Thanksgiving is the holiday of sanctioned indulgence, but that doesn’t mean the meal has to break the bank. Strategic splurging can keep your budget — and your time — under control.
“The elements of Thanksgiving in general are relatively inexpensive,” says Melissa D’Arabian, cookbook author and host of the FoodNetwork.com Web series “The Picky Eaters Project.”
Items like potatoes, bread for stuffing and even the turkey are pennies per pound.
“But even inexpensive things can become expensive if you’re making it for a lot of people and if you don’t shop well,” she says.
Knowing which items to go big on depends on your menu, your skills and your family and friends.
“The trick to this is know your audience,” says Rick Rodgers, author of numerous Thanksgiving cookbooks, including “Thanksgiving 101.” ‘‘If you have foodie friends who really enjoy discussing a meal, then maybe you do want the $100 organic turkey. It’s the same thing with the wine. If people are going to notice that you have a $50 pinot noir, go for it. But if they are average Joes, then cook for them, not for you.”
Here’s a little more guidance from the experts.
Splurge on preparation, save on the bird.
Many people have ethical and environmental reasons for buying a heritage, free-range or other high-end bird. But if your only consideration is taste, many experts say even the frozen supermarket bird will suffice if you brine it and brown it.
“The ecologist in me says buy a heritage breed turkey,” says Sarah Copeland, food director for Real Simple magazine. “But if you treat your turkey right, even a Butterball can be delicious.”
Splurge on the produce, save on the bread.
Stuffing was meant to be cheap. Its job is simply to soak up all the lovely juices from your bird. An ordinary loaf of white bread or baguette will do this just fine — Rodgers even likes the prepackaged bread cubes — but load up on fresh herbs, crisp celery and flavorful extras like excellent mushrooms.