Make vs. buy, the Thanksgiving edition

Sheri Alzeerah
Special to the Sun

TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; If home is where the heart is, the kitchen is the beating pulse keeping the dwelling alive, happy and most importantly, full and#8212; especially during Thanksgiving.

This holiday when youand#8217;re meal planning, keep your budget and time management in check by knowing when to go full chef and when to go store-bought. Though an entirely home-cooked, too-pretty-to-eat Thanksgiving spread would make any Susie Homemaker proud, letand#8217;s get real. With grocery storesand#8217; rows upon rows of boxed this, canned that and ready-to-eat these, a and#8220;homemadeand#8221; Thanksgiving meal is easier to prepare than ever.

Still, balancing made-from-scratch eats with in-a-box is a delicate art that needs careful planning. To save money and time in the kitchen use this handy Thanksgiving guide to decide whether to make or buy.


Turkey: They donand#8217;t call it and#8220;Turkey Dayand#8221; for nothing after all. Though this bird is the most time-consuming of the Thanksgiving staples, itand#8217;s the crowing jewel of the smorgasbord, so donand#8217;t skimp on this dish. Impress the guests with the main attraction by preparing this one at home. Many grocery stores offer special savings for turkeys in the days leading up to the feast, so be on the lookout for easy ways to save.-

Mashed potatoes: Although mashed potatoes are sold out of the box, thereand#8217;s something special about buttery potatoes smashed at home. If feeding a large party, buy raw potatoes in bulk instead of boxes and boxes of mystery potato powder. Your guestsand#8217; taste buds (and your wallet) will be grateful you did.

Green bean casserole: Green bean casserole only has five ingredients, so itand#8217;s more cost-efficient to just buy the ingredients and create this easy crowd-pleaser at home. Even better, itand#8217;s a one-dish wonder, meaning less time washing dishes after feasting.-

Mac and cheese: Fact: Boxed mac and cheese is just plain juvenile when compared to its home-cooked twin. Though the blue-boxed college staple is tempting for its convenience, the neon noodles wouldnand#8217;t quite fit in with the rest of the Thanksgiving spread.-

Instead, invest some time and little money in a baked macaroni and cheese recipe. Not only does it blow the boxed version away as far as flavors, itand#8217;ll save you money the days following Thanksgiving as a just-as-good-as-day-one leftover.


Biscuits: Itand#8217;s as easy as unwrap, pop and bake when it comes to canned biscuits. Making bread is a long process that requires many ingredients and even more patience. Instead, check out the canned dough selection your grocery store has. Look for coupons in store and online to make the most dough out of your dough.-

Bread rolls: For the same reasons as biscuits, rolls are a time-consuming and laborious art. Instead of investing time into a side, use that time in the kitchen to focus your attention on the heartier dishes that guests will request for years to come.

Stuffing: Stuffing is the king of multi-ingredient side dishes, taking bits and pieces and mashing them together into one blend. Luckily, you can find this blend (and endless variations of it) in the grocery store in a box. Itand#8217;s easy to prepare, tastes delicious and often looks more presentable than the homemade mash-up.

Cranberry sauce: Because itand#8217;s such a staple, grocery stores realize that itand#8217;ll be a top seller. Around now, start scoping out special offers on canned cranberry sauce. The best part is if you overbuy cans this year, their shelf life is remarkable, meaning less food put to waste, meaning more money in your pocket.

Make or buy

Dessert: People tend to be picky with their Thanksgiving desserts, but the bottom line is this and#8212; if youand#8217;ve already got a majority of the basic ingredients in your pantry (which youand#8217;d be surprised that you likely do), go ahead and go from scratch. Bonus points for making your home smell like a bakery.

But if baking isnand#8217;t your forte and the ingredients list is intimidating enough, thereand#8217;s nothing wrong with picking up a pie fresh out of someone elseand#8217;s oven.

Whether you decide to do Thanksgiving from scratch or not, keep in mind these are only guidelines that depend largely on your grocery store, pantry supply and most of all, your patience. So whatever methods of preparation you pick, best of luck tackling the feast this month. After all, having a full table of food to offer is a precious gift to be thankful for no matter the prep work.-

and#8212; Sheri Alzeerah is a journalist and freelance writer for meal planning site

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