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A thanksgiving meal can be inexpensive and scrumptious

Nov. 19, 1998

First, you need to choose your beast.

Ham or turkey seem to be the preferred holiday dishes.Get a group together and split the cost of a turkey or ham. Sometimes you can find a buy a turkey, get a ham free deal. (This makes a great Thanksgiving-Christmas combo.)

The traditional turkey can be prepared with ease, but you need plenty of time to let it cook.

Frozen birds will be cheaper, but you need to start thawing days in advance in the refrigerator. Just so you know, frozen turkeys have their necks and gizzard packets inside. So wait until it thaws to pull them out.

Baking bags make seasoning and cooking the bird a breeze. Just purchase a turkey-size bag and an inexpensive turkey-size aluminum pan.

Throw some peeled carrots and potatoes, a few stalks of celery and onion slices for a tasty bird.

Follow the pound chart on the bird's packaging, for cooking times. This will be longer than you think, so look at this before the big dinner. If your apartment's oven doesn't cook evenly, you'll have to compensate for this.

If you don't feel like cooking the bird, you can buy already cooked turkeys that would only require heating. H-E-B offers a line of pre-cooked meats for the holiday season. Grocery stores also have a variety of Louis Rich and Butterball portions of whole turkeys and hams.

If all else fails, some restaurants sell cooked turkeys with all of the trimmings.

Divide the labor on making the extras.

Cranberry sauce, gravy, stuffing, fruit salad and rolls would make a great holiday meal complete.

Cranberry sauce is a breeze to make, just follow the directions printed on the package, but remember to double the amount of sugar if you use two bags of cranberries. Sour sauce is no good.

For the gravy, pick up a couple packages of dry gravy mix at the store. These even come in no-fat and low-fat versions. Again, just follow the directions, but keep stirring to avoid lumpy gravy.

Stuffing also comes in ready to make boxes. You could make it from scratch, but for time's sake, just follow the box's directions.

Whoever brings the fruit salad will have to do some work cutting the fruit, but add a can of mixed fruit cocktail to start it off. Then add slices of your favorite fruit. Adding pineapples will help preserve the other fruits in the salad.

Buy plenty of rolls or pre-packaged dough in the refrigerated section in the grocery store. Find a basket to put these in for a nice display.

It doesn't have to be homemade to be sweet.

Pies are traditional Thanksgiving treats, so pick up a Sara Lee pies or call Marie Callendars for pumpkin, cherry or pecan pies.

Cookies, brownies and cakes are just as tasty and a tad bit easier to make.

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