Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thanksgiving Hacks.....Thinking Outside the Box of Stuffing

Here's just a few thoughts on Frugal Thanksgiving Hacks.....either time or money hacks I've used.

While frugal money hacks save you money, the frugal time hacks may not save you anything monetary but will preserve your energy and good humor when Uncle Fred starts his political ranting or Cousin Tiffany drinks too much and starts insulting or coming on to your husband at the dinner table.


* You don't need to buy pre-cubed stale bread for stuffing.  Just start saving the heels of your loaves of bread or rolls/buns that go stale in a bag in your freezer for a few months ahead of Thanksgiving Day.  By the time you are ready to make stuffing that bag will be overflowing with bread you would have just thrown out.  And a bonus time saver, you won't have to dry it out or toast it as it's already stale.  Have too much stale bread to use up?  Try making a bread pudding for an alternative to pumpkin pie for those who don't like pie(Who doesn't like pie anyway?lol).  Or use that extra stale bread for a french toast casserole Thanksgiving morning that you make ahead the night before.

Yeah to avoiding that bready food waste too!

*  Making a dish you only make at the Holidays and it calls for an ingredient you don't keep on hand? IE-Green Bean Casserole.....Worcestershire sauce is so expensive and you only need a dash of it so why buy a bottle of it if the only time you need it is once a year for this dish?
Try a homemade version of Worcestershire sauce with ingredients already in your pantry.......soy sauce, lemon juice, sugar makes an adequate substitution without forking over $5 or so on a bottle of the pre-made stuff, especially if it's just an ingredient and not having to stand alone as a flavor.

*  Shop ahead.  You know Thanksgiving comes around every year, right?  So buy items you'll be needing ahead of time and don't wait for November to roll around to acquire ingredients.  This is especially good advice is you are on a limited food budget each month.  By taking a small amount out of each month's food budget and spreading the acquiring of Holiday foods throughout the year it will be easier to stay within your budget in November/December.  It's sort of like saving for Christmas presents in a Christmas Club throughout the year but for food.

Evaporated milk for pumpkin/sweet potato pies?  I bought mine in October when a sale combined with a coupon made it .50¢ a can.  The cheapest it is here in November is .75¢ can(if there is a coupon out to combine with a sale price).
Bell's seasoning(my poultry seasoning of choice)was bought at the Surplus Grocery Outlet for .39¢ a box last year(this stuff costs $4+ in the grocery store here)
I buy my cranberry "glop" after the Holidays when it goes on clearance here....last year I picked some up for .39¢ a can.  And yes, it's just as good a year from now as it would be if i bought a can the week before Thanksgiving.  My turkey breasts were bought last Feb. when they were on sale for .99¢ lb.  Turkey breasts typically don't go on sale cheaper than whole turkeys.  While this was a good price I combined it with getting free $ Catalinas for buying other items and using the Catalinas to purchase the turkey breasts.

*  Substitutions.  Pumpkin pie is typically the "go-to" Thanksgiving pie(unless you don't care for it).
But why not try another squash type pie if that squash is less expensive.  While canned pumpkin has come down in price a few years back there was a shortage and the prices were high for this vital ingredient.  So try a sweet potato pie, or a butternut squash pie!  All are Winter squashes and with the right spices taste very much like pumpkin when cooked into a pie.  Sweet potatoes are a lot cheaper fresh than canned pumpkin puree lb. per lb.  Other than the shade of orange being a bit different I bet nobody at your table will know it's not pumpkin unless you tell them.  ;-)

*  Be flexible and buy cheaper foods.  In order to keep the cost of your Thanksgiving meal down, be flexible on what you serve.  Why buy asparagus in the Fall when it's an out of season veggie in most parts of the country and quite pricey?
Buy and serve a seasonal veggie instead.  Roast some root vegetables if those are cheaper in cost.
Serving basic carrots and potatoes will save you money but by "gussying" them up your meal can still feel like a special event.   Add cheese, garlic, spices or something else you have on hand to those taters.  Turn your potatoes into a special dish like Twice Baked or Duchess Potatoes instead of plain old Mashed Potatoes.  Boring carrots is all you can afford?  Make a glaze of ginger and brown sugar or orange juice, butter and sugar to make them fancy at a small cost.
If all you can afford is boxed Stove Top Stuffing(or you don't have time to make a proper stuffing from scratch)this can be easily spiced up to taste more like home made--don't add the whole seasoning packet(as it has too much sodium)and then add stock or both and dried herbs you have on hand and any leftover bread or cornbread you may have, torn into small bits.  Add in dried fruits, nuts, leftover breakfast sausage, etc. to make it special.

*  If you are having guests for dinner request that they make and bring a dish.  If they can't cook then have them bring beverages, something else they can purchase like whipped cream for the pie, pre-made dip and raw veggies, a heat and eat appetizer, etc.
Doing this not only saves you time but money in that you don't have to buy and make every dish for Thanksgiving

*  Don't make so much food!  Americans typically cook and serve way more food than is necessary at the Holidays.  When did Thanksgiving stop being a time to gather with friends/family and savor your Blessings in Life to becoming a Day of gluttony?
Just scale back the amount you cook and serve.  Or scale back how many side dishes you make.  Why make that big bowl of "insert name of food nobody really eats here" just because it's a "tradition" if you know you'll be throwing the bulk of it into the trash in a week?
Leftovers are great to have at Thanksgiving time but don't over buy and cook.
This is a money AND a time savings measure too.

FRUGAL TIME HACKS--While making fresh always tastes better, buy convenience foods which will save you time and not taste significantly different or be of lesser quality will save your sanity. Everyone has to decide for themselves which items this encompass. Someone may think Sara Lee or Mrs. Smith or Marie Callender makes a pie that taste as good as their mom's or Aunt Edna's home made type and someone else may think that's a load of hooey.

If nothing is as good as homemade to you but you need the Time Hack of convenience foods then spend a bit of time/money on improving said food.  Store bought pumpkin pie?  Either sprinkle fresh grated cinnamon on it or make real whipped cream to top it.
Store bought rolls?  Make an easy and tasty compound butter to spread on them and no one will be any the wiser.
The same goes for mashed Potatoes if you buy a dehydrated potato product to save time.  Just put a bunch of enhancers into them to make them almost as tasty as homemade.

So over to all of you--
How do you keep the cost and scale of Thanksgiving dinner manageable?
What convenience foods do you utilize at this time of year to save your sanity?
Are there any foods you "have to" serve at this time of year?


Monday, November 23, 2015

This Week on the Dining Table

It's the "Will You Look At That!" Edition--

This was a potted hyacinth I bought last Easter for myself.  I love the smell of hyacinth.  It's one of my all-time favorite flower scents after gardenia.  After they bloom and die back I never can get the bulbs to bloom again if I plant them outside.
I didn't replant these but had thought the chipmunks that plague our yard had dug them up(as I left this pot on the back deck)and ate the bulbs this Summer.
Then in late Sept. I noticed green shots coming up out of the pot and it was the hyacinth bulbs growing again!  I brought the pot inside when it turned cold later that month, watered it regularly and put it by a window and week by week we noticed the green shoots getting taller.

And voila!.....they put out flowers last week!!  Of course the stalks are suppose to be about 8 inches taller before they flower but I will take this anyway. lolz
When the blooms died back the pot will go back outside in the deep freeze that is our yard now before bringing it back in about February to try to get it to bloom again.

Have you had any luck growing perennial bulbs?

Onward to the meal planning!

Here's what was planned last week.......

1. Sunday--meatloaf, sweet potato fries, Brussels sprouts
2. Monday--Italian Torta, Caeser Salad
3. Tuesday--Pecan Chicken, Mixed Veggies
4. Wednesday--Kielbasa on Rolls, green beans
5. Thursday--Rockfish, Cauliflower, Garlic mashed potatoes
6. Friday--Guinness Beef Stew
7. Saturday--Leftovers

And this is what actually happened--

1. Sunday--meatloaf, sweet potato fries, Brussels sprouts
2. Monday--Italian Torta
3. Tuesday--Leftovers(Hubs had tacos, I had chicken soup)
4. Wednesday--Kielbasa on Rolls, baked beans
5. Thursday--Guinness Beef Stew
6. Friday--Rockfish, Green Beans, Garlic mashed potatoes
7. Saturday--Hamburger on roll(We had Chinese out for lunch w/lots of veggies)

I had enough leftover roast chicken to make a small pot of chicken soup so I had that Tuesday for dinner and the Pecan Chicken got pulled from rotation.

The bag of frozen Rock fish we bought at that Grocery Outlet last month was a bust.  The "lemon pepper" marianate it was in wasn't peppery at ALL and the lemon part was a sort of "lemon flavored sludge" coating the top of the fillets.  After baking the fish I scraped the sludge off of mine before eating it after tasting it the way it came.  It was a good price, the product was fine but the marinade was far from edible.  We have 2 more pieces of this fish to cook but will be scraping the marinade off before cooking next time and we won't be looking for this product again. 8-(

The Italian tortas(think pizza pot pie)were so-so as well.  It was something different but I won't go out of my way to buy these again, unless they are very inexpensive(as these were).

As for my grocery spending last week......Target, the Bread Outlet to stock up, 2 small trips to Weis for loss leaders and Turkey day needs, and a few things bought at Ollies(Good Stuff Cheap!)for a total this week of $63.51 OOP.   Month to date is $243.88 spent for November.  $28.42 of that spending was for food bank donations which I am done buying for this load.
I still have $56.12 left in the $300 food budget for the month.

Leftovers going into this week.... Chicken Soup, Beef Stew, Meatloaf, Baked Beans, Brussel Sprouts, Green Beans.

Here is this week's "food plan"--

1. Sunday--Leftover Meatloaf, G Beans, B Sprouts, Potatoes
2. Monday--Leftovers(chicken soup/beef stew) or Breakfast for Dinner
3. Tuesday--Eating Out
4. Wednesday--Chili(from Freezer)or Leftover soup and/or stew or ?
5. Thursday--Turkey Dinner
6. Friday--Pecan Chicken, Corn Casserole, Cauliflower
7. Saturday--Leftover Turkey Day meal

This week will be a hodge-podge of meals(1 night Eating Out, Leftovers 3 nights, 1 new meal)with Thanksgiving Dinner thrown into the mix.  Gotta eat all those Leftovers before Thursday to make room for all those Thanksgiving leftovers, am I right? lolz

What I need to buy for this menu?.........still need to buy celery, carrots and rutabaga for Thanksgiving Dinner, which will be bought later today.

What is getting fixed and served at your house this week?

Was last week's plan successful, did you go off plan or did you not even plan what was going to be eaten last week?

Any great deals on food at your stores this week?


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Giveaway Winner

And the Winner is.........

KIM from "Out My Window" Blog!

I am so confused, is that a comment?

Congratulations Kim!
Please email me your mailing address so I can get this out to you asap.

And thank you to everyone else who entered and comes back here to read my pitiful scribblings every day.

One more Giveaway coming up for 2015 so stay tuned!  8-)