Thanksgiving: How can a holiday with no gifts be so expensive?
Before you make that bank-breaking supermarket trip, check out these tips for cutting back.
Potluck it. If you're planning to cook the entire meal yourself, then drop the Susie Homemaker routine and ask for help. When guests ask if they can bring something, say yes. Assign your kitchen-challenged cousin to bring the wine. That friend who's chronically late? Put her on dessert duty.
Freeze, please. Frozen turkey is a better value than fresh, and this weekend it'll be less than $1 a pound. When it's time to thaw it in the fridge, allow 24 hours for every 5 pounds of meat. You should also be able to score a few pumpkin pies for less than $5 apiece. They'll need 90 minutes in the oven and then two hours to chill, so make them the night before.
Season simply. Rub the turkey with olive or vegetable oil and season inside and out with salt and pepper. Stuff with chopped onions and a bunch or two of parsley and rosemary. Those two herbs will go a long way.
Simplify. Choose a few sides, but make plenty of each. This way, you can buy in bulk and still feel hospitable. If guests have a Thanksgiving must-have — lasagna or fish or whatever — then let them bring it.
Veg out. Your guests might go postal if you spring a Tofurkey on them, but you can probably get away with mostly meatless side dishes. If you're debating between mashed potatoes and another side — say, sausage stuffing or greens seasoned with pork — definitely go with the taters. A 5-pound bag costs about $5, and you'll use ingredients you probably already have, like milk and butter.
Two words: dollar store. Before you hit the "real" stores, check out the loot at your local dollar store. You'll find turkey basters, paper goods, candles, silk leaves, even drinks and canned foods.
Wine and dine. Try a Beaujolais Nouveau in your price range. The light-bodied red works with white and dark meats, so it's more efficient than buying a red and white to please everyone.
Decorate on a dime. Take a preemptive calorie-burning walk around your neighborhood. While you're at it, collect fallen pinecones to put in a bowl as a centerpiece, or have your kids make pinecone turkey place cards. For another centerpiece, layer red, yellow, orange and green legumes in a clear vase or hurricane and top with a candle. Not only are beans less than $2 a bag, but when you can rinse them off and make soup. Visit links.tampabay.com for links to instructions on how to make both decorations, and to leave your suggestions on how you're saving money this Thanksgiving.
Sources: epicurious.com, foodtv.com, nytimes.com