The holidays are just around the corner and with them come those expensive celebration meals. However, there are some deals if you only seek them out.
Of course, you have to consider your family’s personal tastes and traditions before making any of these choices. It’s still a couple of weeks till Thanksgiving, so the specials haven’t been advertised yet. Watch the specials over the next few weeks and you might even get a bigger bargain.
The last few years, the cost of that Thanksgiving meal has hovered in the vicinity of $50 for a meal for 10 people. Of course, the price can vary depending on what you choose to serve.
The main dish or meat can take a big chunk of the budget if you are doing a prime rib roast. Instead, go for the traditional turkey. At 50 cents for an 8-ounce serving, you won’t find a cheaper entree. Also turkey has a better meat-to-bone ratio than chicken, making it the most economical poultry. In past years, our local grocery stores have offered a free turkey when you spend a certain amount on your grocery bill. You really can’t beat free. If turkey isn’t on your list, choose a whole pork loin at $1 a serving.
Potatoes, whether prepared as a baked potato or mashed with butter, can feed your whole family economically at 25 cents a serving. If you opt for rice, it can be prepared for a bargain of 17 cents a serving.
Side dishes, such as green beans, corn, or other vegetables, are usually less expensive in the canned form. However, if that isn’t your favorite way to eat the vegetable, splurge for the frozen ones. Green beans cost about 36 cents a serving in the can, 54 cents in frozen form or $1 fresh. They are highly nutritious and a great addition to family meals, so buy whatever form your family will eat.
Salad greens are just plain expensive this time of year. Add noodles or grain to stretch the salad greens and add variety to your salad. If you choose a highly nutritious grain such as quinoa or barley, you’ll get an added nutrition boost. Variety is the key to a great salad. A wide variety of vegetables (celery, peppers, cucumbers or carrots) will add colors and flavors without adding much cost to the mix.
Everyone loves dessert. Traditional pumpkin pie is often at a special price this time of year. Stores often use pumpkin pie as a loss leader. They have a rock bottom price on the pie to entice you to buy all your groceries at that store. They know they will lose money on the pie, but if they get you in the store, they make up for it on other items. Last year, pumpkin pies were selling at $5 the week before Thanksgiving. If your family prefers a fruit pie, opt for apples instead of the more expensive fruits, such as cherries and berries. If you make your pies at home instead of buying them, be sure to make your own pie crust. The ingredients for one crust cost only 45 cents, and it would cost about $1.50 for the prepared crust.
Dinner rolls are another place where do it yourself will save you money. Make them yourself for a small price of 90 cents per dozen or if you aren’t a culinary master, opt for frozen bread at $1.70 per dozen. Either way they are less expensive than $4.50 per dozen in the store bakery.
The one exception to the rule might be dressing. A serving of boxed stuffing is only 34 cents. Though you can make it cheaper, the cost if the ingredients come close to the purchased price of the mix. However, homemade stuffing allows for lots of creativity. If your family tradition is for a special dressing, it will be worth the higher cost.
Whatever foods you choose for your meal, remember that the most important part of the holiday meal is the company. Be sure to enjoy your meal and your family and friends.
Roxie Rodgers Dinstel is associate director of the Cooperative Extension Service, a part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Questions or column requests can be e-mailed to her at email@example.com or by calling (907)474-7201.