Making Thanksgiving dinner on a budget seems to get harder every year. This begs the question, “What do you really need to make a traditional Thanksgiving dinner?” As a society, we have become wrapped up in the trimmings and forgotten what Thanksgiving is all about. It isn’t about stuffing yourself until you drop. It’s about enjoying the holiday with family and friends. Sure, you want a nice traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Still, you can make a delicious Thanksgiving dinner on a budget. Here’s how.
As many of my readers know, I’m a vegetarian. I still serve Turkey for the rest of the family on Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is about tolerance, not opposition. Waiting until a week before Thanksgiving to buy your turkey pays. This is when turkeys go on sale. For the past few years the grocery stores have been putting Thanksgiving turkeys on sale for as little as 5.00 each. If I’m trying to make Thanksgiving Dinner on a budget, this really makes a huge difference.
Nothing could be cheaper than mashed potatoes. They cost about 3.00 a bag. A bag of potatoes, peeled and boiled, makes enough fluffy white mashed potatoes for a small army. Don’t know how to make them? Just peel the whole bag, boil them until soft, mash them up, add 2 cups of milk and ¼ cup of butter. Whip them fluffy. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve. Total cost for your budget Thanksgiving mashed potatoes? About 4.00.
Homemade gravy tastes so much better than gravy from a jar or mix (I’m told), plus it’s far cheaper. In fact, if you have a little corn starch or flour on hand, it’s free. Just drain the juices off your cooked turkey into a saucepan. Add about two cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat so the broth simmers. Mix together 1/8 cup flour or corn starch and ½ cup water until smooth. Pour it slowly into the broth, stirring constantly until the gravy thickens. Stop when it gets to be the right thickness. Not thick enough? Make more of the mixture and add gradually until it is. Now add salt and pepper to taste and you’re done. Cost? Zero to less than a dollar.
Sweet Potatoes / Yams
Don’t buy sweet potatoes in the can. You get more for your money buying whole sweet potatoes and cooking them yourself. You can make mashed sweet potatoes, just like you did the white potatoes. An alternative is to cook 6-8 sliced boiled sweet potatoes in the oven with ¼ cup brown sugar and a bag of mini marshmallows. Just mix it all up and bake it until brown and bubbly. The whole thing costs about 5.00.
Skip the canned cranberry sauce unless it’s on sale. A bag of cranberries costs a little over a dollar. Add 2 cups of sugar and the cut up sections of one orange. Cook over low heat until done. How do you know if it’s done? The cranberries will all start popping. Kids love to make this stuff! After they’ve all popped, cook until smooth and consistent. What a great inexpensive addition to your budget Thanksgiving dinner. Cost? Just 4.00.
So far your traditional Thanksgiving dinner on a budget has cost you about 19.00. Now on to the stuffing. It’s so easy to make stuffing. Plus it tastes way better and is well worth the effort. Who needs a mix? All you need is a cup of chopped onions, two cups of chopped celery, 4-6 cups of bread cubes or crumbs, a stick of melted butter and 2 cans of vegetable broth. Mix it all up. Add sage, onion powder, thyme, salt and pepper to taste. You can bake it in the turkey to add flavor. If you have a vegetarian in the house, leave some out of the turkey to bake in a casserole pan. Add walnuts for protein. Cost? About 4.00.
Since you are filling yourself with calorie laden goodies today, how about a nice salad to help your digestion along? Make your tossed salad just the way your family likes it. Any way you slice it, green salad will cost you less than 5.00 to make. What a nutritious addition to your traditional Thanksgiving meal on a budget.
You might expect me to say make homemade rolls here. You can if you like. I do this most of the time. They’ll cost you about 1.00 per dozen. Just use a bread dough recipe, shaped into balls. For the same price, you will also find brown and serve rolls on sale in the store. They have a wheat version now. For a few dollars more you can even buy those croissants from the dairy case. These two options will save you a little work this Thanksgiving. You deserve it. You’ve been working hard to meet the budget on this traditional Thanksgiving dinner.
I’m not sure why people get so carried away with pie. Some even buy it already made from a restaurant. Depending on how many pies you buy, this option can run you well over 40.00. For just about 1/4 the cost, you can make your 3 or 4 pies using pre-made or homemade pie crust and canned filling. Even pumpkin pie is very easy to make. Just follow the directions on the can. Be sure to use evaporated milk. It does make a difference. You can make the filling yourself, but it does cost more. This is supposed to be a budget Thanksgiving dinner.
What’s the grand total for your Traditional Thanksgiving dinner on a budget? Just 40.00. How many guests can you feed for 40.00? About ten, with leftovers for everyone to take home. That’s just 4.00 per person. Of course you can leave out the cranberry sauce for more savings. You can also add your own favorites and still come in well under 50.00. Considering that most people spend 100.00 or more on traditional Thanksgiving dinner each year, that’s quite a savings.