Instant Thanksgiving Dinner

by on August 31st, 2010
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The best thing to make for Thanksgiving is friends who invite you over to eat what they prepared. Keep that in mind for next year. Meanwhile, your dinner can be great without thawing out a turkey or stressing over a bunch of dishes you have only made a few times in your life. Here are several ways you can have turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes and all the rest with very little actual cooking.

If you have waited until the last minute, your first step is to locate a market that is open today. Walmart Supercenter will work, if there is one near you. Go find an open market in your area, and then take this list with you:

Turkey and Stuffing TV Dinners

If it is just you and the kids, this is the way to go. Marie Callender’s makes the tastiest turkey TV dinner. It’s in a dark green box and costs about $4 to feed one person. Banquet makes the cheapest and smallest for about $1 to serve one. All of them microwave in 6 minutes or less.

Turkey – 3 Options

Turkey Loaf – Look in the lunch meat section of the market for turkey loaf. Jenny-O sells these in a yellow package for about $2 per pound. They are about the size of half a loaf of bread. They are fully cooked. At home you can just slice the turkey loaf, arrange it on a serving plate and microwave it. Voila! Instant turkey main dish.

Turkey Noodle Soup – This is the cheapest way to go. You will find several varieties in the soup aisle for around $.79 per serving. Bear in mind one can of soup is two servings.

Turkey Lunch Meat – If everything else is sold out, there should still be little packages of this in the sandwich meat section or in the deli section of the market. Just skip straight to turkey sandwiches.

Gravy – 2 Options

Canned – Making gravy is almost more of a pain than baking a turkey! Campbells, Libbey and a bunch of other canned food giants sell canned turkey gravy. It is sometimes in the soup aisle and sometimes in the foreign foods aisle. Ask a store employee if you can’t find it. Canned chicken gravy works just about as well, if they are out of turkey gravy. Each can serves about 4 and costs about $1.50.

Packet – Schilling, Lawry’s and all the others in the spice aisle prepare sandwhich-bag-sized packets of gravy that you add to boiling water and then simmer in a saucepan. I actually like the white country gravy with sausage in it better than the turkey, when it comes to the gravy packets. They are all about $1 to serve 6.

Mashed Potatoes – 2 Options

Ready-to-eat tubs of mashed potatoes are now in the prepared food section of most grocery stores. They are pricey, about $5 to serve 4 people, but you can’t beat ready made for convenience.

Ten or more varieties of “instant mash potatoes” are available now. Betty Crocker Potato Buds are the old standby, but these are all similar. Buy the cheapest box. You just add these and some butter and milk to boiling water. You can even boil the water in the microwave or use your Hot Shot, if you have one.


Remember Stove Top Stuffing? It is still around and even has some imitators. Just buy the cheapest box. You just add this and some butter to boiling water. You can boil the water on the stove, in the microwave, or even in an electric kettle. It doesn’t matter.

Suggested Other Items

Now you have the basics for an instant Thanksgiving dinner. Here are optional extras you can add if you have the money: canned cranberry sauce; canned yams; a cylinder of crescent roll or biscuit dough you just crack open and bake in a convection oven or a traditional oven; pumpkin or apple pies from the supermarket bakery (or the frozen dessert section if the bakery is sold out); a bag of salad or canned green beans.

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