The ultimate guide to a budget-friendly Thanksgiving dinner

Published: Friday, November 17, 2017 @ 4:17 PM
Updated: Friday, November 17, 2017 @ 4:17 PM

Here are seven ways you can trim the Turkey Day budget, yet still enjoy all that Thanksgiving has to offer Shop around for the best deal on turkey, as stores offer steep discounts to entice people in the door The frugal living blog Fun, Cheap, or Free offers up these yummy ideas for appetizers you can whip up in no time Ask a trusted guest to pick up a few bottles of wine Classic Thanksgiving sides are already pretty cheap - potatoes, corn, bread, and green beans will get you pretty far Stick to two or th

Does Thanksgiving make your mouth water, dreaming of your favorite pumpkin or sweet potato pie recipes? Are you ready to pull out your crowd-pleasing stuffing recipe or are you a cautious cook easing into the kitchen for the first time? 

No matter what your culinary skill level, it's easy to make a delicious Thanksgiving meal on a budget. Just follow these simple tips to make these delicious dishes, all without breaking the bank.

RELATED: 8 skinny holiday cocktails you can drink without guilt

Here are seven ways you can trim the Turkey Day budget, yet still enjoy all that Thanksgiving has to offer:

Load your plate with protein and stay away from starchy vegetables. (I'm looking at you, mashed potatoes.) These are among the tips for avoiding that stuffed feeling on Thanksgiving. Photo: The Food Network(HANDOUT)

The Turkey

Shop around for the best deal on turkey, as many grocery stores will be offering steep discounts on the bird to entice people in the door. For smaller dinners, consider getting a couple of game hens - they'll be just as yummy and won't leave you grumbling over leftover turkey sandwiches for weeks. For larger gatherings, plan on getting a turkey large enough to feed each guest about one to one and half pounds of meat. The folks over at The Kitchen have assembled this excellent guide for first-time turkey buyers.

Appetizers

As your holiday guests arrive, you can offer up some cheap but scintillating appetizers with a few basic ingredients and a little pizzazz. The frugal living blog Fun, Cheap, or Free offers up these yummy ideas for appetizers you can whip up in no time that will still impress even the pickiest mother-in-law. 

Baked brie with jam, cranberry salsa, or baked jalapeno poppers are all guaranteed to keep your guests happy while you put the finishing touches on your holiday meal. 

From left: White Lion, Coast of Dufresne and Swizzle FranÁais cocktails, all of which use allspice dram. Photo by Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post.(Deb Lindsey/For The Washington Post)

Drinks

If you're really making this meal on a shoestring budget, consider asking a trusted guest to pick up a few bottles of wine. Southern Living has compiled a great list of non-alcoholic drinks, including some interesting twists on classic sweet tea. Pop Sugar has a perfect seasonal recipe for Cranberry Champagne Cocktails to offer the adults. And don't forget that presentation makes even a store-bought beverage look fantastic. Head to your local thrift store for mason jars or other decorative containers to serve your drinks in. And don't forget that lemon wedge!

Sides

Classic Thanksgiving sides are already pretty cheap - potatoes, corn, bread, and green beans will get you pretty far. Over at the Prudent Penny Pincher, they've compiled over 200 sides that are budget friendly. And with recipes like cheesy crock pot mashed potatoes, scalloped corn, butternut squash gratin, and cranberry pecan stuffing, you are sure to find cheap, easy recipes that will make even the pickiest guest happy. 

Desserts

Desserts are the real reason everyone has gathered for this Thanksgiving meal, so stick to two or three desserts that really shine. Pie crusts are incredibly easy to make and freeze in advance, bringing a little homemade touch to your dessert selection. And, after you've had your first taste of homemade whipped cream, you'll never buy the stuff in the can again. Real Simple offers some easy Thanksgiving desserts - like chocolate bread pudding - for anyone who wants to venture beyond pumpkin pie this holiday.

Kids

This holiday offers plenty of fun options, even for picky eaters. Check out this fantastic list from Parenting, for great, kid-friendly holiday foods like "ice cream" mashed potatoes and carrot and pumpkin turkey snacks. 

Leftovers

Don't forget to use those leftovers smartly. Country Living has scrumptious leftover ideas like sweet potato kale frittatas, slow cooker turkey chili, harvest pumpkin soup and cranberry turnovers. Use leftovers in creative ways so you and your family don't burn out on them, and make sure to freeze anything you won't use in a timely manner. 

Whatever delicious recipes you choose, be sure to make a list and stick to it. Do you homework in advance, scoping out the best deals at your local grocery stores. Shopping with a list (and not when you're hungry) is a tried and true strategy for sticking to your budget. With these tips, you are sure to pull off a spectacular holiday meal. 

Related

Fire damages legendary Franklin Barbecue in Austin

Published: Saturday, August 26, 2017 @ 10:01 AM
Updated: Saturday, August 26, 2017 @ 11:37 AM

Six years after opening Franklin Barbecue in East Austin, Aaron Franklin says that he does not plan on selling the business to franchisers, even though both the size of the building and food production are at maximum capacity.

The renowned Franklin Barbecue suffered heavy fire damage overnight, the Austin Fire Department said early Saturday.

The fire started in the pit room adjacent to to the main dining room at Franklin, owned by James Beard Award-winning pitmaster Aaron Franklin and known for long lines and world-class brisket.

The room that houses the pits suffered “heavy damage” but firefighters were able to contain the fire, resulting only in smoke damage to the dining room and public portion of the restaurant.

Owner Aaron Franklin hopes to reopen the restaurant in a few weeks.

Officials say the cause of the fire was accidental.

BEST RESTAURANTS IN AUSTIN: See where Franklin rates in our Austin360 dining guide

Firefighters work at a fire at Franklin Barbecue on Saturday August 26, 2017.(Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman)
Firefighters work at a fire at Franklin Barbecue on Saturday August 26, 2017. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN(Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman)

Starbucks celebrates spring with limited-time cherry blossom frappuccino

Published: Wednesday, March 16, 2016 @ 9:25 AM
Updated: Wednesday, March 16, 2016 @ 9:45 AM

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To celebrate spring, Starbucks is offering a new blended beverage Wednesday through Sunday. 

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Starbucks describes the Cherry Blossom frappuccino as "a blend of sweet strawberries and cream with white chocolate sauce and matcha drizzle, topped with whipped cream and a sprinkle of matcha." Matcha is a powdered form of green tea. 

The drink, inspired by the Japanese sakura tradition, has been offered in Japan since 2010. It will be available in the U.S. until Sunday, the official first day of spring. 

Starbucks' press release explains the drink's connection to Japanese culture:

"In Japan, cherry blossoms are the national flower and a symbol of renewal and simplicity. Families, friends and colleagues gather under sakura trees and enjoy picnics and parties under the delicate pink blooms, a tradition that dates back at least a thousand years. It is also time for new beginnings, marking both the coming of spring and the start of a new school year. Sakura festivals around the world honor the return of the cherry blossoms and celebrate Japanese culture."

Themed frappuccinos have become more common at Starbucks within the last year. The company offered a vampire-inspired frappuccino for Halloweeen last October and a birthday cake-themed frappuccino to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the popular drink. 

New app splits dinner bills based on wage inequality

Published: Friday, February 26, 2016 @ 2:52 AM
Updated: Friday, February 26, 2016 @ 3:13 AM

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There's an app on the way that helps you split up the dinner bill with some adjustments for race and gender income inequalities. 

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The app, called Equipay, is essentially a satirical statement about income gaps in the U.S. For instance, when using the app, women would only pay 78 cents for every $1 men pay of the bill.

If a person disagrees with their share of the bill, they can click "protest" on the app, at which point it will provide the user with statistics about the wage gap. 

The app started as a joke for Cultivated Wit's Comedy Hack Day, but now the comedians behind it say they do plan to release an app along with a commercial.

Where is America's No. 1 ramen restaurant?

Published: Thursday, March 31, 2016 @ 12:52 PM
Updated: Thursday, March 31, 2016 @ 12:58 PM


            The #1 Original at Ramen Tatsu-Ya. Photo by Jay Janner / American-Statesman
The #1 Original at Ramen Tatsu-Ya. Photo by Jay Janner / American-Statesman

In Time Out’s list of best ramen restaurants, only two states get multiple shout-outs (New York has two restaurants on the list, and California has four). But it's Texas’ lone star ramen place right here in the 512 - Ramen Tatsu-ya - that has been named America's No. 1 ramen restaurant.

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Two ex-DJs opened Ramen Tatsu-ya in September 2012, and the restaurant immediately began drawing long lines. Its local fan base pushed the restaurant to extend its hours and add veggie options all day in February. Since the restaurant started serving food in 2012, the founders opened another location

Time Out cites Ramen Tatsu-ya’s thick, creamy broth as its main ticket to success:

"Former DJs Tatsu Aikawa and Takuya Matsumoto craft a tonkotsu that requires three days’ worth of cook time, resulting in a luscious pork bone elixir that clings to each angel-hair-thin noodle (like many of the nation’s top ramen joints, the custom strands come from revered producer Sun Noodle). Meltingly tender chashu (thin-sliced pork), snappy woodear mushrooms and a marinated egg finish each carefully composed bowl."

When Ramen Tatsu-Ya first opened, Austin food and restaurant critic Matthew Odam gave it a glowing review. The specialty thick tonkotsu automatically comes paired with thinner noodles, balancing the bowl’s ingredients.

The restaurant’s menu lists some rules, including “Chopsticks only,” “Slurp loudly and shamelessly,” and most importantly, “Never share your ramen.”