How Almost Homemade Can Make Your Thanksgiving Meal Healthy, Fast And Easy

Rustic Thanksgiving Dinner Table
Rustic Thanksgiving Dinner Table

Benefits Of Almost Homemade Cooking:

Checks food wastage:

  • Almost homemade checks food spoilage and wastage as you incorporate items that are either too small for use or to be preserved into your dishes with no stress.

Higher nutritional value:

  • Almost homemade can be combined with prepackaged dishes in such a way that you either add or substitute the ingredients in order to beef up the nutritional value of some dishes while reducing the calories and fat levels.
  • Again, a particular ingredient in a prepackaged recipe that a family member is allergic to can be avoided by substituting it with other items from your stock. This can go a long way to checking food allergies and sensitization.
  • Many ingredients in products are chemicals which are detrimental to our bodies. In almost homemade, you can use natural ingredients that enhance color, taste For instance, pure vanilla, not artificial; real eggs not egg substitutes, butter not lard or margarine can be used.
  • You also have a chance of staying away from products that have been genetically altered to increase the size and some other factors by opting for organically grown items for your combinations.
  • In almost homemade, you to some extent put a check on not only the ingredients used in preparing the dish but also on how much of it you consume.

Makes for variety:

  • Fresh vegetables can be added to prepackaged dishes to create variations on a dish.

More servings from the same quantity:

  • You can have more servings from the same quantity of stock if you augment the prepackaged store-bought item with stocks like meat, fruit, and vegetables.

Brings the family together:

  • Almost homemade creates an opportunity for the family to spend time together. This has the advantage of not only letting the children learn about food preparation as they help either by reading the recipe aloud or by mixing some ingredients for use in the meal preparation.
  • More so, as they cook and eat meals together as a family, parents get the chance to groom the children on both healthy eating habits and good table manners.


  • With just a few selected items from the store, you can combine some fresh ingredients from your stock thereby spending less than you would have if everything were to be bought from the store.


In almost homemade, you can regulate your food portions unlike in restaurants and fast food joints where you are usually tempted to eat almost everything that you are served.

Relieves stress:

  • Almost homemade can be both pleasurable and relaxing as both cooking and cleaning involve exercise and every form of exercise reduces one’s dopamine level as well as other mood-enhancing hormones.

Enhances creativity:

  • Almost homemade gives you the chance to be imaginative, creative and artistic. As you look forward to great recipes, you will try out ingredients that you have probably never used before.
  • You may also attempt making something that is usually in one form in a different form altogether.

How To Make Prepackaged Recipes Healthier

A good prepackaged recipe should have ‘real food’ ingredients. In other words, it should have carbohydrates, proteins, and fats which combine not only to keep you fuller for longer periods but also give better blood sugar control and a broader spectrum of nutrition. This implies that it should be low in sugar, low in salts, trans-fat free while tasting great.

The saturated fat content should be 3grams or less to make for a healthy heart.

The sodium content should be in the range of 500-600mg ie 2300mg daily for healthy people. For someone who eats four meals daily, that is 575mg per meal.

Basically, a healthy prepackaged recipe should be one that you can recreate in your own kitchen.

Armed with these facts, you need to look for recognizable natural ingredients in your store-bought  prepackaged recipe and follow these tips as you substitute or exclude certain ingredients altogether while giving your meals a taste and nutrition boost:

The Traditional Recipe for Roasted Turkey Dish

Turkey is a naturally lean source of protein. To make the traditional recipe for roasted turkey dish healthier, you should:

  • Remove any excess skin to reduce fat further.
  • Cut the salt content in half.
  • Add more of the flavored herbs: rosemary, oregano, and parsley.

The Traditional Recipe for Mashed Potato Dish

Mashed potatoes are naturally calorie-dense, particularly in carbohydrates. To make this dish healthier:

  • Substitute potato with cauliflower as you’ll be eating enough of starch in the course of the Thanksgiving day. This substitution really cuts down on carbohydrate and calories.
  • Substitute whole for skim milk and exclude butter so as to reduce total fat. This not only cuts down on the fats but specifically the saturated fats. It cuts 27 calories, and with the exclusion of cheese, cuts an additional 26 calories.
  • Substitute butter with trans-fat free margarine so as to decrease saturated fat, as butter is a tasty killer in the recipe due to its high-fat

Cooking Tip: For creamy mashed potato fans who love the texture, without the added regular cheese fats, Laughing Cow Cheese is recommended.

The Traditional Recipe for Stuffing

Due to the very high carbohydrate content of Stuffing:

  • Substitute the white bread with 100 percent whole wheat bread so as to increase fiber.
  • Substitute butter with olive oil, vegetable oil, or unsalted butter (my personal choice).
  • Add fruit such as diced apple, diced prunes, golden raisins.
  • Add additional diced fresh celery

Cooking Tip: A tablespoon of butter is equivalent to 2 teaspoons of olive oil.

A List Of Thanksgiving Day Almost Homemade Recipe Ideas

Related References

Almost Homemade – White Bread

Almost Homemade White Bread recipe, semi-homemade
Almost Homemade White Bread

This is a really simple example of almost homemade bread from a bread machine.  As it happens, we have a two-pound loaf size bread machine.  However, most of the bread machine mixes available at my local grocer are 1 ½ pound sizes.  So, we stretch them to take full advantage of our bread machine.

Please note, to keep this example simple, we have not done all the substitutions, which we would normally consider doing (e.g. oil).  However, this loaf of bread was very nice and worth sharing.

To stretch the packaged bread mix ingredients, at the time of loading bread machine, add:

  • Add 1 cup general purpose flour or 1 cup and two tablespoons of cake flour. We like to use cake flour because it seems to make the bread softer to us.
  • Add ½ teaspoon yeast
  • Add ¼ cup (2oz) water (if not adding egg).
  • Add 1 Large egg (replace water above). Adding is a strictly optional, white bread does not require it.  We add it to increase the protein (large egg, 7 Grams or Jumbo egg, 7.9 Grams).   Truthfully, here, we just go with a jumbo egg and find it does not alter the result or cooking time

Load Your Bread Machine

  • Generally, this is done adding the liquids first, followed by the dry ingredients, and yeast last. Following this order keeps the yeast separate from the liquid ingredients until the kneading cycle begins. However, you may check your owner’s manual and use the order recommended specifically for your machine.

Bread Machine Cook Cycle

  • Set your bread machine for a for the appropriate loaf size, crust darkness, white bread setting, and start the baking process. The basic or white bread cycle, typically, takes 3 to 4 hours and intended for use with many simple bread recipes.

Related Reference

Almost Homemade – Chipotle Ranch Pasta Salad

Using the “Almost Homemade” approach, we modified a Chipotle Ranch Pasta salad.

To the base package instructions and ingredients the following items were added:

  • A few matchstick carrots, which remained in the refrigerator vegetable drawer – added to the water while cold and before boiling the pasta and which remained in the pot while the pasta is cooked to tenderize.
  • some leftover black beans with crystal quickly rinsed in a colander (a can of rinsed black beans could have been used instead)  – added with other ingredients once the pasta was strained.
  • some additional diced green peppers from the garden – added with other ingredients once the pasta was strained.
  • Substituted some homemade creamy yogurt for the mayonnaise in the ingredients list.

What is the Almost Homemade cooking strategy?

The “Almost Homemade” strategy is for those busy days when you may not have the time and/or the energy to cook from scratch. Or, if you are a beginning cook needing to put food on the table, it is an excellent way to add variety and value to your meal without having to master the recipe from scratch today.

The Concept

In a nutshell, this concept is taking a prepackaged item and making it more personal and getting more value from the meal.

The Basic Approach

The basic approach of “Almost Homemade” is using additional ingredients and/or using ingredient substitution in a package dish (e.g., box mix, canned soup/chili, etc.). To keep the convenience of a prepackaged meal, while making them more unique, personal, nutritious, and valuable.

The Method

  • Read the ingredients of the package recipe is looking for listed items, which you supplement with additional quantities, and may already have available for use (such as; garden vegetables, small amounts of fresh or frozen vegetables, Fresh, precooked or leftovers, fresh fruit).
  • Read the instructions for ingredients, which can be substituted with healthier alternatives. For example, replacing some or all of the oil and/or butter in a box mix with unsweetened or homemade applesauce.
  • Read the stir and ideas or alternate recipe suggestions, these can give you some additional thoughts.
  • Consider the food theme (e.g., Italian, Spanish, etc.) of items for fruits, vegetables, and meats, which can be added to this and make flavor sense based on the food theme. For example, if the food theme is Spanish you may be able to add some cooked beans, green beans, chopped green pepper, onions, etc..
  • Decide on the approach or approaches which you wish to apply.
  • Gather the ingredients for preparation and those you want to use as substitutes and/or additions to the dish
  • Prepare the pre-packaged meal according to the instructions making the substitutions or adding supplemental items, where the original items were identified or would be included in the instructions.


  • when working with frozen fruits and vegetables, it is best to thaw them and drain off excess liquid before adding them to the dish.
  • When adding canned items (e.g., fruits, sweet corn), consider whether or not you can use the juice/syrup as a substitute for some of the dish’s liquid requirements. This can add additional flavor depth to the items, such as cakes, rice and/or dehydrated potato dishes.
  • Make sure all raw, refrigerated (including leftovers), and frozen items achieve food safety cooking temperature levels.
  • When leveraging leftovers, be sure they are well within the safe food storage time frames and are unspoiled – use the  “When In Doubt, Throw It Out ” Rule
  • consider starting small and working your way up to a comfortable balance for your family, and you may, actually, want to write down the combination, which your family particularly liked for future repetition.

Advantages of the Approach

The “Almost homemade” approach to prepackaged food can provide several benefits for the home cook, which can be:

Making Prepackaged Food More Healthy

Depending on the prepackaged dish you are working with, you may be able to use substitution or add ingredients to increase the nutritional value, decrease fat levels, reduced-calorie levels, and/or reduced-sodium will level of each serving.

Make More Use of Foods You All Ready Have

Items you may have quantities too small to use or to preserve by themselves, you can often incorporate them into a prepackaged dish without any substantial additional effort and without the potential loss of the food item due to spoilage.

Make Use of Garden Vegetables

Garden vegetable production varies across time, or your garden is small and only able to produce small quantities of fruits and vegetables, but even a single tomato, carrot, or summer squash can be added to the right pre-packaged dish. During those times when you may have too much of a good thing in your vegetable garden or have small surpluses after your preservation (e.g., Canning) efforts, you can incorporate them into prepackaged dishes to add variety while putting your garden produce to good use.

Increase the value of Prepackaged Foods

By supplementing your prepackaged meal with fruits, vegetables, and meats, you can create more servings from the same sized package, which you can reduce your need to use more boxes to serve larger dinners or to prepare additional dishes to offset the missing food value volume and/or meals for your family and guests.

Related References