Everyday Mom's Meals: An Affordable Thanksgiving {Indiana Family of Farmers}

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

An Affordable Thanksgiving {Indiana Family of Farmers}

Back in the Spring when I agreed to team up with my good friends over at Indiana Family of Farmers for this incredible Affordability Series, I remember thinking "Wow, the last post is in November. That seems so long away." And wouldn't you know it, forever came very quickly! But in case you need to catch up, check out the first three posts below:

* Stretching Your Grocery Store Budget

* Affordable and Nutritious Options at The Grocery Store

* Out The Door and On The Go

So here we are, Thanksgiving in just 3 weeks, and it's time to look at how we can entertain on a budget. How we can enjoy our big family gatherings without breaking the bank. How we can delight in all of our favorite holiday table staples in an affordable, but still tasty way. So here are a few tips on doing just that, from me to you. Plus, the last tip...it just happens to come with a fantastic recipe too! 

1. Start Planning Early The best way to make sure you stay on budget for a holiday is to start brainstorming early...before most people around you are probably even thinking about the holiday. Start planning that menu so early people might think you're crazy; but you're not. You are the smart one. See, the earlier you plan, the earlier you can adjust it, change it, and finalize it. So what does that mean for your budget? It means you won't be at the mercy of the grocery stores. You won't be shopping at the last minute, having to pay whatever price they want, no matter how high, because you have to have it.

2. Use Sales To Stock Up This goes right along with #1. See, if you're planning early, then you can be watching sale ads and stock up on things you know you will need, long before you actually need them. Now of course, I'm talking about things that have a great shelf life, or can be frozen. (Please don't go buy celery in September and then send me hate mail because it's growing fuzz by November...ha ha.) If you use stuffing mix, some stores have it on sale at the end of summer for really cheap. Or maybe you enjoy Cool Whip on your pumpkin pie. That stuff goes on sale year round, and can last in the freezer forever. So once that menu is set, grab your rewards card and sale ads and figure out those things that can be bought ahead of time and still be yummy come the day of.

3. Don't Be Afraid Of "Off" Brands If you are a shopper who 99% of the time buys name brand products, holiday meal planning is a great time to step out of your comfort zone, if you're looking to stay on budget. Take it from me. The generic, or store brands, taste just as good as their more pricey counter parts. I use them in my every day cooking, and we notice absolutely no difference. For example, the name brand of canned pumpkin (the one most of us would recognize) can run you anywhere between $1.50-$2.00. However, at one of the discount stores I shop at, their brand is currently on "seasonal" special, and only $.89/can!!! That's like finding money!

4. Ask Others To Contribute If you are hosting a huge holiday gathering, there is absolutely nothing wrong with asking others to bring a dish to share. In fact, I am not the one who hosts our family for neither Thanksgiving or Christmas. We are at our parents' houses for both. And while I'm not responsible for the entire meal, I always take something; and the couple times I have hosted, I've others have always done the same for me. Taking the task and cost of the entire spread on yourself, is absolutely daunting, and expensive, so don't be afraid to say to your guests "What dish would you like to bring?"

5. Leftovers Isn't a Dirty Word Sure, we all make the joke about eating leftover turkey every day from Black Friday to Christmas Eve, but in reality, having things left over after a huge holiday meal really isn't that bad, especially if they are items that can be morphed into new, yummy dishes. After all, if you're going to spend the time and money making this huge meal, why not make it even more economical by lasting for meals to come. Remember, the freezer is your friend. Freeze some of those leftovers, until inspiration finds you for ways to use them. In fact, with a little planning ahead, you can even know what kinds of things you will have to work with after the guests have done home and the clean up has begun. Knowing what you're having for the holiday meal, you can easily figure out a few days' meals afterwards working with what's left; and not just the "main" things, but ingredients also...as you'll see below.

And that is exactly what inspired me to share this recipe with you today. I will tell you upfront, when I developed this recipe, I fully intended you to make it with leftover turkey, not chicken. But in  the spirit of affordability, I used chicken because it was what I had in the freezer already. Without a doubt, it would be just as delicious with Thanksgiving turkey!

Plus, it's filled with things you more than likely will have on hand for making all those traditional holiday dishes we love. Celery from stuffing. Cranberries and walnuts from stuffing or pies. You see where I am going. Using every last bit of every last thing you had to buy, and turning all of them into a tasty dish you can enjoy for lunch or a light supper days after the holiday is over.

The holidays and all the food that comes with them, are coming...fast! Be prepared to feed the masses, with these easy, money saving tips...and yummy recipe! 

Cran-Apple Chicken Salad
3 large boneless chicken breasts
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
2 small apples, chopped
3 ribs celery, finely chopped
1 c. mayo
1 TBS lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375. Rub chicken with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on a foil lined baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes until juices run clear. Allow to slightly cool. Shred using two forks or a stand mixer. In a large bowl combine chicken, cranberries, walnuts, apples and celery. Mix well. In a small bowl whisk together mayo, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pour over chicken. Stir very well. Chill until serving, or at least an hour. Serve on bread, croissants, rolls, etc. *NOTE* Leftover turkey would be a perfect substitute for the chicken! 

Shared at The Country Cook Nov. 7, 2014

Chicken at Very Good Recipes

Disclaimer: As an IFOF Ambassador for the  Affordable Food Tips For Your Family, From Our Family Series, I was compensated for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

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