$1 Thanksgiving Dinner For Six

Let me begin by unequivocally stating that I will never do another challenge that involves me cooking. My sister is not happy with this decision because she’s arguing that I failed in the challenge and therefore I should have to try it again next year (I’m convinced that she simply liked the fact that she didn’t have to cook the meal this year and would like to make that a regular event). While the overall $1 Thanksgiving Dinner challenge went well, there were definitely a few missteps along the way.

I know that the number one piece of advice that I was given was to “practice, practice, practice” which I duly ignored and definitely paid the price for doing so. For my defense, I was incredibly busy these past few weeks and didn’t have a whole lot of extras to work with when I only had a $1 budget.

I started everything on the wrong foot when I cut open the package around the turkey before reading how to defrost it.

Of course, then I read on the defrosting directions that I’m not supposed to take off the packaging while defrosting the turkey:

Since I need to defrost it in less than a day, I have to do it in cold water. With the package cut open and not wanting water to leak into the turkey, my solution is to wrap it in a garbage bag:

Fortunately, this worked and the turkey defrosted by Thanksgiving morning. I then covered it with butter, salt, and pepper:

As I wrapped it in tin foil, I made another big mistake:

Now, you must remember that my sister induced a cooking injury when she told me I needed to whisk medium stiff peaks and I didn’t know any better, so I’ll blame it on my lack of cooking knowledge that I wasn’t supposed to place the cooking thermometer into the oven with the turkey (OK, I realize that if I had taken even a minute to think it through I could have figured out that doing this made absolutely no sense, but I was also in Thanksgiving preparation panic mode). To say the least, the thermometer did not fare too well:

It was when I took the turkey out of the oven that my sister declared victory. While she continued to compile a long list of reasons that I failed, her #1 point was that I had just ruined her cooking thermometer which cost more than a dollar. Things did, however, begin to go a bit better after this.

I decided to make the pumpkin pie, but I made it without the crust (since my mom and sister don’t like it much). Instead, I made it in small containers and then put ice cream on top:

In the end, my sister had seven reasons why she thinks that I failed this challenge which I will detail in my next post and you can decide whether or not her arguments are valid or not…




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  1. I love your pumpkin pie cups. They spell success.
    And there can be no doubt about succeeding as far as the $1 itself is concerned. I think you did a great job. At least everything look edible.
    Did your sister enjoy your meal? Then she should called it “a job well done” and just be thankful.

  2. It’s unfortunate that your sister is so ungrateful on a day such as Thanksgiving. You did an excellent job and were able to provide a great meal for your family. Everybody should be so lucky.

  3. Your sister seems more interested in being declared the winner than in enjoying a good meal or really giving you any credit at all.

    With all due respect, I don’t see why you’d accept any further challenges from her. Challenge YOURSELF to do things, and leave her out.

  4. i agree w/ everyone else.. you did a great job in making everything for $1.. and your sister is kinda not nice…

  5. Your sister needs to back off. I think you did a fantastic job. Making a turkey dinner is no easy task.

    Great job!

  6. Good for you. It all looks quite good.

    Of course I think you succeeded, and of course your sister does not. Previously, I would have said she’s being a poor sport, but after reading through all your previous $1/day posts, it’s obvious this is just how you two get to each other.

    So, I look forward to seeing her reasons for why you failed, but I’m sure your readers will agree with you. Of course, at this point, I think you two should both type up that list of 7 reasons, so we can get a more even presentation of them. πŸ˜‰

  7. I am thankful for your mentoring in:
    –Ambition. You went at this challenge (both cooking and budget) with creativity and verve. Kudos!
    –Grace. You could have stressed out and stopped each time something went a little bit wrong. Instead, you persevered and presented a bountiful feast.
    –Diplomacy. That you actually made such a wonderful feast and invited your greatest rival to attend was a class act.

    You won this, hands down. Step back sis, and buy a new thermometer for yourself AND for your brother.

  8. I think you did a great job and I was very impressed with how little you spent. Is it true that you actually spent $.77?

    Can you imagine how many people could be fed in the shelters for so little money?

  9. I think your sister should have loved that you were up for the challenge and did in fact manage to pull it off. sounds like some gratitude on her part is lacking, especially for a day that is all about gratitude. I think you did great and have watched your challenge since you started it, and rooted for you. I say GOOD JOB!!! Next year sis should have to make dinner.

  10. Well I do not know about yours sisters other 6 points but wasn’t the challage about buying and cooking the ingrediences?

    Loosing because of a ruined cooking thermometer? I don’t think so. If it would be a valid point (and I gon’t think so) you can even let get her away with that – you got the 10 USD on the Visacard after all and you should be able to find such a little kitchen toy for under 10 usd I guess.

    Just my 2 cents. πŸ™‚

  11. I don’t think the thermometer counts as a fail. I’ve done the same thing with mine and I didn’t replace it. Didn’t have the money. I do want to see her list of seven reason why you failed. But I do think she likes to push your buttons, which is why she won’t let you win.


  13. You look like the challenge winner to me. Your ability to think outside of the box is both amazing and inspiring. Thanks for helping me to do the same. I await your post detailing your sister’s objections and your next challenge.

  14. Just want to ask a quick question…were the almonds on the green beans gotten for free as well? Did you mention them in an earlier post?

  15. I would say that the thermometer is kinda a moot point honestly. Cause if she is gonna bill you for that, then you would have to include everything from dishes ( to prep & server) to utilities(water & electric) used. And this was never included in the original equation for the experiment. I mean she can’t change the rules to suit her wishes. She knew upfront, you would be using her equipment & utilities, and at the time did not set any price for using them or a contingency for if they broke you would need to repair or replace them. So even if we did pretend it was a valid point, it wouldn’t be very difficult to get another thermometer for 23c , especially since you have a store which gives you back overages. Either way, you have successfully pulled it off πŸ™‚ This is amazing BTW, just saying πŸ™‚

  16. Congratulations!!!! The spread looks lovely, and I can’t believe anyone would try to say that you failed. I get the whole sibling rivalry thing, but at some point you have to just give people some credit where credit is due. Making Thanksgiving dinner for six people for $.77 is a feat that few if any people can accomplish.

    Anyway, I agree that counting any breakage as a fail is changing the rules after the fact. The challenge was to make dinner, not to not break something! What if you had dropped a glass? Scratched the oven? I mean, seriously. These things happen even to people who are paying full price for everything.

    I say it’s a win and I don’t care what the seven reasons are.

    ~Angela πŸ™‚

  17. P.S. If you *do* take any more challenges from your sister (which I discourage). GET IT IN WRITING. Get all the rules and exceptions down before-hand so there’s no game changing at the end. She did the same thing with the $1/day challenge by saying it was “inedible.” No one said up front that it had to be palatable to her, just that you could do it. Which you did.

    Ok, done ranting now. πŸ™‚

    ~Angela πŸ™‚

  18. Can you do a post where you break down your whole meal and what you spent where (how you got the whole thing for $1). I just think this is amazing.

    As for your sister’s idea that you lost, I think not. Cooking it is no challenge in comparison to getting the whole meal for $1… and if all the food came out edible, who cares if you made a few mistakes in the process of getting it to the table.

  19. I like Michelle O’s lawyerly explanation of why this first of sis’s seven reasons can be tossed. Here, here!

    Your feast looks just fine, and more importantly everyone looked really happy to be feasting all together.

    I love the oven-safe meat thermometer I inherited from my grandmother – it’s at least 40 years old and trusty as ever. You can find these for under $10, and it’d make a great stocking stuffer for your sis. Who wants a thermometer that melts???


  20. I’m sure your sister is a wonderful person, and I understand the whole sibling rivalry thing (I have three brothers, all younger – it can get intense), but I’m sorry, she’s being a sore loser. Maybe once we see her seven reasons things will be clearer, but right now, she seems to be indulging in sour grapes.

    And, your dinner looks GREAT!

  21. This is so impressive. In the hands of a bit more experienced cook I am sure everything would have turned out perfect. I ruined an instant-read thermometer in the oven once, so it happens to even those of us with experience. I look forward to challenging myself like this a few times next year. Not on am important occasion, but probably “Friday Night Dinner on $1” or something like that.

  22. First off, I have to say that your nieces are as adorable as ever!
    Congratulations on succeeding at this challenge. I’m amazed that you were able to do an entire Thanksgiving meal for under a dollar. However, I think the true winners of this challenge are the ones that read your blog. We’ve learned so much from your efforts and owe you a big debt of gratitude for showing us that coupons really do count.

  23. You did it. Congrats. I had my doubts, but you pulled it off. I’m still trying to figure out how you got that turkey for free. Excellent job.

  24. *points to yarn, crochet hooks, embroidery floss, beads, and jewelry findings that have exploded all over my house as I try to pull together a homemade Christmas for everyone out of my stash of craft supplies*

    I know it’s a few days early, but it’s a case of doing something while I’m thinking about it because I know I’ll forget later on in the holiday hubbub:

    Merry Christmas, Jeffrey!

    No offense to you, but your sister is a brat. I’ll watch the thrift shops, yard sales, and chances to glean for free, and if I find a meat thermometer, I’ll send it to you as a Christmas present. It won’t cost me to mail it because I was just given a roll of stamps as a very practical (yeah!) Christmas gift. If you lived nearby, I wish I could give you the Christmas gift of cooking for you for a couple of weeks so you wouldn’t have to set foot anywhere near a stove or *gasp* one of those ultra-dangerous whisks! LOL

    Merry Christmas, Jeffrey. Thank you for being such a lovely part of my 2010. I very much appreciate you and your admirable mission.

  25. Jeffrey, (my son and gson name) I want to smack your sister! Use a turkey bag next time. If you can remember, the turkey thaws in three or four days in the refrigerator. Like someone said, get the next challenge and exceptions in writing! She changes the rules in the middle of the game…not fair. I have never used a turkey thermometer or one of the turkeys with the pop-up thing in it either. My first turkey cooking was scary, but having cooked on twice a year for the last 44 years, it gets better. I have even cooked the giblets inside when they were frozen inside.(give it another hour to cook, wiggle the leg to be sure it is done.) I accidentally cooked a plastic bag inside. No one died. Success!

  26. I love the idea of pumpkin pie cups! Not only is it cheaper, but it is healthier, too. And I have always thought the best part of pumpkin pie was the filling and not the crust, anyway.

  27. Amazing that you pulled it off. Looks like a very good meal. Not only did your sister get Thanksgiving dinner, but it looks like there was at least a day or two of leftovers to chow on. That more than covers the cost of a broken thermometer. By the way I’ve done the same thing, melted a meat thermometer. They do make ones that can go in the oven. They are all metal and glass and are oven safe. That’s what I have now. Merry Christmas and I think it’s your sister’s turn to cook this holiday meal!

  28. As always I am completely amazed at how much you can do with so little money. And the pumpkin pie cups are a stroke of genius! Thanks for the inspiration. P.S. You clearly won the challenge.

  29. Jeffrey you totally rock. It’s time for you to challenge your sister to do something even remotely as extraordinary as what you have accomplished (or for her to shut up).

    I have to admit that I thought maybe you had bitten off more than you would be able to chew, and it is I who must eat my words (thoughts). And for a beginner your cooking skills are fine. I wondered about the thermometer thing too, and erred on the side of caution because of the plastic. Lucky me, not so lucky you. So buy her a replacement and call it good, it has nothing to do with whether or not you win the challenge.

    IMHO Jeffrey WINS!!! You are the undisputed KING of coupons!

  30. Jeffrey –

    This was a headline in regional news today. I thought you might be interested. It is information that you may want to add to your guide.

    “Kroger software upgrade eliminates practice of coupon ‘stacking'”

    FYI, Kroger is part of a larger group of grocers that includes Ralph’s, Fry’s, QFC, etc. So, this policy may affect many of your readers, not just those of us in the South. For example, I shopped at Ralph’s when I lived in California.

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