Thanksgiving: Being thankful on a budget

Happy-Thanksgiving-2013

 

Time To Be Thankful; Not Broke

 

Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday of the year and it’s coming up right around the corner so I like to get planning in advance especially for the dinner and decorations. Thanksgiving is when I get to spend time with my family and friends eating lots of good food while celebrating what we are thankful for in our busy, everyday lives.

We celebrate the people and things that bring us happiness, the loved ones who are always there with the support we need and the beauty of the world in which we live in and all it has to offer.

Quality time spent with those who are important to us shouldn’t put a strain on our budgets nor should the process of organizing a large gathering so taking it step by step is crucial to the success of the holiday as is the participation of those you love.

The cost of hosting a large gathering can get high pretty quick but with some holiday meal planning and preparation there are ways that you can keep the costs down and still enjoy a lovely meal that will create memories for years to come.

Is there a better way to spend time with the ones you love than enjoying a nice, bountiful meal together?

I don’t know about your family, but when my family gets together we like to eat, and we eat a lot! Our family of six has grown to be a family of 14 in only a couple of years requiring more food to fill all our tummies.

I look forward to the comatose state of eating too much food and needing a nap after dinner as I’m sure you can all relate to.

Family meals in our home are becoming more expensive as our family continues to grow so we are always looking for ways to save money in the grocery budget even if it means cooking from scratch and trying new dishes that we haven’t tried before.

 

Thanksgiving Dinner on A budget

 

Thinking ahead and planning throughout the year for these large meals can be helpful in minimizing the cost of your dinner.

Making a turkey isn’t cheap. An 18 lb turkey will typically feed 18-20 costing around $50.00 for the turkey alone.

You do not have to follow the tradition of making a turkey with all the fixings. If a turkey is not in your budget or you would like to cook something else go for it, do not feel that you have to stick to tradition.

Thanksgiving is about spending time with loved ones and being thankful for the wonderful things we have in our lives, the meal is a bonus! Keep your eye on your flyers, buy early if you find a good sale, you can freeze it until it’s needed.

Stuffing…How many of you don’t like to eat the heels of a loaf of bread? Throw them in the freezer and they are perfect to rip up and use for making your Thanksgiving stuffing. You save money not having to buy loaves of bread or boxed stuffing and you avoid wasting bread throughout the year.

Food waste contributes to higher costs in your grocery budget so if you can use up what you have in the refrigerator or pantry before it goes off or freeze it for later use you are spending less and getting more bang for your buck.

My mom has done this for years and I quite often find myself throwing what we don’t use in the freezer and that works for me because I don’t want to have to spend any more money than I need to.

 

Co-host Thanksgiving dinner

 

Another great option is to co-host the dinner and split the work and cost with a family member. There’s no reason why one person has to do all the work. If you can get a few people together during the planning process you can host a holiday party the easy way while having others participate in the process.

 

Have a potluck!

 

Ask family members to bring a side-dish to contribute to the meal (maybe you provide the turkey) and everyone shares the costs of the meal. It’s also a great way to try new and various recipes that you might not have been inspired to make or maybe you have never heard of them before.

I don’t think I’ve ever been to a potluck where someone isn’t asking another for the recipe for a dish they brought. It’s a great way to start and build conversations at a gathering as well.

 

In-Store deals and coupons

 

Around the holidays, Christmas, Thanksgiving and even Easter, companies quite often offer coupons for products many of us use. These coupons can be found in various magazines, on companies Facebook pages, newspaper inserts and often on in store products.

Baking magazines with multiple coupons are also normally circulating around the holidays. Keep your eye out for these as they can be a money-saving tool for your Thanksgiving dinner.

 

Make your own meal

 

Skip the store-bought pie and dessert and make your own, after all homemade is cheaper than store-bought and tastes far more superior than anything you can buy in a box, jar or can.

How to make pumpkin puree for baking

 

pumpkin pie pumpkin

There are a few different methods used for making pumpkin puree including steaming and roasting and boiling. For the amount of time required and how easy it is to do I like to boil mine.

4.0 from 2 reviews

Pumpkin Puree
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • I pie pumpkin
Instructions
  1. Select your pie pumpkin. Pie pumpkins are smaller than a pumpkin you would use for a jack-o-lantern. There are varieties of pumpkins that are better for baking being a little sweeter and having a nicer texture. I purchased mine for $2.00 at the local pumpkin farm down the road.
  2. Cut pumpkin in half and scoop out all the seeds and stringy goodness inside.
  3. Cut into multiple smaller pieces which can then be peeled before or after cooking.
  4. I like to boil the pumpkin with the skin on, it separates from the pumpkin went it boils, peeling it raw is more work.
  5. Boil in a pot big enough to cover all pieces, boil for approximately 25 minutes until they are nice and tender.
  6. Remove carefully from the pot (the pieces may fall apart) and easily remove the skin using a sharp knife to skim if it off if needed.
  7. Using a blender, a food processor or even a hand mixer, blend the pumpkin into puree.
  8. If desired, but not required, you may wish to run the puree through a sieve or cheesecloth for a smoother texture.
  9. Use in your favourite pumpkin recipe or freeze in portions to use at a later time

how-to-make-pumpkin-puree

For $2.00 and approximately 40 minutes I measured out 4 ½ cups of puree compared to 2 cups that you typically get out of a can for around $3.00. A single pumpkin pie recipe usually requires 2 cups of pumpkin puree.

Pumpkin puree can easily be frozen and it’s good to use within a year or so. Another great frugal recipe you can check out is Mr.CBB’s Pumpkin Spice Pound Cake which is great for any Thanksgiving dinner if you want to eliminate the crust but keep the same great pumpkin pie flavour.

 

Decorating

 

Autumn is my favourite season of the year. Summer has come and gone and we are left with leaves off all colours blanketing the ground, chestnuts and walnuts dropping off the trees, cool mornings and shorter days, summer is packing it in for the winter.

Take the kids for an afternoon nature walk and see what you can find to make a centre piece for your dinner table, chestnuts pines cones, or the reddish-orange leaves of a Sugar Maple tree can add some colour to your table.

Remember to always be respectful of what and where you take things from.

pumpkin-patch

Support local pumpkin farms. Pumpkin farms are the place to be in the fall especially if you have young kids. Many farms offer corn mazes, hay rides, fresh-baked goods, and of course pumpkins for sale.

Along with pumpkins most sell ears of ornamental corn, corn stalks, hay bales, gourds and squash offered at reasonable, affordable prices which can be used to create a table centre piece, decorate a porch or used to make a wreath for your front door. Our local farm sells gourds 3 for $1.00, bunches of ornamental corn for $1.00, hay bales for $3.00.

Don’t be shy to check out your local dollar store as well as any free online websites like Freecycle or Kijiji where you might find some great holiday decorations for less.

Decorating your home inside and out for Thanksgiving can easily be affordable.

What are you thankful for?

This year I am thankful for my 2 beautiful children who put a smile on my face day after day, my family, friends and co-workers who continually show me support and encouragement. Remember, the best things in life are free so let’s be thankful for the time we have in life and the people we get to enjoy it with.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families this year!

Katrina

How do you minimize the cost of celebrating Thanksgiving with your loved ones?

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Mr.CBB’s Cheesy Mashed Potato and Spiced Squash Baked Torpedoes

Mr.CBB's Cheesy Mashed Potato and Spiced Squash Torpedoes

If you love mashed potatoes, squash or Swede or all 3 you will love this simple cheesy baked recipe. I’ve made this recipe with both the winter squash and the swede. This quick recipe is a frugal finger food that’s perfect for any type of parties such as the boys watching the NFL or any sports game, baby showers, wedding showers,  or the upcoming Holiday Season.

If you have extra mashed potato after a meal hang on to it and make these torpedoes for your next party. You don’t need to spend alot of money on appetizers when you can make them in your own kitchen cheaper than pre-made products. For this recipe I prefer to make the mash ahead of time so it has ample time to cool which you need. You can’t make this with hot mash. I know it looks like a lot of work but really it’s not that bad at all it’s fairly straight-forward and simple.

What I love about this recipe is that you can change-up the flavours as you like simply by adding spices to your mash mixture. You can easily add some cinnamon or nutmeg to jazz up the taste like I did when I mashed my squash so you get a hint of sweet with savoury. I also love that these are baked and not deep-fried so they are not heavy tasting of oil although I do drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil on top for crunch. When they are done they will be a medium to dark brown and you can tap them with a fork to do a crunch test.

Serve these hot but not super hot out of the oven on a platter to your guests. To wow your guests and to make these cheesy beauties interesting serve the torpedoes with little pots of dipping sauce. We prefer to serve it with a quick easy marinara sauce which you can make in 30 minutes on the stove top. You can also serve this with sour cream a ranch dressing or a creamy spinach dip. You can easily just eat them as they are if you prefer them au natural.

Don’t forget to serve these with a small plate for when your guests like to use the traditional knife and fork method. For those that like to jump in you can handle these Cheesy Mash and Spiced Squash Torpedoes in your fingers and dip away.

We’ve also baked these in advance to serve as part of an appetizer at a party where we transported them followed by a quick re-heat in the oven on low for 30 minutes.

Have you made your own version of Cheesy Mash and Spiced Squash Torpedoes? What flavours did you use?

Mr.CBB's Baked Cheesy Potato Spiced Squash Torpedoes

Tools:

  • Tin Foil
  • Baking Pan/sheet
  • bowls for dipping
  • pots for boiling
  • potato masher or ricer
  • spoon
  • cheese grater

Yield: Approximately 9 Torpedoes

Time:

  • Prep- 30 minutes
  • Cooking Potatoes and Swede Approx 30 minutes
  • 15-25 minutes to make mixture, shape and dip
  • Baking 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees

Ingredients:

Squash Mash or Swede

  • 1 small  Squash or (swede)
  • teaspoon salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 stick of butter or 2oz

Mashed Potato

  • 4 med sized potatoes peeled and cubed
  • teaspoon salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 1/2 stick of  butter or 2 oz

Cheesy Torpedo Mixture

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup grated sharp or old cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 Parmigiano regianno grated fresh
  • 2 cups of seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs for dipping
  • 1 cup flour for dipping
  • 1 tablespoon parsley

Topping

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese for topping

Marinara

  • 1 can of diced tomatoes or dice 5-6 fresh medium tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon basil
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 minced yellow onion
  • 6 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1/4 cup of cold water

Mr.CBB's Baked Cheesy Mashed Potato and Spiced Squash Torpedoes

Preparation:

NOTE: I like to make the squash or swede and mash ahead of time so it has ample time to get cold. It’s up to you. I put it in the refrigerator when it is done usually overnight. If you do make it the same day, leave enough time so it has time to chill. It’s easier to work with that way and you can form your torpedoes with ease.

Squash or  Swede

  • Peel your squash or swede and chop into cubes
  • Place them in a large pot of boiling salted water
  • Cook until very tender
  • Remove from pot, drain and set back in the pot on the  low stove to dry up the moisture for a couple of minutes
  • Put your squash or swede in a bowl, and add the salt, pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon and butter and mash
  • Cover and store in the refrigerator to cool completely

Mashed Potatoes

  • Peel and cube your potatoes and add to a large pot of boiling salted water
  • Boil until fork tender, drain and then add back to the pot and place on low heat until the moisture is gone
  • Add the salt, pepper and butter and mash your potatoes
  • Cover and store in the refrigerator to cool completely

Making The Torpedoes

  • In a large bowl add 1 large egg the mash and the  squash or swede (whichever you used) along with the Parmigiano, old cheddar and parsley then mix
  • With a spoon take out a handful of the mix and shape it into a long torpedo like shape
  • In separate bowls add the flour in one, the eggs in another and the bread crumbs in a third bowl
  • Take your torpedo roll it in the flour, dip it in the egg and roll in the bread crumbs
  • Set it on your baking sheet lined with tin foil
  • Drizzle the tops of your torpedoes with extra virgin olive oil
  • Put them in the oven at 350 for about 35-40 minutes
  • The last 5 minutes top them with the grated mozzarella until melted
  • Serve with your choice of dipping sauce or eat them as they are.
  • Enjoy!

Easy Marinara For Dipping

  • In a pan add the olive oil, garlic and onions and saute for 5 minutes
  • Toss in your tomatoes, spices, sugar and water and stir together
  • Simmer on low for 1 hour until it reduces
  • Serve hot or cold in bowls with your torpedoes

It's Not About How Much Money You Make It's How You Spend It

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SOW, GROW AND SAVE

SOW, GROW AND SAVE

After checking the prices in the produce aisle, how many times have you plopped some cherry tomatoes or asparagus into your shopping cart with a resigned look ala Mary Richards in the opening credits montage of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

What’s a person to do?  Resist artichokes?  Swear off broccoli and stock up on mac-n-cheese mix from the box?

How about some good old-fashioned “if you can’t beat, ‘em join ‘em” action and start planting your own vegetables and fruits?  Yes, you can save money by growing your own food, whether you have a few container plants on the balcony or a nice sized garden in the back or front yard.

The amount you save depends on how much you plant, your initial and ongoing investment in the garden, and how you use what you harvest.   If you want to save significant amounts of money and you have the space, plant seeds and go big.

Otherwise, even with conservative efforts, by growing your own organic vegetables and fruits you can save on grocery store costs and reap other benefits as well.   You’ll contribute positively to the environment and your health by avoiding produce that’s been treated with pesticides and shipped from afar.  And the initial outlay can be recouped with the amount you save on the gas used going to the grocer.

 

from Wallace Gardens

The rising cost of groceries is worsened if you end up wasting produce in the fridge each month.  (A 2008 NY TIMES article on food waste in America estimated that about a pound of food is wasted every day for every American – 24 pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables for a family of four for a month.

Canadians spend an average of $7,262 per household on food each year (StatsCan). 25% of all food is wasted at home, so every Canadian household could save around $1,800 a year by garbaging less grub.)

How much better to pick what you need from your own garden right before prep time – you won’t harvest more than you need.  And what you don’t use the same day will be less likely forgotten in the recesses of your veggie compartment, especially if it’s the product of your own sweat and care.

But before you go willy-nillying it off to the plant store, plan first:

  • Start small.  If you don’t want to bite off more than you can chew (in more ways than one), then plant just a few of your favorites.  Even a single tomato plant in a large pot will save you money and time.  No more last-minute trips to the grocery store.  Just walk right outside your door for the sun-ripened tomato to top off your tossed salad or to satisfy that spur of the moment BLT craving.
  • Plant your favorites.  Although it’s great to have an adventurous and open palate (good for you for embracing kale and swiss chard), do plant what you like and what you know you will eat, not just what’s in stock at the nursery or the latest “it” vegetable.

HERE IS A LIST OF TYPICALLY EXPENSIVE VEGGIES AND FRUITS YOU CAN GROW AT HOME:

TOMATOES – Ubiquitous, easy to grow, so many varieties to choose from

HERBS - Have you priced little bunches of basil and spearmint lately?  More cost-effective to keep harvesting from your own herb plants than buying several sprigs of cellophane wrapped herbs.


12-year- old Troy’s front yard gro-O raised planter garden

LETTUCE, SPINACH , ARUGULA (leafy greens)-Pick just what you need of the outer leaves from cut-and-come-again lettuce for salads or sandwiches. Many varieties with lots of nutrients.

ARTICHOKES-Beautiful as a landscape plant too

MELONS-The per pound cost of a cantaloupe or honeydew make this a good choice to try.  Note: The vines need space to ramble.

YELLOW SQUASH & ZUCCHINI-After cooking zucchini and yellow squash, think freezing and storing your excess harvest.   With zucchini, having extra is not an uncommon feat.  Remember zucchini bread for freezing or sharing.

FALL & WINTER SQUASH-Spaghetti squash is a great pasta substitute and stores for several months.

BROCCOLI- Tip: Plant a lot of what you would buy regularly and stagger your plantings for continual harvest.

ASPARAGUS-Requires patience (a couple of seasons before first harvest) and a bit more of a learning curve.

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Guest Post: Written by May & Lydia Pulido from gro-O.com Where we explore all that nourishes us. From our daily work and play…the food we grow, prepare, and eat. To art and creativity and music… to what makes us laugh and wonder and say hmmmm…to walking barefoot in cool grass and getting very down to earth.

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