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Nov 1, 2010 09:44 AM

Supermarket "marketing" of Thankgiving items

I was in a grocery store for the first time in what seemed like a very long time this past weekend and walked by a display that seemingly had Thanksgiving, all laid out for you.

Boxes of stove top stuffing
Instant Mashed Potatoes
Canned Yams, corn, cranberry and green beans as well as the ubiquitous cream of mushroom soup and French's fried onions for that casserole-thing

Libby's even makes canned Pumpkin PIE FILLING...

My Step mother is a horrible cook and we used to be subjected to her stuffing and each year it was a miracle that nobody went to the hospital from food poisoning, I'd have welcomed Stove Top back in those days, so I guess I get some pre-packaged convienience for T-Day but they had everything so lined up there it made me wonder:

Do you think that many people really eat like that for Thanksgiving, or is it more of a marketing "one stop shop" thing?

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  1. It absolutely is marketing but I think many, many people eat that way for Thanksgiving. If not that many of them purchase the prepackaged deals from the grocery stores. Last year I was in our local Kroger the day before Thanksgiving and could not believe the number of Thanksgivings in a box they were preparing that had been purchased.

    3 Replies
    1. re: swamp

      You would be amazed how many people buy the pre-made turkey meals. Many moons ago my husband was a manager at Boston Market and Thanksgiving was their busiest day of the year. It was insane. I even remember traveling around town to various grocery stores looking for pumpkin pies because inevitably, corporate never planned for enough pumpkin pies to be on hand at each store and the stores *always* got shortchanged. It was ridiculous and I am so glad we don't have to deal with that anymore. Made the holiday very unpleasant.

      1. re: Jen76

        Several years ago our kitchen was in the middle of a renovation over Easter weekend. I wasn't even sure if Boston Market was going to be open that day but popped over to get something for dinner for the two of us. Not only was it packed but to the chagrin of the woman in front me had run out of pre-fab ham dinners. Horrors, her dinner guests were coming in only a few hours. But not to worry -- someone else had failed to pick up their ham dinner that morning and she could have that one!! So not only was she serving her holiday guests fast food takeout, she was serving them LEFTOVER fast food takeout. Generations of my Southern-born aunts and grandmothers would have arisen from their graves and haunted my dreams if I'd gone that route.

        1. re: mandycat

          In Boston Market's defense, it's not leftover like when you have extras from a meal at home that you keep for another day. Someone just didn't pick it up. It's the same "quality" food she'd have gotten if she had ordered it herself. The ham isn't really any different than what you'd get at the grocery store. You still have to heat it. At one time, their hams were pretty good. Then they switched to a spiral sliced which wasn't nearly as tasty and I found dry. They have always had the bone, though. They aren't pressed and formed hams.

          But, the turkeys...ewww...pre-roasted and heated like a ham. Yuk! A lot of people would come in to get their holiday orders not realizing they still had to "cook" by heating everything. It was all packed cold.

    2. Many folks work at jobs with no flexibility, and Thanksgiving dinner is a huge chore when you're short on time. When you're the host, you're expected to prepare dinner, yes, but also set a nice table and have a clean house, all of which take time and lots of it. For those of us who are able to make the time, a homemade meal from scratch is the only way to go. But if I didn't have job flexibility, where I can almost always take half-days the week before Thanksgiving, or even have Wednesday off, I would probably resort to some or many of those shortcuts and premade food. When you're tired, Thanksgiving can be just one more thing to exhaust you even further.

      OTOH, I do think to some extent it is just "clever" marketing to the masses.

      5 Replies
      1. re: lisavf

        I know you’ve struck a chord with me on the time limitations, I’ve learned from my Mom’s mistakes that Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be ‘fancy’ or gourmet in order to be really good, though.

        Classic Example of my Mom for a holiday meal - do nothing week of then go shopping the night before and wake up at 5AM to clean then she would be scrambling at the last minute making individual cranberry/red wine molds and three different kinds of home made breads to have with dinner… all very nice in theory but her execution was usually off on at least one item and she never seemed to enjoy the meal with the rest of us.

        So I’ve learned to just do stuff after work like cleaning and decorating and whatever shopping and cooking ahead I can do...

        Fresh ingredients simply prepared will always taste better to me than boxed stuff (aforementioned stuffing excluded, of course)

        I think what I'm trying to say is I'd rather eat fresh green beans and mashed potatoes off the 'regular dishes' with shoes in the middle of the living room than instant mashed and canned casserole on the fancy turkey plates with the bookshelves dusted

        1. re: cgarner

          "I think what I'm trying to say is I'd rather eat fresh green beans and mashed potatoes off the 'regular dishes' with shoes in the middle of the living room than instant mashed and canned casserole on the fancy turkey plates with the bookshelves dusted"

          Me, too!

          1. re: lisavf

            "I think what I'm trying to say is I'd rather eat fresh green beans and mashed potatoes off the 'regular dishes' with shoes in the middle of the living room than instant mashed and canned casserole on the fancy turkey plates with the bookshelves dusted"

            hear, hear!

            my MIL is not a great cook, so we get lots of "prefab" food when we go for holidays at their house. This year FIL said that it was too stressful for her - so I got to do Thanksgiving! No pre-made stuff for me (except crescent rolls and cran sauce)! YUM!

          2. re: cgarner

            yes, people are short on time, but the reality is that the basic turkey dinner is fairly easy to cook, and other than the time roasting the turkey not all that time consuming. I do compromise a bit when I'm cooking: I avoid fancy sides (I prefer plain steamed veggies and baked yams anyway, and mashed potatoes just AREN'T that hard or time consuming!). My pre-meal nibbles are store bought fancy things (marinated green beans, olives, that kind of thing) And I have confessed here before that I have a secret store-bought pie crust option (although the rest of the pie is home-made). Speaking of pies, the one thing I don't get is the need to use pumpkin pie mix....canned pumpkin sure, but mixing it with the evaporated milk, sugar, eggs and spices takes all of what, two minutes? BTW, I bought generic pumpkin for my pies this year, and then when I got home I realized that the traditional recipe wasn't on the back. No problem; that one I remember by heart. Again, its easy!

            I like the solution below of narrowing the number of side dishes. I went to a friend's for Tday this year, and I was assigned pre-dinner munchies (which were all store bought; I worked until 5 last night!) and pies. I baked the pies this morning. But when I got there I was amazed at the amount of food she had prepared...and she works as hard as I do! There were four of us and there were about six side dishes: mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, baked carrots, green beans with almonds, salad, and stuffing. Oh, and home-made rolls. Let's not forget the 20 pound turkey! She admitted that her husband loves leftovers, and the main purpose of the meal was so that there would be! The good news is that she gave me turkey to take home, so there will be turkey sandwiches tomorrow!! yeah!!!

          3. re: lisavf

            Such good points. Great points actually. I think kaimukiman is right also that many people don't have the space/cooking capacity to 'do it all' in one day (or even two days), so they do a combination of pre-prepared and from scratch.

            My solution has been to narrow the number of dishes I serve, and to focus on doing that smaller number of dishes well.

          4. Years ago, when I worked at a Stop and Shop, they would give a "Thanksgiving in a box" when you had spent X amount of dollars in a certain amount of weeks. Management had us encourage the customers to participate, even if they didn't want or need a pre-packaged Thanksgiving dinner. We took all the earned "unwanted" dinners and donated them to a local food pantry.

            1 Reply
            1. re: MrsT

              Our local chains have similar programs... Eventually they added an option to have the "earned" dinner sent directly to the food bank.

            2. Everyone that I know who uses those items in the course of an ordinary day actually refrains from it on Thanksgiving, preferring to make things from scratch. Except for the green beans and mushroom soup. *That* is a tradition even among some chowhounders.

              I tried to make GBC from scratch one year, and I was thoroughly reprimanded for the lack of canned green beans by the man I love. I tried to compromise, and offered frozen green beans and homemade cream of mushroom, but he was pretty obstinate. I give way on it.

              I think it's mainly a marketing thing, to get us thinking about the day, and starting that grocery list. Those end-caps usually have prominent sale signs on them, and maybe the hope is that there will be a not-so-subtle connection between shopping for Thanksgiving and getting a bargain.

              1 Reply
              1. re: onceadaylily

                When I first met my now husband, his "kids" nearly had meltdown because I insisted on making stuffing, cranberry sauce and potatoes au gratin from scratch... I acquiesced on the green bean casserole, at least they used frozen green beans for that dish.

                I admittedly buy pies for T-Day. Oven space is limited and I do as much as I can in advance, but there are some wonderful bakeries in my neck of the woods, so pumpkin, apple and cocounut custard pies are all bought.

              2. Growing up, my family's Thanksgiving dinner looked like that. Stove top stuffing, instant mashed potatoes, canned cranberry sauce, sweet potato pie made from canned sweet potatoes with marshmallows and maraschino cherries on top. The turkey was the only fully homemade thing. I have no idea if that is typical, but that is what we ate. Chowhounders tend to be more food-focused and probably higher class then average Americans, so they may not be typical either. Now, as an adult chowhounder, I make things from scratch or eat out on Thanksgiving. Actually, I don't do boxed or canned sides on any regular day, either. But that's what I grew up with. So in sum, probably not just marketing.