Thanksgiving Meal Tips: Save Money, Shop Early, Stay Safe

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Thanksgiving dinner is going to look a lot different this year.

Because of the pandemic, state and federal leaders are urging people to celebrate with just their immediate family.

So as you look towards the historic holiday, experts said grooery shopping for your meal this week can help the community stay safer and save you money too.

 “2020 has been a crazy year,” said Molly Devanney, the vice president of public relations for Highland Park Markets located in Mancheter, Glastonbury, Farmington, and Suffield.

Highland Park Market employees have been working hard on the frontlines, keeping shelves stocked during the changing and challenging times of the pandemic.

While you can’t buy fresh turkey this week to serve next, you can get much of your holiday side supplies now, including stuffing, cranberry sauce, and even produce.

This will help keep stores less crowded and safer for shoppers and store employees.

 “This year’s a different year. It’s a different animal, and we’re just encouraging people to get what they want ahead of time,” she said.

Highland Park Marktet had to predict how many turkeys they’d sell back in March, “Fingers crossed we’ll go through about 4,000 birds,” said Devanney.

As social distancing protocols call for much smaller dinner plans, all their small turkeys are pretty much spoken for already.

We watched on as some shoppers bought a big one anyway, “If you don’t want to do a big thing that day, break down the turkey parts,” she said.

Leftovers are also long term money saving option.

“It’s a great source of protein. Pack those freezers with your turkey after.”

As dining traditions may have to change this year, why not change what you serve to save some cash?

“You can break traditions, you can make your own. It doesn’t matter," nutrition instructor Kellie Gilbert said.

She teaches classes for “Cooking Matters,” an organization that helps you eat healthy on a budget.

She hopes you can enjoy the holiday safely and cheaply.

Gilbert said budgeting starts before you even buy anything.

Check your pantry, fridge, and freezer before you go shopping to see what you already have.

“Make substitutions based on what you have and what’s on sale that week," she said.

For example, “If red potatoes are on sale. They’re cheaper than Yukon gold. Mash those.”

She said any recipe can be adjusted and make sure to compare unit prices for fresh, frozen, and canned ingredients.

If you’re worried about sodium content in your canned beans or vegetables, Gilbert said make sure to thoroughly rinse them and that way you reduce about 40% of the sodium content.

“Frozen is great because it’s just picked at the peak ripeness and frozen it doesn’t lose any of its nutrition.”

Gilbert said the most expensive food you buy is what you throw away. So use any scraps for a soup stalk or another recipe.

And who says you need to cook turkey? 2020 is one for the history books.

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