The Inexpensive Thanksgiving
Celebrate on a budget
By Simon McCormack
Every year, Michael Sedillo oversees a kitchen that cooks 35 turkeys, prepares 50 pounds of stuffing, opens 250 cans of mixed vegetables and makes a 25-pound green bean casserole. Through the process, Joy Junction's food service director has learned a thing or two about how to make a tasty, filling meal without breaking the bank.
"You can make a fine dining supper out of nothing," Sedillo says. "The hardest part of any meal is finding something that everybody likes, but pretty much everyone likes turkey and stuffing."
Before heading to the store to buy the Thanksgiving grub, Sedillo says money-minded consumers should check the paper and their mail for deals on holiday food items like turkey, potatoes, bread and cranberry sauce. "You can get a bag of potatoes for a buck and a loaf of bread for stuffing for another dollar," Sedillo says. "Make sure to use a frequent shopper card because that can knock a good 40 percent off the total bill."
If you don't need that many veggies, Sedillo suggests going to farmers' markets around town where you can buy a fresh carrot or two and a small amount of celery at low prices.
You can get loads of flavor by making the most of the turkey's natural juices, thickening it with flour as desired for gravy. There should also be enough liquid to work into other dishes such as stuffing or mashed potatoes.
After dinner's done, the skin, bones and other turkey leftovers can be stretched into even more mealtimes. Having a freezer is especially helpful.
"Once you've broken down the turkey, you should make a turkey stock out of the bones and other parts of the turkey," Sedillo says. "That will keep really well and can make for future savings down the road for turkey soup or another meal later."
For John Monte, food service manager at the Albuquerque Rescue Mission, an inexpensive Thanksgiving comes down to cutting out extravagant food items while still keeping the dish's soul intact.
"For my sweet potato casserole, you could use pistachios or almonds on top of the potatoes but, really, peanuts work just as well," Monte says.
Although they work with donated foods, both Monte and Sedillo don't cut corners when it comes to taste. The satisfaction of the people they serve is their greatest concern. "When everyone's finished, that's the best part of my job," says Sedillo. "Seeing all the people's plates clean, smiling, full and sitting back relaxing is very rewarding."
Sweet Potato Casserole
Whether he's cooking for 700 of Albuquerque's less fortunate or for his family at home, Monte loves to make his perfected version of the Thanksgiving classic, sweet potato casserole. Peanuts and brown sugar are the keys to the dish's exceptional delectability.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
1 cup marshmallows
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 pinch of cinnamon
1/2 cup shelled peanuts
1) Preheat oven to 325°F. Place sweet potatoes in an oven-safe dish and bake for 1 hour, or until the pieces are fork-tender.2) Remove sweet potatoes from oven and stir in marshmallows, brown sugar and cinnamon. Top sweet potatoes with nuts and place the dish back in the oven for 30 minutes, or until marshmallows are bubbling. 3) Remove from heat, allow to cool slightly and serve.
Sweet potato casserole
Roasted turkey with gravy: Many grocery stores give you a free turkey depending on how much you spend on other groceries, so try to do your Thanksgiving shopping at the same time you do your regular grocery shopping.
Stuffing: Use regular bread, not bread cubes. You can even use stale bread as long as it hasn't changed color. You don't need much celery or onion to make a lot of stuffing. Two stalks of celery and one onion should be enough to serve 6 to 8 people.
Mashed or baked potatoes: Russet potatoes are usually the cheapest and should be on sale.
Pumpkin pie: Make your own, using canned filling and frozen crust to save money over pre-made pies.