How to Make an Inexpensive Thanksgiving Meal


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If you’re feeling alarmed by recent reports that turkey prices are on the rise, don’t panic. No need to start picking turkeys.

“We don’t see a supply shortage,” said Ben Del Coro, vice president of sales and marketing for Fossil Farms, a New Jersey-based supplier of sustainable, natural meats and farmed game.

Unlike last holiday, where supply chain and labor issues resulted in ingredient shortages, there should be enough frozen turkey for Thanksgiving. However, the outbreak of bird flu and the impact of inflation on fuel, feed and labor costs have contributed to higher turkey prices.

Frozen turkey prices have increased from $1.15 a pound at this point in 2021 to $1.47 a pound for the week of Oct. 28 through Nov. 3, 2022, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. While that’s a nearly 28 percent increase per pound, “the overall costs are in line with what everyone’s been experiencing all year” with food prices and inflation, Del Coro said. In fact, costs for all turkey cuts have increased across the board, including fresh and frozen bone-in breasts, drumsticks and ground meat.

In such case the prices seem affordable, they are not final you will see in the case of the butcher. Del Coro explained that the USDA’s weekly price report shows wholesale prices for commodity poultry, not free-range, organic or so-called premium descriptors. Distributors and retailers add markup costs before the turkey reaches your basket.

For those who have been planning to cook the traditional turkey for Thanksgiving, this year may be the time to try something different. “Buying trends have changed,” said Del Coro. “In the last couple of years, people have been eating at home and hosting smaller gatherings,” while restaurants and hotels served large Thanksgiving feasts.

As more people come back for Thanksgiving dinner, “the demand for the same offering increases,” he said. “Wholesale is coming back now, but the retail demand is still there.” While home cooks may be able to find a frozen turkey on the market, the size and price may not be right.

If you’re feeling adventurous or thinking about forgoing turkey this year, here are some Thanksgiving menu alternatives.

“I personally understand that Thanksgiving is a tradition, but it’s okay to have fun with tradition,” Del Coro said. His Thanksgiving meal includes foods that were more commonly eaten in pre-industrial North America.

For example, game meat used to be a staple of the American diet, he said. “Venison was definitely part of the original Thanksgiving meal and is seasonal,” with cuts similar to roast beef or steak that can be prepared with seasonal toppings.

If you want to stick with the bird theme, Del Coro recommends guinea fowl, pheasants and ducks as substitute birds, which are “more readily available and less expensive than turkey,” he said. Try whole roast duck with balsamic glaze for crispy, juicy skin, rosemary-brined guinea hen or roast pheasant with cornbread filling.

Or for a next turkey experience, Del Coro suggests poussin, a young chicken that weighs around 1 to 1½ pounds and is popular in Britain. Each poussin can be individually stuffed, he said, and “everyone can get their own little roast turkey on their own plate.”

Since the turkey is just one element of many colonial myths and stereotypes surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday, this may be an opportunity to revamp the menu to honor Native Americans.

The movement to decolonize Thanksgiving focuses on acknowledging historical racism and violence against Native Americans, rather than perpetuating the “Roma and Indians” narrative and celebrating the continued cultural contributions of these tribes. Creating a decolonized menu can focus on more foods traditionally prepared and served by Native Americans.

Help decolonize your menu by serving stuffed pumpkin with chickpeas, cranberries and quinoa.

The common ingredients of what we think of as a “traditional” Thanksgiving meal — pumpkins, squash, corn, wild rice, and root vegetables like sweet potatoes and turnips, among others — are also traditional indigenous ingredients, so a decolonized menu can bring them. these dishes in the foreground.

You can also add foods that are often prepared by the tribes of the region where you live. In the Pacific Northwest, it can be salmon and berries; In the Southwest, you can try making homemade tamales.

No, just because you focus on plant-based dishes for Thanksgiving doesn’t mean you have to serve Tofurky.

“I’ve done a lot of polling with my friends and family” about their favorite Thanksgiving dishes, said Jules Aron, certified homolistic nutrition coach and author of “Nourish and Glow: Foods and Elixirs That Naturally Beautify.”

Plant-based dishes such as baked carrots, sweet potatoes, beets and zucchini add color to your menu.

More often than not, he noted, people choose a side dish as their main Thanksgiving meal — “and most of the side dishes are plant-based.” This makes Thanksgiving a natural time to bring more plant-based dishes to the table, when there is already a trend toward sampling and sharing. And if your favorite recipe isn’t vegetarian, it’s not the end of the world.

“People get intimidated when they think about plant-based recipes,” Aron said, fearing they’ll have to make multiple substitutions in a dish or find substitutes for unusual ingredients. However, “if your side dishes aren’t plant-based, there’s usually an adjustment you can make very easily,” such as replacing chicken stock with vegetable stock or using mushrooms instead of bacon.

Aron recommends simple plant-based dishes that highlight seasonal vegetables for two reasons: vegetables add color to a menu often dominated by brown and beige ingredients, and “when you buy in season, the prices are lower.”

A whole roasted cauliflower can make a picturesque plant-based dish for Thanksgiving.

One of her favorite Thanksgiving dishes is Rosemary Maple Roasted Vegetables, which can include a mix of root vegetables like purple potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets and carrots, or whatever your family likes. “It’s not hard to throw it in a pan and burn it,” said Aron.

She also suggests serving it with whole roasted cauliflower as a plant-based centerpiece. To bring another bright color to the table, “go the extra mile and find purple.” Cauliflower is a blank slate for absorbing flavors, so for Thanksgiving, Aron recommends pairing the creamy tahini sauce with seasonal cranberries and candied pecans.