Thanksgiving Day will be here in a bit over two weeks for those of us in the U.S. It is traditional a day of family gatherings and EXCESS!
People tend to go really over board. Perfection is strived for. Lots of money is spent.
Here is a novel thought - KEEP IT SIMPLE!
Know your pantry and your freezer and SHOP it first!
Plan a nice yet simple menu.
Know how many people you are planning to serve.
If you shop - shop for loss leaders - those rock bottom deals!
Have others pitch-in something. Maybe a dessert, rolls, drinks, a favorite side dish, a salad, etc.
Keep DRINKS simple. Stick with water, tea, coffee, maybe lemonade, punch. or Kool-aid for the kids. If people are expecting alcohol, supply one type, and let others bring what they want. Wine and hard liquor can be very expensive.
Stick to basic and simple foods, and make plenty. We all like those leftovers over the long (shopping) weekend.
The day should be more about savoring "the moments and the people" than the food.
Take lots of pictures, and sit back and listen and watch. Pay attention to the expressions and laughter of others, enjoy their company - you don't know if you will ever have that experience again.
You can use basic ingredients from your pantry and jazz them up a bit if so desired. Some people are just NOT happy with simple - so just get creative.
A pretty table can make simple things lovely!
CRANBERRIES - can be made into a salad by adding cut up oranges and walnuts (this is something I like - it really is good).
You can mix cranberries with apples and blend into a pie or crisp. A taste of sweet and tart.
SQUASH - mix zucchini with eggs, cheese, and bread crumbs for a casserole/quiche. Roast chunks of squash of various types.
Stuffed squash is yummy and filling (could cut back on other dishes).
VEGGIES - roast them. Carrots, onions, potatoes, squash, sweet potatoes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, you name it. Late garden crops make a lovely harvest dish.
You can also stretch veggies by mixing with rice or orzo and maybe adding some 'cream of' soup for a nice casserole.
Make VEGGIE pigs in a blanket!! Instead of the standard sausage or hotdogs - use steamed asparagus or strips of steamed carrots in the center of your 'blanket'. Fun, different and yummy.
GREEN BEANS - plain or with baby potatoes or mixed with corn. Green bean casserole, scalloped, oh so many options.
CORN - plain or mixed with lima beans (succotash), or blend with cornbread mix into a casserole/pudding.
MEAT - traditionally we have turkey and/or ham. Both are wonderful and provide a great deal of leftovers that can be utilized in many additional meals in various ways.
Perhaps buy a turkey breast instead of a whole turkey and make lovely open face turkey sandwiches with mashed potatoes and gravy. We like to make what we call Manhattan's after turkey day. A warm turkey sandwich, cut in half and separated - mashed potatoes in the center the halves, all covered with gravy! One of my favorite things.
A large ham steak will provide a nice dinner for 2 - 4 people.
Bake or roast a chicken. Make a roast. Make a special ethnic dish.
Dinner doesn't have to be about turkey or ham. Use what you HAVE and what you can AFFORD!
IF you can find a turkey for a great price - remember that it is healthy and cheaper than lunchmeat!!
DESSERTS - can be simple and frugal and still quite a treat. Make a dump cake - quite easy. Brownies or cookies are always good. Fancy Jell-O salads are inexpensive. We do like traditional desserts like pecan pie and cheesecake - but if I don't have the ingredients on hand - I will make something different (plus we really don't need to calories!). Pumpkin pie is always a favorite at this time of year for many people - do it from scratch or go semi-homemade (canned filling all jazzed up).
DRESSING/STUFFING - I guess it depends on where you live as to what you call it! Many people go simple with Stove Top stuffing. You can add turkey broth and other ingredients to jazz it up. I make my own - so simple and easy. Dried bread, celery, onions, broth, seasoning and an egg or two. Costs virtually nothing to make and tastes like heaven!!!
**watch for mark downs on bread and dry ahead of time, get deals on celery and onions - super cheap this time of year.**
ABSOLUTELY NOTHING says you have to serve what everyone else is serving. Step out of the 'holiday' box and do what you want and what you can afford.
Go and check your pantry this week!! Set aside the items you can use for your Thanksgiving dinner. Make your menu now!! Shop sales IF you need additional ingredients.
Have fun and enjoy the holiday without going into debt or using money better spent on other things.
*Remember Christmas is just around the corner**
MY simple menu:
Turkey (.49/lb.) and ham - both will make lots of other meals
Green bean casserole
Mashed potatoes and gravy
Creamy Jell-O/fruit/nut salad
Cherry/pineapple dump cake
This is a simple menu - but not an everyday menu. Everyone will be happy and full! Very little money spent - most ingredients are in the pantry already!
I hope this gives you something to think about and some ideas that you can use.
Keep it simple, keep it frugal, and most of all - ENJOY FAMILY AND FRIENDS!