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Posted November 14, 2011 | comments Leave a comment

Thanksgiving dinner, planning a delicious and safe meal

Do you have visions of turkey, stuffing and sweet potatoes dancing in your head? Don't let a tight budget stop you from planning a spectacular and safe Thanksgiving meal!

Start with planning:
• Map out your menu and the number of people to be fed. Don't overbuy.
• Consider letting guests contribute a dish to the meal. Thanksgiving potlucks are very trendy.
• Make it from scratch. Cut costs by making your own cranberry sauce, pies, gravy, and rolls. Also by making food from scratch, it is easier to control the amount of sugar, fat, and salt in dishes.

Shopping tips:
• Start watching for ads and clip coupons.
• Look for "buy one, get one free". Save the extra one for a December holiday meal or donate the free one to your local food bank.
• Use your shopping points to get a free turkey.
• Look for off-brand turkeys.
• Compare the prices of frozen vegetables with fresh.
• Don't be afraid to adjust a recipe to save money. For example, if a recipe calls for some very expensive ingredients, find similar but less expensive substitutes.
• Use regular dishes versus paper.

Safety Concerns:
• Always thaw a turkey in the refrigerator. Do not thaw on the countertop. Bacteria can grow fast at room temperature. It is recommended to allow 24 hours for every 5 lbs. Always defrost your turkey on a tray.
• Stuffing - Do not stuff the turkey the day before Thanksgiving. You can pre-mix the dry ingredients the day before and refrigerate. When you are ready to cook the bird, add the liquid to the dry stuffing ingredients and stuff the bird just before cooking. Consider cooking the stuffing separate from the turkey. The turkey will cook faster without the stuffing and this will save on your energy bill.
• Use a thermometer to check for doneness. Check temperatures of both the thigh and breast. Both the stuffing and turkey need to reach 165 degrees.
• Leftovers - Within two hours after cooking refrigerate all leftovers. To make the most of turkey leftovers cut the meat from the bones and store in the refrigerator or freezer. Freeze small bags of turkey for future recipes. Use leftover turkey stored in the refrigerator within 2-3 days. If you wish to make soup from the carcass, refrigerate within 2 hours after cooking and make the soup within 1-2 days.

For Holiday Turkey Tips: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Factsheets/Lets_Talk_Turkey/index.asp

Virginia Cooperative Extension wishes you a Happy Thanksgiving!

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