Melissa D’Arabian’s Top Tips for a Stress-Free and Affordable Thanksgiving (Part 1)

Melissa D’Arabian’s Top Tips for a Stress-Free and Affordable Thanksgiving (Part 1)

Melissa D’Arabian, host of the Food Network’s “Ten Dollar Dinners,” is a pro when it comes to Thanksgiving, so we were thrilled to sit down with her and hear her top Thanksgiving tips. Not only did she share her time management tips, but she also shared some great ways to save money when you’re planning your Thanksgiving feast.

Here are Melissa’s first 5 tips for a perfect Thanksgiving:

1.  Shop at the right times.
Stock your pantry with basic ingredients (flour, sugar, eggs, etc.) at least 2 weeks before the holidays.  A lot of the typical foods you need for Thanksgiving are going to be on sale right before Thanksgiving, while basic ingredients are not going to go on sale.  Grocery stores will take a loss on holiday-specific products in order to get you into the store and buying other ingredients at full price. 

2. Utilize ingredients you already have.
Make sure you have a scheduled scan of your pantry and refrigerator and ask yourself, “Are there any ingredients that have been sitting around for a long time?”  If you can see eggs, flour, and sugar, and think about turning them into some sort of custard or pudding, that’s going to take you a long way to stretch your dollar. Try to perform a 5-minute scan each week before you do your grocery shopping. As Melissa always says, “The most expensive ingredient in your house is the one that you throw out.”

3. Don’t forget the drinks.
For a cheap way to serve special drinks at your holiday parties, Melissa recommends having one signature drink that you serve to everyone.  She also recommends making some interesting simple syrups to flavor the drinks.  You can make a simple syrup out of almost anything; all you need is half water and half sugar.  Put it into a pan and bring it to a simmer for 3-4 minutes with something in it (i.e. orange zest, lemon zest, lime zest, an herb, a spice, cinnamon sticks, dried cranberries, etc.)  Mix the syrup with sparkling water and white wine, to make a yummy spritzer.  Mix it with sparkling water only and you have a fruity soda for the little ones.

4. Make the perfect turkey.
Melissa's very best turkeys are made this way:
--Start your turkey at a higher temperature, then lower the temperature.  This will get you a nice crispy skin.  Use the higher temperature for about the first half hour, then lower the heat.

--Cook your turkey unstuffed.  Doing this will result in a more evenly-cooked turkey with moist breast meat.

5. Use your oven wisely.
Melissa cooks anything she can on the stove top and she bakes her pies the day before.  Don’t forget that you have a lot of oven time while that turkey is resting- up to 40 minutes!  That’s plenty of time to reheat something.  You can also preheat a dish in the microwave for a little while and then do the final touches in the oven.

Read 4 more of Melissa's Thanksgiving tips here!

For even more great budget cooking tips, be sure to watch "Ten Dollar Dinners" on the Food Network every Sunday at 12:30pm Eastern Time. Watch Melissa put together a tasty and affordable holiday meal on Sunday, December 5th at 12:30pm ET/PT!

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