If the idea of hosting a Thanksgiving meal seems great but your wallet protests, a few key strategies can easily bring your family and friends together for the holidays without creating an economic crisis.
BEG OR BORROW, BUT DON’T STEAL
Before the big day, take inventory of what you have (plates, flatware, pots and pans and glassware) and then make a list of what you may need.Don’t be afraid to ask. Hit up friends and family who are heading out of town. You know they won’t be using their plates and serving dishes during the holiday.
SCOPING OUT THE LAND
Not every kitchen is ideal for preparing a large meal, especially your dorm kitchen, so you’ll need to have a plan. Start by making desserts or casseroles in advance — they can keep in the refrigerator for days.
Also, don’t overlook slow cookers. They are great for preparing sweet potatoes or stuffing. If you don’t have one, ask to borrow a friend’s. Another option would be to purchase side dishes and dessert from a restaurant or catering company for half the cost of making it from scratch. Our very own Aramark Dining Services has a list of wonderful Thanksgiving selections.
Tony Meek, director of Food Services, said orders for Thanksgiving meals will be accepted until Nov. 25. However, dishes are not payable through your meal plans. Everyone, students included, must pay by cash or charge.
Kitchen tip: To increase counter space, place a cutting board across the top of the sink.
WHAT’S ON THE MENU
Just because you’re planning a budget-friendly Thanksgiving doesn’t mean you should skimp on family favorites. Let’s begin with the star of the show, the turkey. Always consider the number of people you are feeding and whether you want plenty of leftovers before you buy your turkey.
If you’re hosting a small group, buying a whole turkey may not be necessary. Instead, opt for turkey breast halves or even a chicken. These selections are often a fraction of the price of a whole turkey and will save on cooking time. Look online at your neighborhood grocer for deals and steals.
If you’re set on making your own sides for Thanksgiving, potatoes are always cheap and easy. Usually, a 5-pound bag of Russets will do the trick. Russets are your best bet for everyone’s favorite side because they soak up whatever flavors you throw at them.
Kitchen tip: Use ranch dressing instead of seasonings and cream to flavor your potatoes.
Forgo the traditional green bean casserole and instead pair frozen or canned spinach with bacon. Another cost-friendly side dish is canned or frozen corn. Epicurious.com provides more than 50 recipes for preparing corn dishes with ingredients found in your pantry.
Now for the stuffing, or dressing, whichever you prefer. When it comes to dressing or stuffing, nothing beats homemade. This is one aspect of Thanksgiving dinner that you want done right.
Call Mom or Aunt Mable for the recipe for their famous dressing. You will often find that the ingredients are inexpensive, but often many ingredients are required. You can afford to splurge on ingredients for your mom’s favorite stuffing if you have already saved on the turkey and side dishes.
Just keep in mind that sage is sage — don’t waste your money on name-brand spices.
Last, the best way to finish a Thanksgiving meal is with a nice slice of sweet potato pie or pumpkin pie. If you are springing for the entire Thanksgiving meal, ask guests to bring a dessert. Thanksgiving potlucks are a great way to share the big feast (and the cost) with family and friends.
It’s a win-win all the way around. However, if you’re set on preparing the entire meal yourself, mix homemade with store-bought items. Buy the pie from the store, but whip up homemade whipped cream and add a dash of cinnamon for a festive touch.
Enjoy the comforts of Thanksgiving without breaking the bank. Now, that is something that we can all be thankful for. Remember that the most important aspect of Thanksgiving isn’t what you are serving, but rather who you are serving, so surround yourself with the people you care about most.