By Samantha Vercellino
Thanksgiving is fast approaching and many Americans are gearing up to cook a traditional holiday feast that will leave family and friends in a food coma. But gathering around the table can be a pricey affair, especially when total U.S. spending on Thanksgiving dinner is $2.4 billion.
So, before heading into the kitchen, look at these simple tips to prepare a meal that your family–and wallet–can appreciate.
Portion control. The National Turkey Foundation estimates that 46 million Americans will enjoy turkey this Thursday. That’s a lot of bird! If you don’t expect to eat a lot, consider buying a smaller turkey, which will require less cooking time. Already bought a big one? Microwave the leftovers over the next week and keep you oven and stove turned off. Check out the Food Network’s best leftover recipes.
Don’t peek. Fears of drying out the turkey may drive you to frequently open the oven door but don’t. Every time the oven door is opened, the temperature inside drops by as much as 25 degrees, forcing the oven to exert even more energy. Keep the heat inside by checking your food through the oven window.
Plan carefully. Thanksgiving will be busy, so save time and energy by choosing cold side dishes (a vegetable salad) or sides that you can cook in the oven simultaneously with the turkey. For the sides, opt for ceramic or glass dishes over metal pans. Their ability to hold heat well will allow you to lower the oven temperature 25 degrees. Plus, don’t be fooled into preheating for an extended period of time, five to eight minutes will do.
Size matters. When it’s time to use your stovetop, match the size of the pan to the burners. More heat will get to the pan and less will be lost to the surrounding air. For example, a six-inch pan on an eight-inch burner will waste more than 40 percent of the energy. Also, before the big day, clean your burners to ensure they’re working effectively.
Give other appliances a chance. This holiday, both your oven and stovetop will be working overtime, so give them a break and use your crock pot, microwave or toaster oven instead. Small kitchen cooking appliances like the toaster oven draw less than half the power of your regular oven, and they cook for a much shorter period of time which translates into significant savings.
Feel the family warmth. Before family and friends begin to arrive, lower your thermostat a degree or two. Body heat–and the warmth from the kitchen–will keep your home at a comfortable temperature, allowing your furnace to enjoy a little holiday relaxation. Each degree you lower the thermostat can save you up to three percent on your heating bill.