It may feel like we’re living in a suspended reality right now, but before we know it Thanksgiving will be here and we’ll be gathering around the table for the most traditional of American meals. While we all love the Thanksgiving warm-and-fuzzies, and the autumnal eats, the price tag of a Thanksgiving meal can easily get a bit overwhelming. Last year, the American Farm Bureau Federation announced the average price of a Thanksgiving meal for 10 had reached an all-time high at $50.11. With that in mind, we’ve done a bit of soul searching re: how to keep the feast costs down and the Thanksgiving cooking delicious. Unsurprisingly, the highest priced ticket item on the Thanksgiving shopping list is the turkey. In 2015, a 16-pound turkey averaged out at roughly $23.04 — when you’re trying to truly do the meal on the cheap, that amount can be out of reach. One big way to save some pennies and still eat well is to trade in your Thanksgiving dinner for a Thanksgiving breakfast or brunch.
A Thanksgiving breakfast can involve basic and affordable foods that are not as specialty or expensive as the traditional Thanksgiving stuffing and cranberry sauce fare. Think eggs and a big stack of pancakes; or substitute a whole bird for turkey sausage or turkey bacon, and serve up some seasonal vegetables like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, or Brussel sprouts on the side. Mary Ostyn, author of the cookbook Family Feasts for $75 a Week, also suggested the frugal idea of a baked potato bar. “Bake a bunch of potatoes and serve with: cheese, sour cream, crumbled bacon, green onions, peppers, olives and other yummy toppings. Besides being affordable, this meal has the advantage of being completely customizable by each guest.” Ostyn’s other big suggestion for a holiday breakfast is a stuffed and festive French toast platter.
We also spoke with chef Leanne Brown, a food studies scholar who wrote the cookbook Good and Cheap specifically for people on a $4/day food stamp budget, for a few of her cost cutting recommendations for the holiday meal. She agreed that a Thanksgiving breakfast was a good idea for sticking to a tight change purse. She also supplied a few hacks, including her mom’s cost-cutting stuffing secret. “My mum makes it be saving the bits of bread from various loaves for a few months in advance and freezing it all. So by the time Thanksgiving comes around you have a variety of breads and you just have to toast and add spices, vegetables and/or the meat of your choice.”
For dessert, she suggested foregoing pies to save on the high price of butter. “Consider making a sweet potato or pumpkin pudding to keep the flavor but cut some of the costs,” she said. She also offered what we consider to be a delicious sounding center-piece recipe for our pending Thanksgiving breakfast: Brussel sprout hash and eggs. Serve it up with a side of turkey bacon and a pumpkin pudding, maybe a baked potato bar? We’re hungry! And our wallets are happy.
Leanne Brown's Brussels Sprout Hash and Eggs
Chop off the ends of the sprouts. Slice them in half, then finely chop each half. Place the shreds in a bowl—you should end up with about 4 cups—and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Melt the butter in a medium-size nonstick pan with a lid over medium-high heat, swirling to coat the pan. Add the Brussels sprouts and the garlic, then let them cook until just a little wilted, about 1 minute. Toss the mixture. Add the olives and toss again.
Crack the eggs into the pan so they aren’t touching. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour in 2 tablespoons water and cover with the lid. Let the eggs steam, undisturbed, until the whites are cooked through but the yolks are still runny, about 2 minutes.
Turn off the heat and squeeze lemon juice over everything. Serve immediately.