Thanksgiving means something different to each of us, based on our family traditions. Most Thanksgiving customs focus on family and great food, like the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians who gathered at Plymouth in 1621, to celebrate the autumn harvest. We're spending less on food and more on other things but you don't have to buy more “stuff” just because there are big sales on Black Friday!
Thanksgiving memories should start with family and what we've done together. Here is one of my favorite memories, when I took my 2 boys grocery shopping at Thanksgiving.
Teaching Children the Meaning of Thanksgiving
Each boy got their own grocery cart which is huge when you're only 4 years old. They were allowed to put anything they wanted in the cart, with the understanding they were shopping for other families and nothing was coming home. It was fun watching them follow my lead on Thanksgiving basics, and add their own special touches like chocolate straws that turn ordinary milk into a treat.
We had lots of discussion about the foods we ate at home, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Today I'm proud to say both boys are better cooks than I am. In the soup aisle they picked their favorite soups, the ingredients for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and of course, macaroni and cheese. When I got tuna fish, they did too and after some coaxing, canned vegetables although I can't remember which ones.
On the baking aisle, I explained the ingredients we used to make chocolate chip cookies so we got bags of flour, sugar and shortening. There were nuts for the long Thanksgiving weekend, for baking and munching. Today's fruit cups with peel off tops didn't exist yet so we bought canned fruit and were really careful with the applesauce.
Thanksgiving dinner starts with a turkey. We talked about family size and turkey weight but of course, to young children, bigger is better. We bought bread for stuffing and cooking pans just in case and oops, both kinds of cranberry sauce so everyone could have their favorite. When the boys were young, I don't think their preferences for potatoes or special vegetable dishes had developed. They've added yams with marshmallows and green beans with crunchy onion topping, to our Thanksgiving menu.
On the cereal aisle, they had fun running up and down looking for all their favorites. They needed a reminder that we had to leave room in the carts for milk and yogurt, juice boxes plus fresh fruits and vegetables which are big at our house.
What fun reminiscing about Thanksgiving shopping at the grocery store. We didn't buy based on coupons, or have to run through the store to get the last turkey. We took our time, had lots of discussion and it's probably the one store the boys didn't want to leave after 15 minutes (they hated shopping for clothes). They were very proud of the grocery carts they filled with food, and helpful loading everything into the car … then unloading when we arrive at our drop-off location which was always pre-arranged.
Thanksgiving for Family, Not Shopping!
We're having Thanksgiving at our house with 14 people but our boys won't come home (we'll visit them in Florida for Christmas). These shopping trips were fun so maybe there's someone who wants to go shopping? It's also important to rethink how we spend the day after Thanksgiving as I'm horrified by the Black Friday frenzy that started bombarding us 2 weeks before Thanksgiving.
Why do Americans allow marketeers at Thanksgiving, Christmas or anytime, push our buttons and get us to buy things we don't need, things we might never use? Here are some things to consider before you rush out and buy more stuff the day after Thanksgiving, that weekend or any time before Christmas.
- Write down your holiday menu, then review it for the cooking pots and serving dishes you'll use. Are you missing anything critical?
- When reviewing this list with a friend, she said she needs a pickle fork … and then admitted, maybe she can live without a pickle fork.
- Take a survey of the cabinets where you store your kitchen gadgets. Can you honestly say you've used all of them at least a few times over the last year, or even better, in the last month?
- Clean out your closet (or dresser) and take stock of what you already own. If you're serious about buying new clothes, give away at least 1 or 2 bags worth of clothing first (mine go to A Safe Place a few weeks before Christmas) … so there's room in your closet for the new clothes.
- Before you buy new coats and boots for the kids, host a winter clothing swap with friends. Boys don't care what you give them as long as they don't have to go shopping, and if your daughter insists on picking out her own coat, let her earn a portion of the coat's cost.