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Fight food costs: Shop and cook smarter

Jen’s Jots: Buy a whole turkey, it’s not just for Thanksgiving!

Jennifer Kiel, Editor, Michigan Farmer and Ohio Farmer

April 26, 2024

7 Slides

I’m not feeding a crowd or even a large family. It’s just my husband, Chris, and I these days. During a recent trip to Walmart, I had turkey on my list for sandwiches. I stood in front of the deli, just staring.

The friendly attendant asked twice if she could help me. The only response I could muster was “really,” with a tone that put a question mark on the end. At $9.94 a pound — I’m not kidding, check out the photos — I thanked her and moved on.

In one of those open freezers in between aisles, several frozen Butterball turkeys were sale-priced at $1 a pound. A customer walking by snickered as I hoisted that whole 16.77-pound tom into my cart while saying, “I’m not afraid of you!”

I’m not.

I’ve made the turkey for our Thanksgiving family gathering for many years. I’ve also bought and cooked a whole turkey breast before, but it’s twice as expensive, and who wants to give up that yummy dark meat and the drippings that create amazing gravy.

Cut costs, not consumption

As food costs continue to rise, there are ways to be frugal without having to compromise. It may take some time and a little effort, but I bought a whole turkey for less than the price of 2 pounds of deli meat.

Granted, it wasn’t as convenient, there was a cost to cooking it in the oven bag I purchased, and the three-plus hours it was in the oven, but the end product was glorious. Pure turkey, no added preservatives and without all the salt.

My daughter Emily and her husband, Tyler, joined us for the initial feast, which also included potatoes I peeled and mashed, gravy I made by boiling the neck and giblets in seasoning and then adding the drippings, a vegetable medley, and dressing. Confession: I didn’t make the stuffing from scratch. I’m pretty sold on Stovetop.

There was so much left. I sent the kids home with enough for another two meals, still leaving plenty of leftovers for Chris and me. For sure, I’ll make some turkey sandwiches, maybe a turkey casserole, and after boiling the carcass, I’ll have the perfect broth for turkey soup. The rest I will double-bag and throw in the freezer for another day.

Buying in bulk is almost always cheaper. I bought a 10-pound tube of ground chuck at Sam’s Club for about a $1 less a pound than my local grocer. I chunked it up into five pieces, bagged it and threw it in the freezer.

Foregoing convenience can also trim expenses. Beans are a good example. Buying raw bagged beans, soaking and cooking will save more than half of buying canned.

Basic bread is six ingredients most households have readily in stock. It’s a matter of mixing, some patience and baking. Same thing with cake mixes.

I never understood why people pay for jarred sauces, particularly tartar sauce, which is mayonnaise, chopped pickles and onions and some basic seasonings most everyone has on hand. Same thing with cocktail (shrimp) sauce, which is ketchup, horseradish and some seasonings.

A 2.5-pound container of quick oats costs less than an 8-pouch box (12 ounces total) of maple and brown sugar oatmeal. I can add my own brown sugar and maple syrup, or maybe I’ll throw in some cinnamon and apples.

Food costs are rising. Rather than simply complaining, look for solutions.

Another benefit of cooking a whole bird, it warmed up my house and filled it with an aroma no deli meat could ever offer.

About the Author(s)

Jennifer Kiel

Editor, Michigan Farmer and Ohio Farmer

While Jennifer is not a farmer and did not grow up on a farm, "I think you'd be hard pressed to find someone with more appreciation for the people who grow our food and fiber, live the lifestyles and practice the morals that bind many farm families," she says.

Before taking over as editor of Michigan Farmer in 2003, she served three years as the manager of communications and development for the American Farmland Trust Central Great Lakes Regional Office in Michigan and as director of communications with Michigan Agri-Business Association. Previously, she was the communications manager at Michigan Farm Bureau's state headquarters. She also lists 10 years of experience at six different daily and weekly Michigan newspapers on her impressive resume.

Jennifer lives in St. Johns with her two daughters, Elizabeth, 19, and Emily 16.

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