A Penny Spent Ahead Usually Buys More
Nothing derails a holiday food budget like last-minute spending: a can of soup or a container of orange juice at the quick stop, stuffing mix when it's not on sale, that sort of thing.
The solution is to start shopping now -- really not difficult or time consuming if you check the food ads each week and stock up on obvious items. Put nonperishables like baking supplies, condiments, canned and packaged goods in a big cardboard box. Designate space in the freezer for vegetables, juice concentrates, ice cream, cranberries and meats. Watch out for specials on frozen turkey breast to augment the Thanksgiving bird, sausage for the stuffing and beef tenderloin for your holiday dinner party.
Start preparations now with a stuffing container in the freezer. Cut or crumble scraps of bread and rolls, English muffins, cornbread, biscuits, leftover rice. This mixture, when well-seasoned with herbs, sauted onion and celery, saves a few dollars and makes a more interesting stuffing than anything from a bag.
Stock for soups and gravy will be in demand, too. A supermarket rotisserie chicken carcass, wilted vegetables or parings, an onion, a few dried herbs simmered in a big pot, strained, then frozen in quart-sized containers, can be a lifesaver. Ditto with steak bones and vegetables.
The holiday cook has no better convenience than a second refrigerator for the garage, mudroom or basement. You'll have space to thaw, slowly, the turkey purchased at rock-bottom price. An unopened frozen turkey will keep 10 days, at least, in the refrigerator. This extra space allows preparing cookie dough, pies, sweet potato and other casseroles days in advance. Perhaps this is your year for a pumpkin cheesecake, mellowed for several days in the fridge.
Buy a second-hand refrigerator and, to save energy, run it only when needed. Empty after the holidays, unplug and wash the inside well.
This is also time to scan food magazines and the Internet for ideas. If a recipe sounds good but requires unfamiliar ingredients or methods, avoid flops by doing a trial run before T-day.
Goodwill stores are an excellent source for roasters, platters, pitchers, mixing bowls and holiday-themed tableware.
So remember, on Thanksgiving and beyond, the ants always have a better, less-costly feast than the grasshopper.
Contact Deborah Salomon at email@example.com.
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