Thanksgiving Pointers From Food Network's Melissa d'Arabian

Melissa d'Arabian's Helpful Hints For Feasting on a Budget

Of all the year's celebrations, Thanksgiving often is the most expensive. In 2008, roughly a quarter of you said you were spending $150 or more. This year, to help you stay well within your budget, we've enlisted the help of Melissa d'Arabian, winner of the Next Food Network Star and host of Ten Dollar Dinners With Melissa d'Arabian.

On her Food Network show, Melissa makes dinner for four for under $10 — and her Thanksgiving is no different. She's partnered with Walmart to come up with a turkey day feast that's only $20, and plans to serve it to her own family this holiday. "My family is really getting the $20 thanksgiving!" she says. Regardless of how much you've got in your wallet, she has some pointers to help you stay under budget. See them when you read more.

  • Play with ordinary pantry ingredients to add depth to your meal. Find creative ways to extract all the flavor from ingredients you buy. Roast garlic and you'll get a mellow, deep flavor. Caramelize onions low and slow for a half hour to extract their natural sweetness. Or take a regular pantry ingredient like sugar and turn it into something completely different, like caramel sauce.
  • Add spices to make things really special. Putting cinnamon or cardamom pods in a dessert sauce adds a unique touch, but is inexpensive and easy.
  • Stretch your drink dollar. No need to stock a full bar. Create one festive signature cocktail, place it in a pretty pitcher, and serve just that. You can also stretch a bottle of wine by turning it into a spritzer or a sangria. Fill pitchers with tap water and slices of lemon or cucumber for an elegant touch without the expense of bottled water.
  • Make place settings special with personalized notes. Jot small personal notes of welcome to guests. Using the tiny gift envelopes and cards available at paper shops, write a short note for each guest — something kind and intimate so they know their presence is appreciated. "For first-time Thanksgiving hosts," d'Arabian adds, "there's nothing like feeling warm and grateful to make your audience a little more forgiving on any culinary missteps!"

What are you doing to stay within your budget this holiday?

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