9 Thanksgiving Swaps That Will Help You Spend Less Money
#3: Choose recipes that call for frozen vegetables instead of fresh.
Ahh, Turkey Day. Mashed potatoes, stuffing, quality family time … and a whole lot of expenses. But this year, I’ve got you covered with a bunch of smart swaps you can make to shave off the dollars. Many of these are tips that I’ve used myself over the years — read on to find out everything I've learned.
1. Cook Turkey Parts Instead of a Whole Turkey
If you’re cooking for a smaller crowd, consider swapping out the whole turkey for turkey breasts and making Roast Turkey Breasts with Gravy. They’ll cost less money than the whole bird and will be a lot easier to roast. (If you compare the pound to pound price of turkey parts to a whole turkey, the whole turkey will be less expensive. But you’ll be buying way fewer pounds, which makes sense if you're servng fewer people anyway). You might also think about cooking turkey breast cutlets or tenderloins, which also cost less than a whole bird and are as easy to prepare as chicken.
2. Or Make a Thanksgiving Turkey Casserole Instead of a Whole Turkey
Speaking of forgoing the whole bird, if you’re cool with the idea, think about taking it one step further and buying ground turkey, which really saves dollars. Plus, a lot of Thanksgiving meatloaf recipes mashup several sides. Take Katie Lee’s Fall Meatloaf, in which you mix stuffing into the meatloaf and glaze it with cranberry sauce. In essence, the dish combines a main dish and two sides. Therefore, when you make this recipe, you can probably forgo making those sides altogether, and save even more money.
3. Swap Frozen Vegetables for Fresh Veggies
It’s a fact that veggies are expensive, especially when they’re out of season. But that’s where frozen vegetables come into play. They’re flash frozen at the peak of freshness, meaning their quality is typically great. I recommend seeking out recipes that specifically call for frozen veggies, instead of trying to swap frozen veggies into recipes that call for fresh. See, for example, Ree Drummond’s Peas and Carrots recipe or this Scalloped Corn recipe, which would make a fantastic sides.
4. Simmer Some Mulled Wine
Fun fact: mulled wine basically exists to use up leftover or cheap wine — so make some instead of buying a pricey bottle. Think about it: you simmer wine with a bunch of warm spices to cover up the flavor. The best part is that mulled wine seems quite fancy, like you went to the trouble of making a custom cocktail. So grab a bottle that’s less than $10 and start simmering. May I suggest checking out Ina Garten's recipe, Mulled Wine?
5. Use Cheaper Nuts Instead of More Expensive Ones
Stroll down the bulk foods aisle, and you’ll soon realize that not all nuts are created equal in terms of price. Although your stuffing might call for pistachios or pine nuts, here’s a pro tip: walnuts and almonds will do just as well in your recipe, and they’re significantly less expensive.
6. Buy Potted Herbs Instead of Grocery Store Clamshells
Why are those tiny clamshells of herbs at the grocery store so darn expensive? And they contain barely any herbs! It seems like every Thanksgiving dish relies heavily on one if not several different herbs, and a great way to save some money is to buy potted herbs from your local nursery. They tend to be less expensive than the fresh cut herbs at the grocery store — and if you take care of them after Thanksgiving, you’ll also save money in the long run.
7. Make Your Own Chicken Stock Instead of Buying It
Between the stuffing and the gravy, Thanksgiving calls for a lot of broth — and it all adds up. But if you plan ahead, it’s totally possible (and easy) to make your own for practically no cost at all. Plus, homemade stock supercharges all your recipes with extra flavor. The next time you roast a whole chicken (or cook bone-in chicken thighs or breasts), save the bones and freeze them. Likewise, whenever you have leftover veggie scraps (carrot peels and tops, wilty celery, sad herbs and onions), toss them in the freezer bag too. Soon, you’ll accumulate enough to make stock and all you’ll have to do is add water and simmer. Here’s Food Network’s recipe for The Best Chicken Stock; you’ll see that it calls for some very specific aromatics — but it’s totally okay to swap in an equivalent volume of the veggies you have.
8. Used Dried Mushrooms Instead of Fresh
Fun fact: many restaurants lean heavily on dried mushrooms because they last a long time and pack more flavor than fresh mushrooms so you can use fewer, making them cost-effective. Use them in stuffing and casseroles, swapping about three ounces of dried mushrooms for every pound of fresh mushrooms in a recipe.
9. Buy Milk at the Drugstore Instead of the Grocery Store
Surprise, some staples like milk and paper towels are significantly less expensive at drugstores. I learned this because I live across the street from one, and often run out when I need staples. In addition to my personal experience, I’ve chatted with friends in other parts of the country who have experienced the same thing. Brilliant!