Families are ready to get back together after more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, but rising prices could cloud Thanksgiving plans.
Food prices have risen by about 13%, according to government reports, and bird flu has pushed up turkey prices. But there are ways to limit your spending without curbing your appetite for a hearty Thanksgiving meal.
Food economists suggest sticking to just four or five dishes and letting them shine. Spread the pain with a potluck and use your time and your freezer by cooking ahead and stocking up on sales.
Here are five ways to save on Thanksgiving dinner this year.
Doing the work yourself saves big when it comes to food prep.
Get a bunch of carrots and peel them yourself rather than those little bags of pre-cut baby carrots. Diced pancetta can be convenient, but you have to pay more. Chopping bacon only takes a few strokes with a sharp knife.
A whole butternut squash can usually feed five to six people, while pre-cubed butternut squash is more expensive per pound. If you end up with a lot more squash or carrots than expected, blanch or roast any excess. They can then be frozen and used for a future soup or salad.
Remember when everyone was learning how to bake bread during the pandemic? Making your own baked goods is much cheaper than buying them from the store.
For example, a package of rolls can cost up to $3. With simple pantry ingredients like flour, yeast, and salt, you can make twice as many rolls for a fraction of the price per roll. Did you know that you can also freeze the rolls ahead of time? They thaw well and can be reheated in the oven.
The stuffing can be made with stale bread which you can store in the freezer for weeks until ready to make.
Prices for frozen and refrigerated baked goods like pies, pies and turnovers rose 20.4%, according to federal reports, making a homemade version even more appealing.
The homemade cranberry sauce is impressive for the guests. They don’t need to know how ridiculously easy it is – the equivalent of boiling water. Simply pour fresh cranberries into a saucepan, add orange juice and ginger or cinnamon and let boil. It will thicken as it simmers. It can also be done weeks in advance.
- 16 ounces fresh cranberries, picked and rinsed
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- ½ cup of water
- ½ cup fresh orange juice
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
- Finely grated zest of 1 orange
Combine all ingredients in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium heat until berries open, about 10 minutes. Remove from fire. Skim the foam from the surface with a metal spoon and discard. Cool to room temperature. Refrigerate, covered, for up to 3 months.
According Butterball’s Thanksgiving Outlook Report, 85% of those planning the holidays in 2022 plan to serve the bird. But it still tends to be one of – if not the most expensive – parts of a Thanksgiving meal, and prices are on the rise.
Frozen turkey is cheaper than fresh. Frozen poultry is usually processed early in the year, before avian flu affects 2022 production.
Turkey parts such as thighs and sometimes turkey breast can be cheaper per pound. Consider a smaller turkey this year and focus on the sides. Or consider an alternative meat, such as roast chicken.
One of the best ways to fit turkey into your budget is to use it as a main ingredient in meals after Thanksgiving. Turn leftovers into soup-like dishes (save those bones for that), and you can freeze them for easy meals in the future.
Five things you need to know
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Florida agriculture department publishes a monthly guide to what’s in season that you can use to help spot sales. Thanksgiving favorites of squash, corn and snap beans are in season. And salad-friendly crops to look for include avocado, bell pepper, cucumber, mushrooms, and tomatoes.
The Fresh From Florida website has a recipe for eggplant and roasted vegetables available in season that would make a lovely side dish.
- 1 Florida eggplant, large dice
- 1 zucchini, large dice
- 1 yellow squash, large dice
- 1 pint of cherry tomatoes
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 to 6 basil leaves, torn
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Prepare all the ingredients as indicated above. In a baking dish, add the cherry tomatoes, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper; toss to coat and set aside. In a separate baking dish, add all remaining ingredients, 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, and salt and pepper. Do not add the basil at this stage. Place both pans in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until desired tenderness. Remove pans and combine ingredients in a bowl. Add the torn basil leaves.
Instead of taking on all the responsibility for the celebration, go for a potluck and ask guests to bring a side like a salad, mashed potatoes, or dessert.
This relieves the host of financial burden and helps focus on giving thanks for friends and family reuniting.
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