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New Ways to Save Time and Money on Big Holiday Dinners
An Easy Meal Planner to Prevent Cooking Burnout
2 WEEKS BEFORE
- Money Saver!Write down your menu and read recipes carefully: Prepare a shopping list. Making a list ahead of time will save you from spending wastefully on ingredients you don’t need, or purchasing too little and needing to run out again.
- Money Saver!Bargain hunt or borrow:Don’t waste money purchasing an item you can borrow but if you need to, planning ahead will help you bargain hunt. Keep an eye out for deals at supermarkets and cooking-supply stores.
1 WEEK BEFORE
- Cook ahead: Soup can be made up to a week ahead and frozen if you follow a few guidelines. Add pasta, rice, and other grains just before serving to avoid sogginess. Don’t stir in milk or cream until dinnertime: if you freeze, they’ll separate and curdle.
- Money Saver!Get prepping: Toast your own croutons for stuffing and salads instead of spending on them in the store. When they’ve cooled completely, freeze in an airtight plastic bag until ready to use. Firm cheeses like cheddar and Parmesan also freeze nicely, so grate them now and save time later.
3 DAYS BEFORE
- Money Saver! Shop for perishables, like fresh produce and dairy products: Trying to make room for incoming groceries may tempt you to throw out space hogs like bottles of juice, soda, beer and wine—but you shouldn’t have to buy them again. Put beverages in a cooler to save them for later use.
- Start brining your bird: If you bought a fresh turkey or ham, submerge the meat in a brine solution and refrigerate for 24 hours. Drain, pat dry, and return the turkey to the fridge until roasting time.
1 DAY BEFORE
- Boil the potatoes: Dice potatoes speed cooking time; when they’re cooked, keep them covered in cold water to prevent discoloration.
- Get organized: Prepare cocktail garnishes. Squeeze lemon juice, peel garlic, and wash herbs. Organize and label serving dishes; transfer them to a tagging area for easy plating at mealtime.
THE BIG DAY
- Bake fresh: For prime freshness, bake biscuits, rolls, and par-baked bread today; their textures can change even overnight.
- Roast veggies: Roasted vegetables like brussels sprouts, potatoes, and parsnips lose their crispness once they’re refrigerated. Cook them today.
About ShopSmart magazine:
Launched in Fall 2006 by Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, ShopSmart draws upon Consumer Reports’ celebrated tradition of accepting no advertisements and providing unbiased product reviews. The magazinefeatures product reviews, shopping tips on how to get the most out of products and “best of the best” lists. ShopSmart is ideal for busy shoppers who place a premium on time. ShopSmart has a newsstand price of $4.99 and is available nationwide at major retailers including Barnes & Noble, Wal-Mart, Borders, Kroger, Safeway and Publix. ShopSmart is available by subscription at www.ShopSmartmag.org.