Nothing beats the Thanksgiving spread of colorful fall foods piled high on top of the table. The gravy and steamy mashed potatoes call out to you, all surrounding the star of the show – the decadent, delicious turkey.
Funding all your favorite fall foods comes at a price. However, in 2023, some major chains have announced they are reducing prices to help consumers deal with inflation.
Whether you are planning on hosting a gaggle of relatives or an intimate gathering, read below on how to save on Thanksgiving meal expenses with tips from Michael Salvatore, Certified Executive Chef (CEC), a New York City chef with over 35 years in the culinary industry and senior director at Ruck-Shockey Associates. Michael is a TD Bank business customer.
Constructing the Menu
What you need to start with beyond anything else is planning. Each ingredient you purchase should have a use in a dish that matches your theme. You may want to use a spreadsheet, with the menu on one tab, and shopping list on the other.
Armed with your list and a strong sense of concept, you will find yourself plucking only the ingredients you need from the shelf. Don’t be afraid to shop early and buy ingredients when you see them on sale in the months before.
You’re busy tidying up the house and getting everything ready, when all of a sudden, the doorbell rings and your guests have arrived. The people are distracting, as you frantically start rummaging through your fridge looking for the ingredients you need.
To avoid this, prepare what you can ahead of time. Can you peel your potatoes two days out and put them in water in Ziploc bags in the fridge? Yes, you can. Can you roast and peel your squash and keep them in a bag two days ahead? Absolutely! Just make sure that everything cools down properly before storing it. Spread out the grocery shop for the items you need, that way you are not panic-shopping the week of. All the little things you can chip away at, chip away.
Turkey – Fresh or Frozen?
If you’re at the store on that Wednesday night looking to buy a turkey… it’s not happening. Decide whether you are going to cook a fresh or frozen turkey early on. In the culinary industry, restaurants claim their fresh turkeys in February. Get ahead of the rush by reaching out to your supplier.
Frozen turkeys are cheaper than fresh turkeys, and if prepared well, are just as delicious. Just like any other protein, the better you treat your turkey, the better it will treat you. Click here for Chef Salvatore’s “Turkey Cheat-Sheet!
Cooking the Meal
Many restaurants utilize a “firing schedule” when considering which foods to cook first. Determine what time you want to serve the meal, and work backwards from there. For example, if you are planning to serve dinner at 4:00 in the afternoon, you work backwards from service time in what dishes to prepare. 15 minutes before that, what do you need to do? And 15 minutes before that? Every minute you spend planning will help you avoid kitchen accidents and food going to waste.
Cooking the Turkey
Cooking turkeys require careful attention and planning to ensure you are putting a thoroughly cooked turkey on the table. One of the biggest mistakes is not considering the weight of the turkey when calculating cooking time. Additionally, make sure to let the turkey rest for a full hour after.
Often, people rush it to the table and begin carving it out of fear it will get cold, but all that does is result in the turkey’s internal juices spilling out onto your festive tablecloth. Make sure to transfer the turkey to a heat proof area for it to cool, and remember the precautions are worth it for your and your family’s safety. Plus, you want the money you spent on that turkey to be worth it.
Be Safe from Stress
Most kitchen accidents are caused by human error. Find ways to take the pressure off before the day, that way you’re not stuck in the kitchen the entire time while your guests mingle in the living room. If cooking something new, take some time prior to Thanksgiving to practice it so that the process goes smoothly.
Consider the benefits of close to plate, or “pre-cut”, food items that take away preparation time and cut down on waste. After the food shop, put your ingredients away by recipe. Plan and work with purpose and focus – this will not only prevent food and money from going to waste, but also will allow you to carve out some time to enjoy time with your loved ones.
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