This is a post by new staff writer Pamela Britton-Baer, whose mission is to help fight your evil debt blob and get your personal finances in tip top shape.
Ahh, Thanksgiving. A time for sharing food with friends and family – and spending a small fortune in the process. But it doesn’t have to be that way. A few simple tips can keep your bird from banking the bank.
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Stick to your list
By far, the easiest way to break the bank is to stray from your shopping list. There’s a reason why grocery stores offer those cute little items near the cash register, and have big displays in the middle of aisles. They’re hoping to lure you into spending more money–impulse buying–and a lot of times they succeed. Don’t be tempted to overspend.
So, let’s take a look at our grocery list this week. Remember from our last Dollar Store recipe that we’re trying to keep to a budget of $12 a week.
All of the above could be found at the dollar store. They even have cranberries and canned yams. Pretty much everything you might need for Thanksgiving side dishes were on the shelves.
All of the above cost me six dollars. Half our Thanksgiving budget. This is why planning ahead is so important. Pick up the green beans a few weeks before the big day. Same deal for other items – like those cranberries. If you spread your shopping over a period of weeks you won’t go broke feeding your family.
Now, let’s talk the turkey – the most expensive part of your Thanksgiving dinner. You won’t be able to find the perfect bird at the grocery store, but fortunately, you can join Jenni-O or Butterball on Facebook and Twitter and take advantage of their money saving deals. They frequently give out coupons during the holidays for big discounts. The trick is to “like or “follow” them ahead of time in order to cash in on the, ahem, early bird discounts.
Don’t be hung up on buying a big bird. If you can’t afford a whole turkey opt for just the breasts instead. You won’t be paying for the whole bird, and if you’re only serving one, there’s no need for all the excess. If you’re really looking to save money, roast a whole chicken or game hens (even cheaper). Even a few of those $5-7 ready-to-eat roast chickens would work in a pinch.
Still, check your local dollar store. It’s not uncommon to find frozen chicken in their freezer section.
If you’re not hung up on having a bird for dinner, how about ham? Canned hams can be found for a few dollars at a regular store, small cans are found at the dollar store. Or perhaps a ham steak is more your thing? That’s another inexpensive option.
Don’t go overboard
There’s no reason to offer everything under the sun for Thanksgiving dinner. Stick to a few simple classics: mashed potatoes (cheap), candied yams (also cheap) and gravy. You’re not feeding a nation of starving children, just your family. Be realistic about how much food you need.
Whatever your turkey day plans may be, it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without green bean casserole. Here the way my family makes it and all using the ingredients above.
Green Bean Casserole
2 to 3 cups of chicken broth
¼ cup fried onions
One can mushroom soup
One cup of milk (Once again, I prefer half-and-half)
**1 package of French onions
**Bacon bits optional
Boil beans and dried onions in chicken broth. Let simmer for ten minutes. Drain but DO NOT throw out the chicken broth, not when you can put it aside, add some noodles and make a nice soup out of it later. Remember, it’s all about being frugal.
In a square casserole dish, combine mushroom soup with one cup of milk (or half-and-half). I actually like to pick up about 1/8 of a cup of my broth, too. Mix in the french fried onions** and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until bubbly.
**You may want to reserve some of your french fried onions so you can garnish the top of your casserole (usually done during last ten minutes of cooking), or, you could add some grated cheddar cheese to the top instead. I’ve also fried up some bacon and added the bits to my casseroles. Yum!
For those truly willing to buck the system, perhaps try eating out for dinner and having your dessert at home. Or, you could hold a Thanksgiving potluck. Have a big family get-together, and have people bring one dish to eat while you cook the turkey or the ham.
Thanksgiving dinner only has to be as expensive as you want it to be. Want a huge bash with all the trimmings? You’ll need to have all the cash, and then some. Want to give thanks for a good meal, a warm home, and your loving family? Stay true to your budget, and the purpose of the season.
Photo: Brown Eyed Baker