Thanksgiving is great, but it can come with a big price tag. The investment in ingredients – not to mention time and energy – can seem like a lot. But there are ways to cut costs for the big feast.
Here are my top money-saving techniques for Thanksgiving:
- Don’t be afraid of a potluck. Let everyone contribute something, even if it’s just napkins or soda. But be sure to manage what folks bring. You don’t want to end up with 12 versions of Aunt Ruthie’s horseradish-Jell-O mold (though one dish of it is fine, even if no one eats it; remember, it’s probably an important memory to some).
- Use a supermarket brand turkey. I’m a huge fan of fresh local turkeys, but the cost can break the bank. If cash is tight, house-brand turkeys are usually under a dollar a pound. And you’re going to smother it in gravy anyway. (If you’re buying a frozen turkey, don’t delay. Turkeys take one day for every three to four pounds of bird, so a 20 pounder is going to take five days to thaw).
- Buy a turkey breast. If no one in your house eats the dark meat, just buy a turkey breast. The cost is more per pound, but you’ll only be buying what you eat, which means less food waste – that’s big savings for everyone.
- Modify your recipes. Don’t buy thyme, sage and rosemary to use in the stuffing and gravy – pick one and use it in your potato casserole, too. Ditto with spices: If your pumpkin pie recipe calls for five spices, pick just two that you have on hand. Cinnamon is a must but you could use ginger, nutmeg, cloves or allspice as your other and cut the need to invest $20 in additional jars. If you’re using cream in a potato gratin dish, use cream instead of evaporated milk in your pumpkin pie and don’t bother with whipped cream in a can – just buy a little more cream.
The following is a “budget” pumpkin pie with an all-vegetable shortening crust and just two spices. But it’s every bit as delicious as any other pie.
SPICED PUMPKIN PIE
Makes 8 servings
This is the simplest crust ever. It doesn’t need sugar because the filling is so sweet.
11/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chilled vegetable shortening
3 to 4 tablespoons ice water
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
11/4 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon cloves, nutmeg or ginger
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin (not pie filling)
3 large eggs
1 cup whipping cream
To make crust: Combine flour and salt in a food processor or a bowl. Add shortening. Mix in using on/off turns or with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 3 tablespoons water. Toss to combine. If mixture seems dry, add another tablespoon water. Gather dough into a ball. Flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 3 days.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a 12-inch round. Fit into a deep-dish pie pan. Trim edges to 1 inch. Crimp to make a high-standing crust. Prick all over with the tines of a fork.
Line dough with foil. Fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake until set, about 10 minutes. Remove foil and beans. Bake until pale golden, about 10 minutes longer. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
To make filling: Whisk all ingredients until well blended. Pour into crust. Bake until crust is just set in the center, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.