A Very Costco Thanksgiving: Feeding 8 People for $80 (Plus the Cost of Pie)
Even though it's just me and the mister at home, I still do enough shopping at Costco that I could be mistaken for a Mormon housewife. Why? I'm a sucker for a good deal. (Also, I go through a ridiculous amount of onions, peppers and tomatoes at home each week. Why not buy in bulk?)
Photos by Katharine Shilcutt What's in the booooox? WHAT'S IN THE BOOOOOOOX?
And although Costco is well known for having excellent options for throwing parties or serving large dinners -- the moist, delicious sheet cakes alone are a triumph of industrial-scale baking -- I'd never seen a fully-cooked, ready-to-heave-at-your-guests box of Thanksgiving dinner before this past weekend. Yet there it was, squatting resolutely in frozen foods aisle 035.
The box promised to feed a group of eight to 10 people (sans desserts; what the hell -- that's the best part!) for the low, low price of $79.95. And because the entire meal is pre-cooked, the box claims that it can all be ready in 90 minutes -- after thawing. I couldn't resist and decided to test out the box on some unsuspecting friends and family members for a pre-Thanksgiving dinner.
Grabbing it out of the freezer was easier said than done, however, as the bottom of the box wasn't taped up and immediately spilled its entire contents across the concrete floor. Bags of frozen green beans and tubes of muddy-colored gravy scattered like buckshot in all directions as I stood petrified in shame. Now everyone in a 100-foot radius could see that I was the one sorry sap buying a frozen Thanksgiving box this year.
Not the recommended means of unpacking your own Thanksgiving box.
A managerial-looking fellow shuffled over to the scene of destruction and barely acknowledged me as he began to repack the contents into the box with a look of defeat on his face, before wordlessly hefting another [taped-up] box into my shopping cart. Happy Thanksgiving, dude.
Now properly in the spirit of the holiday, I grabbed a $5.99 Costco pumpkin pie to supplement the box, waited in the already-ridiculously-long lines (if you haven't already done your Thanksgiving shopping at Costco, you would appear to be screwed for now) and hauled my bounty to the car. Other shoppers stopped me along the way to ask about the boxed Thanksgiving dinner, but I sensed they were more interested in regarding the meal as a freak show than as a legitimate holiday option.
Unpacking the feast at home, I wasn't terribly surprised to see that it more or less resembled a frozen version of an MRE. The mashed potatoes and cornbread stuffing came out of the box in IKEA-style flat-pack sheaths, the ultimate in space-saving food engineering. Only the turkey, vacuum-sealed and surprisingly pert, looked appetizing. However, despite being pre-cooked, the nine-pound turkey requires three days of thawing in the refrigerator -- so don't buy this the day before and think you're set. Rookie.
Fool your guests into thinking you actually cared enough to cook for them!
On the other hand, the three-pound-each pre-cooked sides only require a day's thawing in the fridge. And if you forget, don't sweat it. They're all relatively easy to heat up with an extra 20 to 30 minutes on the stovetop (or an extra 10 minutes in the microwave). That's the good news.
Also good news: Quite surprisingly, the box can totally feed eight to 10 people -- ten if they're average eaters, eight if they're really hungry. Which leads us to the bad news.
Your guests are probably not going to be super hungry for most of the stuff that comes in the Thanksgiving box (which my own guests quickly christened "Fakesgiving"). Although none of it is terribly bad for you -- even the butter-saturated green beans and "garlic confit" mashed potatoes -- the sheer amount of sodium contained in an average plate will quickly make you bloat and tire.
Everyone's all smiles...before they actually start eating.
Here's a quick run-down of how the individual items shook out: