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?



  1. These are great tips Sluggy! Thank you! This year I am going to be more practical and not make a million dishes.

  2. I have a sack of bread bits permanently in the freezer for stuffing - and if I don't have enough I use fresh bread. Secret? It tastes fabulous with fresh bread as it is nice and moist. We have homemade stuffing at least twice a year so it is a good way to prevent food waste.

  3. Are kids don't like turkey, so I was going to roast a chicken this year. But, I'm on call so I plan to pick up a rotisserie chicken & make some homemade sides to go with it. No one cares at my house. ;-) We're having mashed potatoes (husband will make), homemade mac & cheese, stuffing, & pumpkin pie from Costco. A winning combo of choices that everyone likes, plus I'll take our normal salad ingredients & add some craisins & nuts. Easy peasy

  4. Great tips, and I like the angle of flexibility. We sort of had our Thanksgiving this past Sunday:
    -roast turkey @ 59/lb
    -home made gravy from pan juiuces, flour, butter, salt, pepper, Bells seasoning
    -plain mashed potatoes $1.99/5 lb bag, used 1/2 bag
    -home made stuffing using Bells stufing (sale plus cpn), butter, onion, mushroom, celery, homemade turkey stock, Bell's seasoning, Jones sausage (sale)
    -homemade cran-orange relish: Aldi's 99 cent berries, sugar, 88 cent organic orange
    -roasted then mashed Butternut squash-plain
    -creamed peas & onions ($1 box faz creamed onions w/ 1/2 Aldi's bag fzn peas)
    -jumbo shrimp cocktail-Aldi's fzn raw, boiled, peeled myself, Aldi's sauce
    -homemade cherry pie using sale plus cpn crusts, 2 cans filling from Dollar Tree of all places!
    -homemade squash pie, again same crusts as aforementioned, canned squash from my pantry was 89 cents, eggs (DT), canned milk-sale plus cpn, sugar, spices

    2 feasted, 2 more will come Thurs. 1/2 the breast is fzn for future sandwiches, we've already made turjey tacos, carcass simmered in the crock pot, is now strained, cooling to be stored for a future soup

  5. spouse and I and neighbor are going out for seafood and sushi on thursday!

  6. I go to my step-daughter's and only need to bring stuffing, pecan pie,and was suppose to bring an apple pie but my dd will bring an apple cake instead. We had so much food leftover last year after feeding 12 adults and one child that twenty or more could have eaten. We are trying to scale back this year, we will see. Cheryl

  7. Denise, some really good ideas here. Thanks!

  8. Well as you know I make pie crusts 8 at a time and freeze them just like the pie crusts in the store. Potatoes are a throw away item in Idaho we can glean them for free, same with onions, you just stop and pick them by the side of the road. I store canned milk and rotate it and only buy it on close out. Picked up yams when they were on sale for 39cents a pound. I have never made green bean casserole but as it is new sons favorite I will break bad and buy those little onion thingies on the top with a coupon of course. I use Worcestershire sauce in almost everything so it is a staple at my house so are french cut green beans. I will have to buy the canned soup. If you purchase $50 worth of groceries at Albertsons here and I have a $10.00 a $50.00 purchase you can get a turkey for .39 a lb. Oh we also have many Turkey farms in Idaho and boy do they stink.I don't really need to buy $50.00 worth of anything right now, but my oil supply is really low and they are having a great sale at Albertsons so I will stock up and also buy my frozen shrimp for Christmas which is also on a great deal. I am set. Look at what you have taught me sluggy. You should be proud. Baked a pumpkin last week and pulled out the innards and froze them for pies. Grew my own squash and pumpkins because I am like that.

  9. For some reason Robb always wants broccoli/onion casserole. I think mainly to gross out his brother, but his brother won't even be here! Oh well. I love Brussel sprouts. And will insist we have them for this meal and Christmas.

  10. I was embarrassed to put Stovetop dressing and store-made turkey gravy in my shopping cart along with fixins' for green bean casserole and my frozen turkey. In my defense, my sister was going to have Thanksgiving this year until a family tragedy struck.

  11. I had planned to make cornbread dressing, but things have changed, so the $0.75 Stove Top may be on the menu. I will make giblet gravy with diced boiled eggs in the gravy. I have a can of jelled cranberry sauce and a bag of cranberries to cook. There is the dehydrated sweet potato plus lots of white potatoes. I will only cook and mash one. If I open green beans, the meal will be complete. Pumpkin pie is mandatory. I cooked four hens because I have no room in the freezer or refrigerator. Two went into the crock pots, cooked and two more stored at room temperature and wrapped up were still frozen when they went into the crockpots.

    Now to see if I even feel like cooking. Even though I can go to Birmingham for dinner, I may just stay home. Even if I go there for the food and company, I will still cook so I can have leftovers.

    I buy early, shop after holiday sales, use coupons, and get other things from the farm at spectacular prices.

    Two turkey were lost in the freezer that went bad!!!

    Idahoan has the best potato flakes in many flavors if anyone wants good and easy potatoes.


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