Thursday, December 1, 2011

November Assessment, Well, Sort Of

Can anyone else believe it's already the 1st of December? I know I can't. Why only yesterday I was writing checks dated November 28th. Hmmm. So that's the kind of month it's been. Not bad, but busy. And a little confused.

I have all my food receipts in random places and I haven't kept track while I go along in the month as I usually do. Furthermore, we had family in town for several days this month and left to go out of town one day ourselves on our anniversary. And truly, I just really have no idea how much we spent on those days per person.

And then, finally, today, I realized it was December. We had a sort of blow-out leftover night and managed to eat, organize, and freeze much of the delicious holiday foods we'd enjoyed. Though I must confess that we also ended up throwing out more in one night than I've wasted in, I believe, any of the other months of this Cheap Eat Challenge year. Which is what happens when you get a little overwhelmed and lose track. After dinner, I re-introduced myself to my counter tops (we'd been growing distant). And then began The Best Christmas Pageant Ever with my kids and tucked them in and thought a little about my priorities this season. They didn't really involve sorting through last month's receipts.

So while I have my receipts from the food we bought in November, well, probably, somewhere in this pile of junk on my desk, I thought it might be interesting--for you and for me--to tally up how much the big Thanksgiving dinner actually cost. In time, money, and life-saving sanity. Because, you know, those things are much easier to tally than my messy pile (er, sort of pile) of monthly receipts.

Here goes nothing.

We fed 6 adults and 6 children. The food we made lasted, thank goodness, more than one day.

We ate turkey, stuffing, potatoes with gravy, sweet potato yummy casserole, cranberry sauce, rolls, croissants, sparkling cider, pumpkin pie, and chocolate pie.

I think I might have to dedicate this meal and perhaps a Thankful prayer to Aldi. It made this a lot cheaper than it would have been, while also tending to have, not local, but not super far away items either as it's a mid-western centered store.

Free range, local-ish (meaning it was raised in IN) turkey, about 13 lb.: $26.00 (Rivertown Butcher in Newburgh)
Red potatoes, 5 lb bag: $1.49 (sale at Aldi)
1/2 bag sweet potatoes, about 1.5 lb: $.49 (another sale at Aldi)
12 oz bag cranberries: $.99 (Aldi)
1/2 bunch celery: $.30 (Aldi)
3 carrots: $.25
sugar, approximately 5 C: $1.00
brown sugar, approximately 1 1/2 C: $.50
butter, 7 sticks or nearly 2 lb butter: 1.99 per pound at Aldi sale: $3.98
chocolate, 4-5 oz: $.80 (Aldi)
cream, 3 1/2 C or nearly 1 quart at 1.89/pint Aldi sale: $3.78 (embarrassing isn't it, to admit these things)
sour cream, 1 pint (for potatoes): 1.39 (Aldi)
dozen eggs: .89 sale at Aldi
2 apples: .20 (Aldi)
2 lemons (one in a crust, 1 in turkey cavity): .50 (Asian store)
pumpkin puree, about 15 oz.: .99 (Aldi)
walnuts, 1-2 oz: 1.00 (Aldi)
onions, 1 lb or so: .65 (Aldi)
white flour, 14 C or about 5-6 lb: 1.50 (Aldi)
salt, 2 C for brine plus seasoning: .30
3 bottles sparkling cider at 1.99 each: 5.97 (Aldi)
used mostly fresh herbs from garden: parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme--yup.

And the total is: $52.97 for the whole meal and several meals (though not as many as you'd think) thereafter or $4.41/per person, which still isn't bad--which is, in fact, a veritable miracle, until we realize that some of those small people weren't eating very much. Still, even if you just count the adults you're only looking at $8.82/person. Denny's can't even compete with that, and I'm not afraid to say, it was a good step better than Denny's.

How much time did it take? Well, a lot. I started making food the Wednesday before and started thinking about food a day or two before that. Also, as you may notice from the menu, I tried to keep it pretty traditional and simple, which was one of my goals this year. Also, I'm used to cooking, which you may have ascertained from the fact that I have my own food blog. However, I did do most of the cooking myself since other grown-ups were either not in town yet or entertaining children or running around fetching me things--both utterly essential duties. Had I had a kid in my arms for the making of the meal (my oftentimes method of cooking), it would have taken approximately 79 trillion hours plus baking times for this meal.

Did it make me crazy? Did I wish I'd just gone to Schnucks or Bob Evans for help. I'm struggling not to curse here when I give an emphatic "HECK no." Okay, it did make me a little crazy (but isn't that just part of making a Thanksgiving meal) and I've hosted Thanksgiving for a few years in a row now, so it was easier this time. But there were no tears, although a moment of watery-eyedness after the meal when I was cleaning up and broke a glass. But the food was so delicious and the company and ritual so divine, I wouldn't have traded it for any grocery or restaurant-made food. If I'd needed to, I would have scaled back on how much we made. I probably could have gotten away with turkey, mashed potatoes, rolls, 1 pie, and the sparkling cider. We would have still been way full and plenty happy and things would have tasted great. But I had the time and will to do more so I did. I also wouldn't have felt too bad about cheating and buying a few prepared foods like pre-made croissant dough or pie dough or maybe even cranberry sauce if I'd had a big crowd or a big need. But, again, I didn't, so I did it myself.

And now, on to cookies, food gifts, ideas for the cheap and the fast, and at some point in time, Kip's fudge. Happy December. Here we go.

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