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25 Nov 2008   ·   62
Money Saving Mom

Blog Poll: Will you be hitting the sales on Black Friday?

Just for fun, I created a poll to see how many readers here are shopping on Black Friday and how many were planning to stay home. I hit Black Friday sales last year for the first time and was pretty unimpressed, though the whole experience was rather enlightening (you can read more about it here).

This year, I'm strongly considering staying home but I haven't made up my mind completely since there are a few things we've been needing to buy and if I'm in the mood for an adventure, I might just go for it. We'll see!

What about you? I'd love to hear whether or not you are planning to go out and your thoughts on whether shopping on Black Friday is a worth it. Take the poll below and then have fun discussing your opinions in the comments section!

24 Nov 2008   ·   18
Money Saving Mom

Guest Post: The Freedom of Limitations

Nuns fret not at their convent’s narrow room
And hermits are contented with their cells;
And students with their pensive citadels;
Maids at the wheel, the weaver at his loom,
Sit blithe and happy; bees that soar for bloom,
High as the highest Peak of Furness-fells,
Will murmur by the hour in foxglove bells:
In truth the prison, into which we doom
Ourselves, no prison is: and hence for me,
In sundry moods, ’twas pastime to be bound
Within the Sonnet’s scanty plot of ground;
Pleased if some Souls (for such there needs must be)
Who have felt the weight of too much liberty,
Should find brief solace there, as I have found.

– from Nuns Fret Not at their Convent’s Narrow Room, Wordsworth

Guest Post by Jennifer from Life From The Roof

In our neck of the woods, there are lots
of bars over the windows and doors. Despite how elaborate the design,
the overall effect is still a bit disheartening, as it is aesthetically
a distraction, and psychologically it’s a reminder that there are
reasons roaming the streets at night that require those bars to be
there in the first place.

We live on the third floor, however, and
for awhile we were able to enjoy the prettier views and bar-free
existence that this height enables. That is, until our little guy Eli
became a bigger guy who was capable of climbing out of those windows. 

We racked our brains for solutions. Our
windows are fairly large, and are only 18 inches off the ground (the
building we live in is around 100 years old), and as I researched
options, I was discouraged to find that if I wanted something really
secure, it would cost upwards of $200 a window, and we had two windows
to secure.

Safety of course, matters, and no matter
how frugal you are, it’s not something you want to compromise when your
child’s well-being is at stake. So I braced myself to somehow find a
way to scrape the money together on our limited budget.

Then one day, as I was taking out the
trash, I took another look at an old abandoned black metal headboard
and footboard that had been sitting there for at least a couple of
months. They were about 3 feet tall, and just wide enough that they
looked like they might fit our windows. I went upstairs and after my
husband measured them, lo and behold, they would fit! They even had
holes drilled in them for the bed rails that would make securing them
to our windows easy.

Only, they were still black and ugly. I
thought about it for a minute, and then remembered an extra set of
sheer white curtains I had purchased awhile back but had never got
around to using. An hour or two later, I had come up with sheer white
sleeves to ruffle over the bars, and voila, window gates that not only
kept our little critter in, but also allowed light to pour in and
shield our view of the next door building’s roof.

“They say that God is in the details, but
maybe He’s in the dumpsters, too,” my husband commented wryly as we
finished up our project.

It’s easy at times to feel like we’re
limited or lacking in our ability to “live” because we have less money,
but I’ve observed over time, in my own life as well as in the lives of
others, that often we are at our most creative when we are provided
with limitations and boundaries.  As T.S. Eliot once wrote:

“When forced to work within a strict framework the imagination is taxed to its utmost – and will produce its richest ideas. Given total freedom the work is likely to sprawl.”

Sprawl…yes, that is what I feel like at times when I’m faced with too many choices. My mind becomes cluttered with options instead of solutions, because I have to waste so much time considering the many choices.

When I was working in Uzbekistan, an Uzbek friend of mine had the opportunity to visit the US for six months. When she returned, I asked her what she thought of America.

“America…they have too many cheeses,” she replied.

“Too many cheeses?” I asked, not quite clear on what she meant.

“Yes…so many choices, and why do you need so many cheeses in the first place?” she asked.

I understood later when I returned for the first time to the US after my initial 2 years in Uzbekistan. I went into Wal-Mart to buy shampoo, and ended up just standing there for a few minutes staring at an entire aisle of shampoo.

I was so overwhelmed, I ended up just turning around and walking out without buying anything. While it was hard at times to be deprived of access to certain products in Uzbekistan, I now understood what Wordsworth commented on in his poem Nuns Fret Not at their Convent’s Narrow Room. Instead of being limited by what we cannot buy, perhaps sometimes we should look at having too many liberties as a weight, and at our limitations as true freedom.

Jennifer Duenes is a homemaker, wife to Michael, and proud
mother to one-year old Elijah. She lives in the San Francisco Bay
Area, and despite living on one income with the high costs of living
associated with that area, she enjoys finding creative ways to save
money and thrive. She attributes part of her ability to save and
appreciate the important things in life to her experiences as a teacher
in a poor region of Uzbekistan for five years before getting married.
For more on her insights from life in Uzbekistan and tips on making the
most of your resources in high-cost urban areas, check out her blog at
www.lifefromtheroof.wordpress.com.

22 Nov 2008   ·   4
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: Kroger and Aldi

Here's a picture of this week's shopping trip:

6a00e552792fa28833010535feb564970c-800wi

You can read more about what bargains we snagged, how much we spent, and how much we saved here.

How'd you do this week? Post about the deals and
bargains you were able to snag this week or other ways you saved money
on your blog (with pictures, if possible!) and then come back here and
leave your link below. **To make it easy for everyone to navigate quickly through the links, your link must link directly to your Super Savings Saturday post.**

21 Nov 2008   ·   15
Money Saving Mom

Thanksgiving on a Budget: Share your ideas!

Erin, Monica, and I hope you've enjoyed the ideas we've shared this week for the "Thanksgiving on a Budget" series. Our main goal was to show you how you could create a simple from-scratch Thanksgiving meal for your family without spending a fortune to do so.

To recap, here's the menu we shared:

–Turkey, gravy, and stuffing/dressing (I got a kick out of how many of thought dropping the dressing from your menu was ludicrous! Wouldn't it be a boring world if we all thought the same way about everything?!)
–Sweet potato casserole and make-ahead mashed potatoes
–Orange Ginger Cranberry Sauce
Green Vegetables
Pumpkin Dinner Rolls
Pumpkin Pie and Apple Pie

While I'm sure not all of the recipes or decorations would be something you might use for your Thanksgiving celebration, we hope that our ideas will inspire you as you seek to have a memorable Thanksgiving celebration for your family this year.

I'm positive we've only barely scratched the surface when it comes to Thanksgiving ideas, though, and that's why today is the day for all of you–my wonderfully creative readers–to chime in with your own ideas for celebrating Thanksgiving on a Budget.

The floor is yours! Share your favorite recipes, helpful tips, ideas for simplifying the Thanksgiving menu, decorating how-to's, or special traditions your family has. If you have a blog, post about it on your blog and leave the direct link to your blog post below. If you don't have a blog, feel free to leave your ideas in the comments section.

21 Nov 2008   ·   20
Money Saving Mom

Thanksgiving on a Budget: Decorations from Paper

Guest Post by Monica from The Homespun Heart

Paper is one of my favorite crafting supplies because it is inexpensive and the variety available creates endless possibilities! Here are some ideas to jump start your Thanksgiving table decorating this year:

Turkey coloring books

::Turkey coloring books::
Details on how to make these are here. All you do is print the template, cut it out, and glue together! Bring this idea
to the grown-up table by placing one at each plate. Provide pens or
pencils to jot notes of thankfulness to each other!

Silhouette tablecloth

Image from Martha Stewart Living

::Silhouette Table cloth::
Instructions for making this are here. I
haven't made mine yet as I'm not sure how to store it until
Thanksgiving–but I will have my silhouettes all cut out and ready to
go for my littles table!

Bring the silhouette idea to the
grown-up table by creating napkin rings, decorations and place cards
(take it a step further by creating silhouettes of your guests!):

Silhouette napkin rings


::Silhouette Napkin Rings::
Use
the templates provided in the silhouette tablecloth link above to make these. Glue to a piece
of cardstock and staple at the back. Slide over your napkin!

Silhouette jar

::Silhouette Place cards/table decor::
Hot glue a length of ribbon around a canning jar and glue silhouette onto ribbon.

Silhouette on stick

Or, glue silhouette to a stick (from your yard!) and insert into a small jar or votive holder filled with unpopped popcorn.

Silhouettes on table runner

Create
varying heights with jars, upside down sundae dishes, juice glasses,
or anything that is clear or coordinates with what you want to use! You
could also opt to put one of these at each place for name cards!

You
could also have a little stack of these silhouettes cut out with holes
punched in the top and string tied on. Provide chalk for guests to
write things they are thankful for and hang on a branch from your yard
to create a Thankful Tree!

Nov 2005 018


::Turkey Trivia Place Cards::

Details on how to make these fun little turkey quiz decorations are here. Find some interesting turkey facts here and here.

Misc 068


::Napkin Rings (inspired by Country Living November 2006)::

To make these, cut a small piece of cardstock and decorate with rubber stamps, stickers, or just write a short message. Punch a small hole in each end of the cardstock. Pull
a ribbon through one end, and then through the other. Tip: if you cut
the ends of the ribbon in a diagonal, they will be much easier to get
through the small holes.

Misc 077


::Favor Tags::

Make up little bags of some kind of treat and add a festive nametag and bow. I
used these for place cards one year and then let them become the favor for guests to take home as well. By the way, this would be a great opportunity to use some of those sugared pumpkin
seeds
!

Misc 080


::"Thankful For You" breakfast::

A
few years ago I started a new Thanksgiving tradition. It is intended to
be a practical way of showing thanks to someone who has been a blessing
to our family over the past year. I prepare an extra batch of our
Thanksgiving breakfast and pack it up festively to deliver to the
recipient. I like the expression of doing something visible to say "thank you" to one of the many people who encourage us throughout the
year.

I make little tags for each item naming what it is and if
there are any specific heating instructions. Then you can package
pancakes and sausage wrapped in waxed paper and tied with twine. Canning
jars make great containers for syrup and nuts. Put them all in a pretty
gift bag and deliver!

Our traditional Thanksgiving breakfast is:

Pumpkin Pancakes (cooked in a maple leaf shaped pancake mold)
Brown & Serve Sausage
Homemade Maple Syrup & Chopped nuts to top pancakes

Misc 082


Pumpkin Pancake Recipe from Martha Stewart Living

Whisk:
1 1/4 c. flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. each cinnamon, ground ginger, and salt
1/8 tsp. nutmeg and a pinch of ground cloves (I use pumpkin pie spice)

Mix:
1 egg
6 Tbsp. pumpkin puree
2 Tbsp. melted butter
1 c. milk

Fold
wet ingredients into dry ingredients.Heat a buttered skillet over
medium heat; pour in 1/4 c. batter for each pancake. Cook about three
minutes per side; serve with butter and syrup. Makes about 10 leaf
shaped pancakes.

Maple Syrup:

Combine in saucepan:
1 3/4 c. white sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 c. water

Bring to a boil, cover, and cook one minute. Cool slightly.

Add:
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. maple flavoring

Cover
saucepan for a few minutes as syrup cooks to melt down crystals; helps
prevent syrup from crystallizing later in storage. From the More With
Less Cookbook
.

::ABC's of Thanks::
My Mom started this tradition
when we were growing up and I have continued it in our home. Print this

template, cut the columns apart, and tape together in one continuous line.
Mount on your wall and enjoy giving thanks for God's many blessings!

And here are a couple of other ideas I haven't made before, but think are full of possibility:
Paper Turkeys
Mayflower Centerpiece

Have you made any Thanksgiving decorations with paper? I'd love to hear your ideas!

Monica enjoys blogging about the simple pleasures of faith, family and home over at The Homespun Heart.

___________________________

Note from Crystal: If you happened to miss Monica's previous guest post with lots of fun ideas to do with pumpkins, you'll want to check it out here. There's likely something there you could also incorporate into your Thanksgiving menu or decor ideas. Also, don't forget to check out Monica's brand-new online boutique, The Rusty Robin.

21 Nov 2008   ·   3
Money Saving Mom

Thanksgiving on a Budget: Homemade Pumpkin Pie and Our Favorite Apple Pie

Homemade Pumpkin Pie
by Erin at $5 Dinners

Crust Ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup shortening or butter
2-4 Tablespoons COLD water

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place flour in mixing bowl; add butter and cut in with pastry blender.

007

Add salt and then add COLD water 1 Tablespoon at a time. Mix/toss with fork until dough ball forms.

009

Place in plastic wrap or Ziploc baggie and put into the refrigerator
while you make the filling. Make filling (see directions below) while
dough is in the fridge.Take dough ball from fridge and place on lightly
floured surface. Roll out into a circle at least 12 inches in diameter
and gently fold pie crust into quarters.

013

Move pie crust from counter to pie plate.  Unfold. Flute edges in your favorite design. Pour filling into pie shell. Place pie crust shield over the top or use foil to make a shield to keep the crust edges from burning
or turning dark brown while baking. Bake pie at 425 for 15 minutes. Then reduce heat to 350 and bake
another 40-50 minutes, until center of pie is done. If
you want a darker crust, remove the foil or pie crust shield 10 minutes
before pie is finished.

Filling Ingredients
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon (You can substitute 2 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice for above 3 spices)
2 large eggs
1 15 oz. can pure pumpkin
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk

014
 

Place all ingredients in baking bowl. Blend with mixer or stand
mixer on low for 2-3 minutes. Set aside until pie crust is prepared
and pour into the pie crust. Cost: approximately $2.50 to $3 per pie

Our Favorite Apple Pie

This is one of our family's very favorite pies. If I'm able to snag a good deal on apples, this is one of the first things I think of making. It takes a little bit of work, but once you've made it, it's so worth it! And Thanksgiving wouldn't quite be the same without this pie–though it's great year-round, too!

(Confession Time: I had every intention of making up a fresh pie and
taking pictures of it for you, but time slipped away from me this week.
So I'll just let you imagine how beautiful this pie turns out! Think
something like this.)

Pie crust (uncooked, see recipe above or use your favorite recipe)
6 cups thinly sliced, peeled cooking apples (about 2 1/2 pounds)
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Crumb Topping:
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 Tablespoons butter

Prepare and roll out pie crust. Line pie pan with it and flute edges. In a large bowl, stir together sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add in apples and gently toss until coated. Transfer apple mixture to the pie crust. Dot apples with butter. Set aside.

Prepare crumb topping ingredients by stirring together 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup brown sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in 3 Tablespoons butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Sprinkle crumb topping evenly over apples in pie pan. Cover edges of pie with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake 20 minutes more or until fruit is tender and filling is bubbly. Cool on a wire rack. This is especially delicious served with freshly-whipped cream or Breyer's vanilla ice cream. Delicious!

20 Nov 2008   ·   16
Money Saving Mom

Thanksgiving on a Budget: Money Saving Mom’s Favorite Roll Recipe

If you don't normally make homemade rolls for Thanksgiving, you might just want to consider taking a little extra effort to make these rolls this year. They are just that good. In fact, I've tried literally hundreds of roll recipes over the years and this recipe is hands-down the best one I've ever made.

These are best served within an hour or two of making, though, so if you're planning to serve them on Thanksgiving, you'll want to make sure and allow extra time to whip up the dough. While it's rising, you can do your last minute Thanksgiving meal preparations and then stick these in the oven to bake an hour or so before you're planning to eat.

Yes, it's a little bit of extra work but I think you and your guests will agree it was worth it!

030

Pumpkin Dinner Rolls

(Recipe modified slightly from the original recipe found at Tammy's Recipes–a cooking blog you ought to be reading, if you're not already!)

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup warm water
2 cup warm milk
¼ cup butter, softened or melted
2 cup mashed cooked pumpkin (I usually use one can of pumpkin.)
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup wheat germ (can omit and use flour instead)
10-12 cup all-purpose flour (I usually use a mixture of whole-wheat and white flours. I'd recommend going about 1/3 whole-wheat to 2/3 white flour.)
7 teaspoons dry yeast

In large mixing bowl, combine sugar, water, milk, butter, pumpkin, and salt. Mix well. Add wheat germ, 7-8 cups of the flour, and yeast. Mix, and then
continue adding flour and kneading until dough is elastic and not
sticky.

Place dough in greased bowl; grease top of dough, cover with a towel, and set in a warm place until doubled (about 1 hour). Punch dough down and divide into thirds. Divide each third into 16 pieces and shape into balls.

Place on greased baking sheets. Cover and let rise until almost doubled, about 30 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes, until tops are golden. Brush with melted butter as soon as they come out of the oven. (Note: These rolls usually look somewhat dry when first coming out of the oven. Wait about 15 minutes and they will look and taste beautifully. Don't ask me why, but that's how it always works for me!)

Yield: 4 dozen rolls (If you're not expecting a large crowd for Thanksgiving, I'd recommend halfing the recipe. I often do this for smaller groups and it works great!)

Up Next: $5 Dinner Mom's Pumpkin Pie recipe and Our Favorite French Apple Pie recipe

20 Nov 2008   ·   11
Money Saving Mom

Thanksgiving on a Budget: Green Vegetables

By Erin at $5 Dinners

Each of these green vegetable dishes are not only healthy and lower in
calories than a traditional casserole, they won't take up any space in
the oven. Each vegetable can be prepared on the stove top and won't
need any of that precious "Thanksgiving morning oven time"!

004

Green Beans and Garlic
2 lb. fresh green beans
4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Snap or cut the stems off the green beans. Rinse well and pat dry.

003

Place oil in skillet and set heat to medium-high. Add green beans and garlic slices. Saute for 4-5 minutes, until green beans turn a brighter green. Serves 8-12. Cost: approximately $4

Sauteed Asparagus
2 lb. fresh asparagus
4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Snap the ends off the asparagus. Hold each end of the asparagus and push ends together away from you. Allow the asparagus to "naturally" snap. Rinse and pat dry. About 15 minutes before sautéing the asparagus, drizzle oil over the asparagus and let sit. Saute asparagus with olive oil over medium-high heat in skillet for 4-5 minutes. The asparagus will turn brighter green. It is ready to serve! Serves 8-12. Cost: $3.50

DSC02687

Lemon Broccoli
8-12 heads of broccoli
Lemons

Steam broccoli in steamer for 3-5 minutes. Slice fresh lemon into 6-8 wedges. Serve lemon wedges next to broccoli and suggest that guests squeeze lemon over their broccoli. Serves 8-12. Cost: approximately $6

002

What are your favorite vegetables to serve at Thanksgiving? The traditional green bean casserole or something else? I'd love to hear!

Up Next: Our Favorite Roll Recipe

19 Nov 2008   ·   21
Money Saving Mom

Baking Day: Muffins, muffins, muffins!

030

Well, I didn’t end getting everything crossed off my long Baking Day list, but we did get four bags of rice cooked and frozen, salmonettes made and frozen for quick lunches, Healthy Harvest Pumpkin muffins made and frozen, Cranberry Wheat Muffins made and frozen, and Pumpkin Apple Harvest Bread and muffins made and frozen.

And hopefully that will tide us over in the quick snacks and breakfast department for a little while. Though at the rate I’m eating these things, I’m not sure sure if they will be lasting very long. 🙂

Did you have a chance to do anybaking this week? If so, post about it on your blog and leave your link below to your direct blog post. I’d love it especially if you could share pictures and recipes so I can get more ideas for my next Baking Day projects! And I’m guessing many others would be inspired as well.

19 Nov 2008   ·   55
Money Saving Mom

Thanksgiving on a Budget: Orange Ginger Cranberry Sauce

Note from Crystal: For the record, cranberry sauce would also be an area my minimalistic nature would nix. (I know, I know, some of you are probably thinking you'd never want to eat Thanksgiving Dinner at my house by now, seeing as I already said I think stuffing is a non-essential, too!)

However, I know that to many of you, Thanksgiving wouldn't be Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce. And so I present Erin's Orange Ginger Cranberry Sauce:

Homemade Orange Ginger Cranberry Sauce
by Erin at $5 Dinners

This sauce costs approximately $1.50 to make one batch. Not only is it fairly frugal but it' also doesn't contains any preservatives or additives!

001

1 lb. fresh cranberries (these are on sale at Aldi this week for $0.99!)
1 orange, juiced
½ teaspoon of ground ginger
¼ cup sugar

Rinse cranberries. Pick out any cranberries that are white in color or have "gushy" spots. Place cranberries in sauce pan with 2 inches of water, or apple juice. Boil for 10 minutes, then reduce heat and let simmer for 5 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken. While boiling, add the juice from one orange. I squeeze it over a strainer to prevent seeds from dropping into the sauce. Add 1 teaspoon orange zest to the sauce. Cranberries will "pop" while boiling!

010

Add ¼ cup sugar to the cranberries. Alternative sweeteners include apple juice concentrate, orange juice (from a sweet orange), honey, Stevia or Splenda. Add more sweetener for sweeter sauce, or less sweetener for a more tart sauce. Add ½ – 1 teaspoon of ground ginger. Allow sauce to sit for at least 10 minutes to "thicken" a bit more.

Other mix-in ideas: fresh apples, cooked with the sauce, or raw for some crunchiness; walnuts, pecans or other nuts; crushed Pineapple.

013

Just for fun: Do you usually serve cranberry sauce at your Thanksgiving dinner? If so, do you normally serve homemade or store bought?

19 Nov 2008   ·   27
Money Saving Mom

Thanksgiving on a Budget: Sweet Potato Casserole and Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

If you've never had this sweet potato casserole before, let me tell you,
you're in for a treat. Even if you don't normally like sweet potatoes,
you'll want to try this because I'm guessing this is one sweet potato
dish you will eat and like.

Best of all, it's simple and fairly economical–especially if you
can snag a deal on sweet potatoes. (By the way, Aldi has them on sale
this week at $0.99 for three pounds so you should go scoop some up
there if you have an Aldi store close by!)

033

Our Sweet Potato Casserole

4 cups sweet potatoes, mashed
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoons vanilla
2/3 cups milk
6 Tablespoons butter, melted

Topping:
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup butter
chopped pecans, optional

Mix first six ingredients together and spread in a 9×13-inch dish. Mix topping ingredients together and sprinkle over sweet potato mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Makes approximately 10 servings. This can be made the day before Thanksgiving and kept in the refrigerator and baked on Thanksgiving morning.

021


Our Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

15 small to medium potatoes
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup sour cream (can use plain yogurt)
1 8 oz. block cream cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Cut and boil potatoes leaving the skins on (unless you prefer them skinless). Use mixer, Bosch, food processor, or KitchenAid to mash potatoes and add in the rest of the ingredients. Place potato mixer in a slightly greased 9×13-inch. Dot with butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Makes approximately 8 servings.

These potatoes can be made the day before Thanksgiving and kept in the refrigerator and baked on Thanksgiving morning. Or, if you're really brave, you might try Amy's method of freezing and reheating in the crock pot.

Up Next: $5 Dinner Mom's recipe for Orange Ginger Cranberry Sauce and her recipe for some easy green veggies for a healthful side.

18 Nov 2008   ·   58
Money Saving Mom

Thanksgiving on a Budget: Turkey, Gravy, and Stuffing

While all of the other recipes we actually made ahead of time so we could share pictures along with the recipes, Erin and I decided against actually making a turkey ahead of time. However, we wanted to share some great links we found to help you in making your turkey and also some ideas and suggestions for getting a great deal on a turkey.

Buying a Turkey

Most stores are running sales on turkeys right now so it's a great time to buy turkey. The rule of thumb is to buy a bird that is as many pounds of meat as persons you are expecting to be at your Thanksgiving meal. So if you're planning to have 15 people at your Thanksgiving dinner, you'll want to buy a turkey that is somewhere around 15 pounds. I'm sure you could squeak by with a few pounds less, though, without anyone noticing.

Check around to all stores in your area before buying to see which store has the best deal. Many stores also offer a discount or even a free turkey if you spend a certain amount in one transaction the week of Thanksgiving or the week before Thanksgiving. These deals are great to take advantage of, provided you will actually already be spending that amount of money.

Cooking a Turkey

There's a great step-by-step photo tutorial from The Pioneer Woman here on roasting a turkey. And here's lots of helpful information on roasting a turkey from Butterball–and there's even an instructional video you can watch.

If you're having a smaller gathering for Thanksgiving and want to keep it simple, you might consider just doing turkey breasts in the crock pot. Click here for detailed instructions on how to do that.

Looking for something a little out of the ordinary to do with your turkey? You could consider deep-frying it or grilling it.

Making the Gravy

You can make gravy with the pan drippings (see recipe here) or with the giblets (see recipe here). If you've never made gravy before, check out The Pioneer Woman's photo-rich instructions here.

Stuffing: Do You Really Need It?

Okay folks, here's where my simplistic nature comes into play: I don't really think stuffing is a must. I mean sure, most folks serve it as a sort of obligatory part of the Thanksgiving dinner every year, but if you're trying to keep things easy, it is something you could skip.

Now I know some of you are probably thinking I'm nuts. If so and stuffing is something your Thanksgiving menu would not be complete without, then by all means go for it. I'd say to save yourself the trouble of actually stuffing your bird and to just make a pan of it on the side. Use your family's favorite recipe (if you have one), find the boxed mixes on sale and spruce them up a little, or try out The Pioneer Woman's recipe here (her recipe looks great but isn't very budget conscious).

I'd love to hear from you: What are your best ideas for buying an economical turkey? How do you usually cook your turkey? And do you consider stuffing an essential Thanksgiving menu item?

Up next: Our Sweet Potato casserole and Make-Ahead mashed potatoes

18 Nov 2008   ·   36
Money Saving Mom

Want to join us for our Baking Day?

We're having another Baking Day today and tomorrow! Our freezer is almost cleaned out of everything we made last Baking Day and we're definitely needing to restock but I'm going to be gone this afternoon and tomorrow afternoon, so I decided the split up the Baking Day projects over two days.

Here's what I'm hoping to get made:

Healthy Harvest Muffins
Cranberry Wheat Muffins
Pumpkin Apple Breakfast Bread
Cranberry Pumpkin Scones
Banana Apple Carrot Muffins
Whole-wheat waffles
Apple pie
Cook up rice and freeze

I'll put up a post tomorrow afternoon or evening with pictures of what we accomplished. Just for fun, if you'd like to join us in doing some baking over the next day or two, I'll include a Mr. Linky in my post tomorrow so you can leave your link to share what goodies you stocked your freezer with. Remember, the goal is to use what you have on hand, keep it simple, and have fun in the process!

17 Nov 2008   ·   21
Money Saving Mom

Thanksgiving on a Budget: Introduction

Remember I told you that Erin from 5DollarDinners and I had a special treat for you this week? Well, welcome to our week-long series, Thanksgiving on a Budget.

There is great temptation to feel like you have to prepare a ten-course gourmet feast for your loved ones for Thanksgiving. It seems almost everywhere you go right now, you are bombarded with images of elaborate spreads of gorgeous stuffed turkeys lined with rosemary and oranges surrounded by all the trimmings.

While these images might be beautiful, more often than not they can make you feel that unless you recreate such an extravagant affair for your Thanksgiving feast, it just won't be good enough. The reality, though, is that most of us do not have the time or the money to pull off a magazine-like Thanksgiving spread.

And we're here to tell you that that is perfectly okay. In fact, we'd like to encourage you to make your Thanksgiving celebrations simple and economical this year. Erin from 5DollarDinners and I will be teaming up to share some of our favorite frugal Thanksgiving recipes. Whether you're an experienced cook or a novice in the kitchen, we hope that our recipes, tips, and photo tutorials will inspire you to pull off your own "Thanksgiving on a Budget".

We've also solicited the help of Monica from TheHomespunHeart for some inexpensive Thanksgiving decoration ideas which you'll not want to miss. And after we've shared our favorite recipes, we're going to be enlisting your help on Friday.

We'll open up the floor here with a Mr. Linky and encourage you to post your favorite frugal Thanksgiving recipes or ideas on your blog and then come back here to share your link with everyone else. We look forward to reading all your frugal recipes, tips and ideas for
making this Thanksgiving both frugal and festive! 

It is our desire that this series will help relieve some of the "pressure" that is placed on you to create
the perfect meal on Thanksgiving Day. And we hope you are able to instead focus more on what Thanksgiving is really all about–taking time to give thanks for all of the blessings we have been given!

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Note from Crystal: By the way, if you are not a regular reader of Erin's blog, 5DollarDinners, may I encourage you to head over there right now and add her feed to your reader?

Erin feeds her family of four every night for, you guessed it, $5! And her recipes are not only simple and delicious, they are also quite healthful. Her menus serve to clearly dispel the myth that you can't feed your family healthfully on a budget. Read more here about Erin and how she feeds her family for $5 every night.

17 Nov 2008   ·   19
Money Saving Mom

This week’s shopping trip and almost-$40 menu

Our shopping trip today:

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We had a great shopping trip today at both Aldi and Dillons (Kroger). I especially enjoyed the Dillons trip as we were about to get two big bags of apples marked down to $1.49 each along with some skim milk marked down to $0.73. I just always love the adventure of spotting mark-downs; you never know what you might find!

I also discovered, much to my delight, that the Goody Ouchless ponytail holders were on sale for $2 so using this $2/1 coupon, we were able to get five packs free. And just in time as we somehow lost almost every ponytail holder we own when we moved (how does that happen?!). I'm guessing these are on sale at all Dillons stores and maybe some other Kroger stores so be sure to check.

Before coupons and sales, our total was around $105 at Dillons. After coupons and sale prices? $26.76! Gotta love those deals; who would ever pay full price for this stuff, though?

I ended up spending a few dollars more at Dillons than I was originally planning to so I took a few minutes before going into Aldi to cross a few things off my list that I didn't have to get this week and also took a quick inventory of how much leftover grocery money I had stashed away from staying under budget in recent weeks.

At Aldi, we picked up a few staple items we needed, 3 lbs. of sweet potatoes for $0.99, and some fruits and veggies to round out our menu. Our total there was $15.07.

So all totaled, we spent $41.83–a little over our $40 budget, but using the extra cash from the past few weeks that we've stayed a little under budget, I didn't have to have them take anything off my order! Yay! And next time, I'm going to plan a little better and make sure I don't get carried away on deals at Dillons like I seemed to do a little of this week! 🙂

Here's our menu for the week (As always, this is using ingredients purchased this week and ingredients we've stocked up in past $40 shopping trips. We didn't buy any meat or many veggies this week as our freezer is still stocked with those from past sales.):

Breakfasts
Pumpkin apple breakfast bread, yogurt
Whole-wheat pancakes, yogurt, juice
Oatmeal with bananas, flaxseed, and brown sugar
Cranberry wheat muffins, fruit, milk
Banana peanut butter smoothies, toast
Granola over yogurt with fruit
Healthy Harvest Muffins, yogurt, juice

Lunches
Egg salad sandwiches, carrots
PB&J sandwiches, pears
Cheese quesadillas, grapes
Salmonettes, muffins, apples
Steamed veggies over rice
Rice cakes, yogurt, carrots

Dinners
Enchilada casserole, green rice (I'll have to share the recipe for this sometime soon; it's a family favorite!), broccoli
Goulash, homemade bread, veggies
Church dinner–I'm bringing scalloped potatoes, apple pie, and banana bread
Chicken broccoli rice, homemade bread, grapefruit
Homemade pizza, fruit
Steak stir fry over brown rice, homemade bread
Dinner out

Snacks–Muffins, yogurt, apples, carrots

For more menu inspiration, head over to Organizing Junkie.