Friday, November 22, 2013

Thanksgiving Dinner for 12 (and Lots of Leftovers) for under $50

I’m going to do something a bit different this week and next. Since most of the ads are about Thanksgiving anyway, this week I’m going to tell you how I put together a Thanksgiving dinner for twelve last Saturday for under $50. And next week (watch for it early, since the Hub will be closed Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving) I’ll tell you how I can make four complete meals for four people each with the leftovers, a bag of broccoli and a few carrots. Altogether, that comes to 28 meals for under $50, and twelve of those meals are Thanksgiving dinner! Spoiler alert – because it’s Thanksgiving, I do include mashed potatoes and bread stuffing, which, as you know, I usually don’t.

But first, this week’s specials. Mostly Thanksgiving related, of course.

Aldi’s ad looks a lot like it has the past couple of weeks. Frozen Butterball turkeys for 99 cents a pound. Fresh Butterball turkeys for $1.29 a pound. Hams ranging from 99 cents a pound to $1.99 a pound. Three pounds of sweet potatoes for $1.49. Three pounds of onions for 99 cents. Ten pounds of russet potatoes for $1.89. Celery for 89 cents a head and cranberries 99 cents for twelve ounces. Baby carrots for 89 cents a pound. Butter $1.69 a pound and cream cheese 99 cents for 8 ounces. Stuffing mix for 69 cents a box, and instant mashed potatoes for 69 and 99 cents. (Though real mashed potatoes are so easy to make I don’t know why you’d want to get the fake kind in a box.) Canned gravy (in a jar) for 89 cents, though again, it’s so easy to make why get the fake stuff.

Marsh has frozen Butterball turkeys for 99 cents a pound and Norbest and Honeysuckle frozen turkeys for 69 cents a pound, but you have to buy $25 of other stuff to get them at that price. There’s a limit of one each. Fresh pork picnic roasts (the best tasting cut of meat as far as I’m concerned, though it’s got a big bone in it) are $1.29 a pound. “Jumbo” cauliflower is two heads for $5 or $2.50 a head, and bunch broccoli is 3 for $5 or $1.67 each. Frozen veggies are 4 for $5, or $1.25 each. Sour cream is $1.29 a pint (16 ounces) and heavy whipping cream is $1.39 a half-pint (8 ounces). Campbell’s cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soups are 5 for $5, or $1 each. I have no idea how good a price this is, but Maxwell House coffee is $3.99 for 29.3 to 31.5 ounce cans, if you buy $30 of other stuff. A 9.7 ounce bag of Splenda Granular (for baking) is the equivalent of 5 pounds of sugar and costs $5.99. (A lot more than sugar costs, but if you can’t eat sugar…)

Kroger has their store brand frozen turkeys for 77 cents a pound with $25 of other purchases. There’s a limit of two turkeys. Fresh Honeysuckle turkeys are $1.29 a pound with $25 of other purchases, again with a limit of two. Bob Evans breakfast sausage is two packages for $4, and the packages range from twelve to sixteen ounces (a pound). Various canned vegetables are two for $1, or 50 cents each. Fresh sweet potatoes are 59 cents a pound. Hams range from $1.29 to $1.99 a pound. Frozen vegetables are ten for $10, or $1 per bag, and the bags are 10 to 12 ounces each. Sour cream is ten pints for $10, or $1 per pint (16 ounces). Whipping cream is two pints for $4, or $2 per pint. Campbell’s cream of chicken and cream of mushroom soups are ten cans for $10, or $1 per can. I think you can buy just a single item of any of these for the sale price; you don’t have to buy ten of them, or two, or whatever.
Thanksgiving dinner was last Saturday at my house. I had a bunch of guests, most of whom were associated in some way with IU, and many of whom will be out of town the week of Thanksgiving. So, since I like cooking special meals like Thanksgiving and I wanted to have them over, I decided to have it early.

Since I’ve been doing the Weekly Special blogs and a Food Stamp Challenge (I took a break on that for a couple of days while I had Thanksgiving dinner), food budgets and the cost of food have been on my mind a lot. So I decided to cost out my Thanksgiving dinner. There were eleven of us (there was supposed to have been twelve, but there was a last minute cancellation). Here’s what we had:

Mashed potatoes
Sweet potatoes
Cranberry sauce
Creamed spinach
Apple/celery/grape/nut salad (aka Waldorf salad)
Pumpkin pies with whipped cream
Cranberry soda

It came to a grand total of $47.21. Whew! I was really trying to keep it under $50, and I just made it. In the interests of full disclosure, though, and just to keep things honest between us, this isn’t exactly what I had. If you’ve been reading my weekly columns, you know that I don’t eat grain of any kind, and that I’m diabetic and only use artificial sweeteners. So for my own dinner, I substituted sausage for the bread in the dressing, made the pie crusts out of nut flours instead of out of wheat flour, and used artificial sweetener instead of sugar. But other than that, this really was my menu.

Here’s what I bought (adjusted for the bread and sugar and such). As it happened, I had to buy almost everything specifically for Thanksgiving dinner, and I’m including the whole cost of what I bought, whether I actually used it all or not. The only exceptions were salt and pepper and some spices (estimated at 50 cents for all), half a cup of mayo, three and a half cups of sugar, and three cups of flour. I’m assuming that you have these on hand and won’t have to go out and buy them for this dinner.

From Walmart -
17 pound turkey - $15.04
1.5 pounds frozen spinach - $1.98
3 apples (1.58 pounds) - $1.58

From Aldi –
3 pounds sweet potatoes - $1.49
2 boxes stuffing mix - $1.32
1 head celery – 89 cents
12 ounces cranberries – 99 cents
10 pounds potatoes – $1.98 (I only needed 4 pounds, but the 10 pound bag was cheaper than buying 4 pounds)
1 pound butter - $1.69
8 ounces cream cheese - 99 cents
1 pound frozen peas 99 cents
8 ounces walnuts - $3.99
1 dozen eggs - $1.29
3 pounds of onions – 99 cents
2 cans of pumpkin - $1.78
3 pints whipping cream - $5.94 (I use whipping cream instead of evaporated milk in the pumpkin pies. Evaporated milk would be cheaper. You could get two cans of milk and a pint of whipping cream for about $4.00.)

From Marsh –
Half a of pound grapes – 65 cents (Actually, I don’t know if I could have gotten just half a pound. I got a few pounds to take to church and used some of them for dinner. But then, I could have included them under the section for things I had on hand, so I guess it all comes out the same in the end)
2 liters of cranberry soda – 98 cents (I bought these a few weeks ago)

All of this comes to $45.31. As I said, I’m assuming you have some mayo, salt and pepper and spices, flour and sugar on hand. I used the current prices on these, adjusted for the quantities used, and came up with a total cost of $47.21. To feed twelve people. With lots of leftovers. For less than $4 per person.

What leftovers did I have? Well, to begin with, I had some ingredients leftover.
A dab of whipping cream – about a fourth of a cup or so
Half a head of celery
6 pounds of potatoes
A cup of chopped walnuts
4 eggs
3 onions (a pound and a half)
4 ounces of cream cheese
More than half a liter each of the cranberry soda – one liter is diet and one isn’t

That’s the leftover ingredients themselves. There were lots of leftovers, too. Things that had been cooked or otherwise prepared but not eaten.
About 12 cups of turkey (I actually measured it out as I put it in freezer containers)
A couple of cups of creamed spinach
Most of the peas (they weren’t very popular this year)
About 4 cups of mashed potatoes
A cup or so of sweet potatoes
About half of the apple/celery/grape/nut salad
A couple cups of gravy
All of the cranberry sauce (I forgot to put it on the table)
A couple of cups of dressing
Most of a pie
About 2 cups of whipped cream

This is getting a bit lengthy (I know, I know – I’ve always been wordy!), so I’m just going to briefly tell you how I fixed things. The only thing that actually had a recipe was the pumpkin pie, so mostly it’s just going to be explaining what I did. Then I’m going to do another column next week telling you what I did with the leftovers, or what I could do with them. Mostly I put them in the freezer. I’m not quite ready to face them again just yet!

So there’s my Thanksgiving dinner. For twelve. For less than $50. With lots of leftovers. And mostly from scratch. And a delicious dinner it was, too.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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