huge list of recipes and food ideas: (And I could never ever drop the stuffing, as some readers suggest -- I loooove stuffing. I'd drop potatoes and gravy, but then the rest of the family would protest!)

Frugal Upstate has a very long list of recipes, separated by category similar to MSM:

If your time's limited, try Frugal first...MSM has a LOT of postings.

CheapHealthyGood has consistently good ideas, though you often have to wade through a mass to get what you want. For what it's worth, here goes:

* * * * * * * * * * * *
and now my own tips...

Buy your family's must-have foods when they're on sale -- not at full price. I stock up on things like black olives and cheesecake all year round.

Take your primary menu items from the sale flyer. If ham's on sale, that's what we have, sliced and fried, for Thanksgiving breakfast. If it's pork chops or bacon, they get substituted, instead.

Home-grown...yours, or just in the area? Use it! Old-timers took great pride in featuring their own harvest on the Thanksgiving menu. (It's cheaper and fresher, too...)

Buy napkins, tablecloths, candles on sale AFTER Thanksgiving -- for next Thanksgiving! (Or use fall-themed items leftover this year from the Halloween clearance aisle.)

Share the meal with friends. You make some dishes -- they make some. You get a variety of food. And overall, you save on the grand total.

Only make what your family REALLY likes. Skip any 'traditional' foods that you've included, just because you had them on the table as a child.

Bake a pie (or two) -- but freeze half after the meal's over. Don't waste a scrap of anything! Put any food you can't use in the next few days away in the freezer -- or give to someone -- before it goes stale. (I don't personally care for turkey's taste if it's just bunged in the freezer -- but I do like turkey chunks frozen in gravy.)

Thaw your turkey in the refrigerator. I'd never done this before -- but the sale turkey I bought late last week just wouldn't fit in the freezer, even for a few days. The meat dept. guy said to turn up the fridge temp slightly, and put the turkey in a pan on the bottom shelf. He said it would be ready for roasting, come Thanksgiving morning. Lo and behold, based on what I'm seeing...he's right!

Bake your own bread for stuffing. I used to buy a loaf or two of the cheapest bread -- but one year had a loaf of my own going stale. Epiphany: the stuffing made from this tasted amazing! You don't have to do much...and no fancy bread. (Plain white, wheat or a mix works best.) But it makes all the difference.

THE BEST STUFFING (heavy on the veggies!)

1 loaf bread
1 bunch celery, including green leaves, chopped
1-2 onions, chopped
1/4-1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
Any other vegetables your family likes -- carrots, peppers and so on
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage (from my herb garden -- substitute 3 tablespoons powdered)
2 tablespoons marjoram
1 tablespoon rosemary
1 teaspoon salt
7-10 grinds black pepper (or one teaspoon)
1 cube butter (don't substitute for this, anymore than the bread)
2 cups chicken broth

Melt the butter in a kettle or deep frying pan, dump in herbs and chopped veggies and saute. While this is going on, break up the bread with your hands. Add to the kettle, then gradually add broth until the mixture is moist. (You may or may not need all of the broth -- and yes, I use bouillon cubes, as well as homemade broth.)

For oyster stuffing, add 1 small can or 1 jar oysters, including juice, at the chicken broth stage. (You'll need 1 cup less broth.) A handful of chopped ham or bacon doesn't hurt.

Stuff your turkey -- or bake stuffing in a greased pan for 25-30 min. @ 350 degrees. Serves 4-6...with leftovers for a greedy writer/quilter later that night.

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