When you’re preparing food for that big family meal, you have only so much time and a limited amount of money to pull it off. Chances are you will be following your favorite recipes that may call for a ton of expensive ingredients and days in the kitchen. Perhaps it’s time for a change.
Keep your favorite turkey recipe. There’s only so many ways you can cook a turkey anyway; but here are a few tips to help you save a little time and money as you prepare some of those other dishes
1- Make a delicious beef roast
Add a can of Campbell’s Beefy Mushroom Soup and a half envelope of Lipton’s Onion Soup Mix to your roast. Toss in a few cups of water, then cover and bake at 350 degrees for 3 hours. The roast you cook will be tender, delicious, economical and it will make the gravy while you’re playing scrabble with the kids.
For a complete meal in a single roaster, cook your roast for 3 hours. Then add chunks of carrots and potatoes on one side. (a bag of frozen stew veggies is even quicker) Drain and add a large can of whole green beans on the other side. Add another cup of water to make sure there’s enough gravy. Bake for another hour or until veggies are done and flavorful.
2-Add Velveeta for a quick cheesy sauce
Velveeta has been around for years, and it’s still cheesy and versatile.
Use it to make great macaroni and cheese.
For a quick, cheap and cheesy broccoli casserole, add Velveeta to a bag of frozen broccoli florets. Season to taste and bake.
3- Add Chinese Five Spice to your food
If you’re tired of the same old flavors try adding Chinese Five Spice. It’s a mix of anise, cinnamon, star anise, cloves and ginger that can give chicken, fish or vegetables a quick hit of unique flavor. You can find it in the Asian foods section of your grocer at a price far less than you’d pay to buy each spice separately.
4- Make marinated tofu for your vegetarian guests
Surprise your vegetarian family and friends by adding tofu to the menu. The cost is usually less than 2 dollars a package; but remember tofu has no real flavor, so you have to add some. Here’s how:
Buy extra firm tofu.
A day or two ahead cut it into 1/2 inch cubes.
Put it in a container, then add a flavorful liquid, like orange or pineapple juice or teriyaki sauce.
You can also add chopped garlic and onions or whatever you choose.
Put a lid on the container.
The next day when the flavor is all soaked in, stir fry your tofu with vegetables or by itself.
Have a dish of seasoned tofu on the table for vegetarian guests to add to their vegetables as a protein source.
5- Buy bread crumbs for casseroles, don’t make them
Buttered breadcrumbs are a great topping for oven baked macaroni and cheese or your favorite casserole. You can use seasoned crumbs as breading for fried chicken or add them to meatloaf for a nice texture; but don’t make the breadcrumbs yourself.
You can buy bread crumbs for under two dollars. That’s less than the cost of a loaf of good bread, and all you have to do is open the container and sprinkle. That’s a lot quicker than toasting and pulverizing all that bread yourself.
6- Cut your potatoes into chunks before you boil them
Why boil your potatoes whole before you peel and mash them? Cut them into chunks first. You don’t even have to peel them. Peelings add flavor and vitamins, so leave them on. Your potatoes will boil much faster in smaller chunks and you can get on with your recipes. For quick, easy added mashed potato flavor, toss in some garlic powder while you’re boiling them.
7- Make your stuffing easier and faster
You don’t really have to toast all that bread and cut it into cubes for stuffing. Buy a big bag or two of pre-cubed bread stuffing mix. It’s often cheaper than bread and your dressing will be easier from start to finish. Add butter and your favorite seasonings, then pour in some Campbell’s Cream of Celery Soup. Your stuffing will have great flavor and texture too.
Make sure you use enough celery soup to moisten your dressing, but not enough too make it soupy.
8- Buy frozen yeast rolls
Do people still play those yeast games? You know, warming the yeast, kneading the dough, letting it rise, kneading it again…. Try frozen yeast rolls instead. They are so much easier. They take a lot less time and they are pretty good too. If your chef reputation is at stake, pretend you did all of the above.
9- Use celery seed instead of chopping fresh celery
Yes, fresh is best; but when you’ve got a food cooking deadline, step away from all that chopping. A little container of celery seed will give your food a hint of celery flavor. You can use it for your big meal; and you’ll have plenty left over. Try celery seed in potato salad, vegetables or any dish where you would normally use celery. You’ll save time and you won’t have to go celery shopping for a long time.
10- Don’t bake your cake from scratch
Put away the flour, eggs, milk…. all of that from-scratch stuff. Read these tips for moist, flavorful cakes the easy way.
Try Duncan Hines mix, it usually turns out moist with rich flavor
Reduce water by 1/4 cup
Increase oil by 1/4 cup (for a richer flavor try melted butter or margarine instead of oil)
Excess heat dries your cake; bake it at a temperature 25 degrees lower than the box recommends. You’ll have to check your baking progress more often, but remember, you were going to bake your cake from scratch, so you’ll still be saving time.
Personal baking experience
Wilton Cake Decorating Classes