Thanksgiving Dinner

by Michelle Lasley

Michelle Lasley is a mother, wife in Pacific Northwest learning to balance green dreams with budget realities.

November 17, 2008

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Categories: Family, Food

What is Thanksgiving all about anymore when very few actually harvest anything? Is it a reason to just engorge on traditional food while placating ourselves with family? Or is it really a time to give thanks for all the blessing we have, the food, the shelter, the family who keeps us sane and guides us through rough times? It is quite interesting to me how much Thanksgiving’s image has changed from our grade school plays. Pilgrims coming in, thankful for these Indians who knew how to plant and harvest, they generously shared their knowledge, and then we shared a meal. Let’s not discuss everything our grade school teachers didn’t teach us about Thanksgiving (the first), and rather compare the differences. Who of us now make it a true harvest meal? We had a garden of peppers and tomatoes. Because we planted late, we still have some last remaining tomatoes, but our peppers have all been devoured . So, our harvest dinner should include the remaining tomatoes, yes? Instead, we are having a more traditional fare, by ourselves no less, embarking on a new, smaller, quieter tradition.

What then will our menu be made of?  The following:

  • One 10 lb Turkey, not free-range this year as we are on a budget, $0.79 per lb at Safeway
  • Stuffing, made from one loaf of cubed homemade bread, about $1.50
  • Green bean casserole (God I love it no matter how trite), our most expensive per person item, about $3.76, the beans were purchased from a frozen 4 lb bag at $3.70 with about 1 lb to be used, the cream of mushroom soup will be about 0.90 and I may use 1/2 can of fried onions at about $1.50
  • A relish tray (for example only, probably will not serve) 1/2 lb each of celery & carrots, $0.85
  • 1 gallon of milk for mashed potatoes and beverage, $2.75
  • Fresh cranberries, 12 oz, $2.50 purchased from Fred Meyer
  • Potatoes, 10 lb bag $1.98, I’ll use probably 6-10 potatoes for garlic mashed potatoes, let’s say 5 lbs (too high an estimate I am sure) for about $1
  • Apple pie (homemade!), $2.60
  • Pumpkin pie (2), also homemade including fresh (now frozen) pureed pumpkin, $1.60
  • Bread (homemade!), $1.50
  • Cream (maybe…), $2.00?

The total?  $28.46.  This meal will be for a measly three.  A choice we have made.  With plenty of leftovers.  Realistically, we could feed 6 and 1/4 with a per person price of $4.55.  I doubt we’ll drink all the milk, and I will probably get myself some coffee for this day.  If we weren’t going to have green bean casserole, the price would drop to $25.63 and $4.10 each. The reason for this detailing?

The U.S. Farm Bureau released today that the average Thanksgiving meal will cost $44.61 for 10, or about $4.46 each.  The menu presented from the Farm Bureau uses purchased pie shells, rolls, and pumpkin pie mix.  They do not include apple pie, and they use stuffing mix!  Most of my ingredients I already have on hand, a form of modern day harvest, yes?  I included milk in the price because the Farm Bureau did, although we always have enough on hand.  I am not including the cost of butter and sugar as again, it’s a staple.  I’ve guessed at the price it will cost me to make pie dough (thanks Grandma for the great recipe) and bread.  I buy my flour and oils in bulk, for example 33 oz of extra virgin olive oil costs me about $7, whereas if I were to buy it per bottle at a normal grocery it would cost almost $10.  In fact, the only thing we have to purchase for Thanksgiving is the Turkey itself, which we’ll get at the deal posted above from Safeway this week.  I figure we’re making up with all the homemade goodies for not having a free-range turkey for one year.

I suppose I’m gloating.  I’m quite proud that we’ve been able to take these cost saving measures, maybe even so far, and still feel like we’re eating good.  It’s very important to me that my family’s nutrition does not suffer and that we train Levi up to be a good eater.  I have over 16 individual spices in my spice rack, whereupon I grew up with my mother who had about 6.  Curry, for exmaple, has been a frequent dinner lately.  We mix it up between standard meat and potatoes and the somewhat exotic for our Eastern European pallets with hot and spicy.  We trip into 30-minute glamor with the help of Rachael Ray and my imagination, and we’re doing it on a true budget.  And, Thanksgiving will be on the Cheap, but it will be a healthier meal than the one advertised by the Farm Bureau.

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