I have been cooking Thanksgiving dinner since 1985 – not because I make the best turkey, but because nobody else wants to do it in my family or my wife’s family. I am getting a little tired of it, so this year, I plan to do something different. Yes, I still want to have a Thanksgiving meal, but with a few shortcuts. You know … like opening a jar of Ragu instead of cooking homemade sauce for three hours over a stove.

First, I thought of getting five or six Swanson’s Hungry-Man dinners, separating all the ingredients into different pots, and buying a jar of turkey gravy. I would then put them into separate dishes and serve steaming hot. Add a bowl of hot gravy, a basket of Pillsbury buttermilk biscuits, and cranberries from a can – voilà! Put enough wine on the table and the guests would not know if they were coming or going. Time saved and a full meal served without fuss or back pain.

Or maybe to pardon a turkey, like the president does, I could make one out of tofu – or better yet, Spam! The Spurky would be in the shape of a real turkey with Vienna sausages as drum sticks, basted in store-bought turkey gravy and surrounded by small white potatoes. I just don’t know how I could get 20 cans of Spam past my wife to make a 20-pound Spurky out of meat by-products.

I could take everyone out to a nice restaurant. We used to have a restaurant on the lake that made a great Thanksgiving Day feast for something like $16.95 a person. After it was sold, it became a car hop and pizza restaurant – wrong atmosphere for a Thanksgiving meal. Besides, more and more restaurants are closing for the holiday so the staff can spend time with their own families.

Another shortcut is taking the whole family to a soup kitchen, church, or mission. They advertise that for $2.69 you can get an entire Thanksgiving meal. Granted, we may have to wait on line for a while or do some food serving, but it’s all for a good cause.

My last shortcut is visiting or getting yourself invited to Thanksgiving dinner at the home of friends or relatives. That can be dangerous. These types of visits can bring on anything from relatives dying while they give a toast at the table to money laundering. (This is a big time of the year to hit up your bro or friend for a loan.)

I guess I will play it safe and cook at home again this year. You feel the best with your feet under your own table. And even if the turkey you just cooked tastes like cardboard, everyone gives you a pat on the back and “I can’t wait till next year’s dinner” because they still don’t want to cook or clean up the mess. They just want to take home the leftovers.

To you and yours, have a great Thanksgiving!