The pressure to create the perfect Thanksgiving meal can escalate quickly. Lots of guests, housework and cooking an unfamiliar main dish can overwhelm many, causing us to overspend to make things “just right.”
Here are some expert tips on creating a budget dinner that would impress even Martha Stewart.
If you don’t have a proper carving set, an electric knife can cost you less money, says Davida Hogan, home editor at ConsumerSearch.com. “We discovered that you’re actually able to slice closer to the bird, so you actually get more meat off your bird with an electric knife.”
You also don’t need a fancy pie pan, she says. “Sure, there are really pretty things that come in great colors, but actually glass is the best conductor of heat.”
Instead, Hogan recommends a “plain, old basic Pyrex, and that only costs $10.”
Your table doesn’t need to look like Six Flags over Turkey. Keep adornments, if any, simple and stress-free.
“In terms of doing a centerpiece,” suggests Hogan, “you can go outside, gather some pine cones, get a metallic craft spray, spray some of the pine cones gold and put them in a glass bowl.”
Personal chef Amy Churchill suggests avoiding recipes with obscure herbs and instead make the ingredients you choose work double duty.
“There’s a lot of things that you have recipes for where they just need one ingredient and you never use it again,” she says. “So it helps to use recipes that all use the same ingredients, and it drives the cost down.”
Churchill, who runs À la Chef in Alpharetta, also recommends buying any spices from bulk bins and using the squeeze-tube herbs from supermarkets (they last longer in the fridge).
She even suggests dialing down the main dish if you don’t have many guests — turkey breasts or cutlets are just as festive as a whole bird, and less expensive.
Hogan points out another good reason to downsize: “Let’s say your family likes white meat. Maybe you don’t have to get a whole turkey; you just get the turkey breast, and that’s a lot cheaper because then you’re not paying for all the bones and the whole bird.”
If you’re worried your table won’t look like the cornucopia you’ve seen on the magazine covers, remember that planning for proper portions — and giving people smaller plates — will give both your wallet and your waistline a break.
“I know that it’s fun to eat,” Churchill says, but “I think portion size is something we need to be aware of and teach our kids about, too.”
Focusing on the reasons we come together on the holiday — meaningful conversation, an attitude of giving thanks and love of family and friends — can keep you from a downward spiral of spending, she notes.
“If we remember to be grateful for what we have, and not try to be the biggest or even the best, it helps keep things in perspective.”
(Sample some of Churchill’s double-duty recipes here.)
Also, check out food critic John Kessler’s Thanksgiving food oddities.
– By Lauren Davidson, Atlanta Bargain Hunter
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