Thanksgiving: Affordable options away from home

The traditional Thanksgiving celebration brings families together for camaraderie, football and way too much food. However, some students end up staying in town for the holiday. Some have to work, some live too far away to make the trip plausible with the semester ending in three short weeks and others just have their own reasons.

Whatever the reason for staying around campus, students can easily celebrate Thanksgiving with friends at a reasonably affordable price.  With some planning and organization, a feast worthy of mom’s can be enjoyed by the group.

The first option is for one person to cook the dinner. This is not only expensive, but most students don’t have a large enough kitchen or enough culinary experience to pull this off. Monetary donations from the dinner attendees could help pay for the groceries needed, but again there are the other issues.

A more viable option would be to pre-order Thanksgiving dinner. Meijer® has a deluxe turkey dinner that includes a 10-12 pound turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole. Time is of the essence with this option because it not only needs to be ordered in advance but quantities are limited. Again, it would be a good idea to get the Thanksgiving dinner attendees to pitch in for the cost, but for less than $40, not a bad deal when divided among friends.

Another option would be to have all dinner attendees choose a dish to pass. This take cooperation and commitment so there will be enough food and a good selection of it. Everyone would need to agree on a dish or two to pass, depending on the amount of people coming. Dishes could include potatoes, stuffing or a dessert. This would allow the host or hostess the opportunity to greet guests and not spend so much time cooking.

If cooking or baking is just not your thing, but you need to contribute, consider rolls or a plate of fresh vegetables with dip. Also consider cheese and crackers or be adventurous and make green bean casserole. The recipe is on the can of French fried onions and it really isn’t that difficult. There are also fresh baked pumpkin pies or other baked goods available at the local grocery or bakery to bring for dessert.

Let’s talk turkey.

One of the most important things about Thanksgiving dinner is the turkey. There are some things to consider when choosing a turkey for your Thanksgiving dinner. Make sure it is large enough to feed your guests. Estimate ½ pound per person if you don’t want leftovers, or 1-1 ½ pound per person if you do want leftovers. Also, a frozen turkey takes about four days to thaw in the refrigerator, so buy in advance. It also will take several hours to cook, so be prepared for a busy day with the turkey alone.

Other options to turkey are cooking just a turkey breast. This doesn’t need as long to thaw and there isn’t the left over carcass to dispose of. If there are vegetarian guests, keep it simple with different meat-free dishes or be adventurous and try Tofurky®. Tofurky® is surprisingly simple to make and only needs to thaw overnight. It can even be microwaved.  Tofurky® only feeds about 4-6 people, which is fine if there are only a vegetarian or two in the group. If there are more than a couple vegetarians in the group, opt for more sides or another Tofurky®.

What if all of this sounds like too much work?

Well, there is the super easy, albeit lame, frozen turkey dinner. For around $3.50 per meal one can eat turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn and a dessert. This is a way to eat turkey on Thanksgiving, but really?  How about a real Thanksgiving dinner made by someone else?

Check local restaurants that will be open Thanksgiving Day. This option will give those who aren’t really into turkey and stuffing other options for dinner while still spending time with friends.  The option of how much to spend is up to the individual.

If getting together with family is not an option this year, be thankful there are friends who care and want to spend time having a meal together. Enjoy and look forward to the upcoming semester break. There are a few days to enjoy down time before the study sessions for finals arrive.