Everyone wants a heritage turkey on Thanksgiving, but the reality is that few of us can afford it,
especially these past couple of years. There are painless ways of going thrifty this Thanksgiving,
however, from the very turkey you buy to the desserts you make.
1. Let’s get this one out of the way: don’t spend $159 on a 14-pound heritage bird. Instead, go to the local supermarket and choose an organic and free range turkey (the ideal term is “pasture-raised,” since “free range” is too loosely used by Big Organic these days). These can go for about $2 a pound and don’t just have a bunch of flavored oil pumped in them.
2. While you’re at the supermarket, pick up a few canned items—but only the right ones. Some things, like canned pumpkin, are most cost-effective and easy to use rather than acquiring ingredients from scratch.
3. But make the right things from scratch, like pie crusts, chicken stock, breadcrumbs, cranberry
sauce, and gravy. Many ready-made foods like these at the market are loaded with chemicals,
preservatives, fat, and high-fructose corn syrup (which has been linked to obesity and perpetuates our food industry’s toxic dependence on corn. Read more about it in Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and you’ll really appreciate Thanksgiving this year). Some things that come packaged and pretty just aren’t worth your money.
4. Compare prices between individual items and those in bulk. Buy appropriate items, like apples and potatoes, in bulk! If you don’t think you’ll use all of the ‘taters, split it with a friend.
5. Avoid the supermarket for much else. Buy veggies that are in season at local farmers markets for not only the best prices but the best prices for organic. As a plus, you help out your local economy, which is especially crucial these days.
6. Keep an eye out for coupons and weekly specials, especially as the day draws near, as that’s
typically when prices tend to drop.
7. If the recipe you’re going by is calling for things out of your pocket range, either switch recipes or cheat a little. Instead of buying a whole can of shortening when you only need two tablespoons, use butter. If three herbs adds up to too much, use only two, or none. Salt and pepper are the most important ones, but be sure not to add too much salt for the sake of the health of your diners.
8. There’s no shame in holding a potluck this Thanksgiving. Ask everyone to bring a small dish or a thrifty bottle of turkey-friendly wine like California Zinfandel.
Bio: Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education and performs research surrounding online degrees. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.
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