For a long time, I tried to re-create a big family style Thanksgiving, even when it was just the two or three of us. Now, we do something simpler, and in the long run, smarter, in our situation. I used to try and make every Thanksgiving dish that we like for that specific day. Now, I'm more likely to stretch those over the course of the week. So on Thanksgiving day, we might have turkey, stuffing, a side or two and pie - a nice meal. In a day or two, we might have some of the other traditional Thanksgiving sides - mashed potatoes and gravy or a sweet potato dish, or whatever other special food strikes our fancy. There really is no reason we have to eat every single one of them the same day. It would be different if we had 12 people here and everyone brought a covered dish, but it is just us, so this works well. I guess we've transitioned to a harvest celebration of sorts that spans more time.
One aspect of Thanksgiving that's important to our budget doesn't really have anything to do with the holiday we're celebrating - it's the turkey sales. Thanksgiving is the time of year when turkeys cost least, so we purchase as many as we can, for the year. We have a chest freezer, so that helps. If possible, I partially thaw the turkeys, part them out (I cut them up just like chickens) and wrap/freeze the pieces, because they are much more manageable for our family. Most years I cook the wings, legs and frame, dice the meat (light meat and dark meat, separately) and pressure can it. The light meat is really good for salads, a-la-king, rice dishes, etc. The dark meat is great for chili and casseroles too. Having some turkey ready to go is really handy for nights when a meal needs to go on the table quickly. I also pressure can turkey stock for use throughout the year.
Baking staples are generally discounted around Thanksgiving as well, so we watch for coupon/sale matches that make stocking up a good idea. It's the beginning of 'baking season', so it's often a good time to stock up on all purpose flour, sugar, chocolate chips, extracts for flavoring, etc. Good sales on these items often run through Christmas and return again at Easter, so I don't necessarily spend a large amount on a given staple all at once. I can space the purchases out over the course of the season.
Other than that, Thanksgiving is, for me, a quieter, more peaceful holiday to enjoy with my family. The food is good, the day is enjoyable, and if I play my cards right, I don't have to cook much for the next couple days! It's a wonderful chance to reflect on all the ways we're blessed and to show gratitude to God, friends and one another.
What does Thanksgiving mean to you? How does your family celebrate?
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