Fun & Celebrations - Self Reliance

Planning For a Self-Sufficient Thanksgiving

Narragansett tom turkey with his tail fanned out.
Narragansett tom turkey raised on my homestead

Prepare a Self-Sufficient Thanksgiving Dinner

It might be difficult to raise everything you need to serve a completely self-sufficient Thanksgiving dinner. However, what you can’t raise on your own, you may be able to purchase from a local farm or cook most of your holiday meal from scratch. Some of these suggestions need to be planned in advance. Obviously, you need to start raising a turkey well in advance for a Thanksgiving feast! Let’s take a closer look at what you can do for your Thanksgiving meal this year, and what you can plan for the future.

What Will You Serve for Thanksgiving?

A traditional Thanksgiving dinner often consists of:

  • Turkey, ham, or other native game
  • Stuffing
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Gravy
  • Rolls
  • Squash or Sweet Potatoes
  • Cranberries
  • Green bean casserole or other greens
  • Pumpkin, pecan, or apple pie

Check out my Thanksgiving Hacks!

What Can You Raise for a Self-Sufficient Thanksgiving?

If you have the land, time, and desire to grow all of the food you need to serve a completely homegrown Thanksgiving dinner, that’s great! Most people aren’t able to do this, so don’t feel bad if you can’t. Maybe you can hunt or forage for some of your feast and raise some in your backyard. And remember, if you support your local farmers, they will be able to continue to raise food for you in the future!

Roasting turkey

Turkey or Wild Game

If you have the license, experience, and space to hunt safely, you might be able to bag a wild turkey, deer, hog, or pheasant for your holiday table. Since I don’t have the land for hunting, I raise my own turkeys. I process them myself and freeze them for later. You can raise your own turkeys if it is allowed in your area, or perhaps buy one that was raised locally. Check out my article How to Raise Turkeys.

To have a nice-sized turkey ready in time for the holidays, start broad-breasted poults no later than the middle of June. Start earlier if you need to have them processed. Heritage birds need more time to grow out, also. Feed them a high-protein turkey or gamebird feed and allow them a pasture to graze. You should have a beautiful bird in time for Thanksgiving.

Dressing a Heritage Turkey

Sage - The Self Sufficient HomeAcre
Sage is an easy perennial herb to grow… and it’s used to season stuffing!

Stuffing & Rolls

Growing your own wheat for bread and rolls is a space-hungry project. I buy organic flour from our buying club and I like to bake my own rolls and bread for the stuffing. You will also want a supply of sage, thyme, and summer savory to season the stuffing and yeast (maybe you can use sourdough instead) and water to make the bread. Bake bread ahead of time so you can slice and dry it a bit for the stuffing.

An alternative is to stuff your turkey with vegetables from your garden and maybe even nuts foraged in your area. Apples, onions, and walnuts with herbs make a wonderful stuffing that is closer to what our forefathers ate for holidays.


Gravy is made from turkey drippings, water, flour, and salt. You can make a perfect gravy every time if you mix about 1/4 cup of unbleached flour, 1 tsp salt, and just enough water to make a paste. Keep adding small amounts of water and mixing thoroughly until it is a bit thin. Bring the meat drippings to a slow boil and add the flour mixture, stirring constantly until it is blended. Stir the gravy and boil until it is thick and bubbly. Add seasonings to taste.

How to Cook and Use Pie Pumpkins
Butternut squash makes good ‘pumpkin’ puree.

Squash or Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are iffy here in the northern Midwest, but if you live further south you can grow your own. I usually grow several kinds of squash. Winter squash or pumpkins are delicious when baked with a bit of butter and honey from your own bees. For the best storage, try growing Butternut squash. They will often last until early spring.

Yukon Gold potatoes

 Mashed Potatoes

For the tastiest mashed potatoes, grow a boiling type of potato that keeps well. Yukon Gold is one of my favorite potatoes for mashing. Peel and boil, then add milk and homemade butter as you mash them. I don’t like a super smooth texture, so I like to do the job with an old-fashioned potato masher.

Try making Cranberry Jam!


Depending on where you live, you might have fresh, locally grown cranberries available. I’m pretty close to Wisconsin but can only find these tasty berries at the grocery store in plastic bags. I’ve seen cranberry bushes for sale in some gardening catalogs and I keep resisting the temptation to order them. Our soil is pretty alkaline, so I really don’t think they would do well for us. For a once a year treat, I don’t mind buying them, but maybe you can grow your own as a landscape shrub around your house.

Grow your own beans!

Green Bean Casserole

Personally, I prefer my green beans without all the ‘goop’ on them. But if you like splurging on this dish, why not grow your own green beans and make the cream of celery soup from scratch? If you have a milk cow or goat you can make the sour cream from scratch. Top with your own sliced and browned onions. Who needs a tin can of soup or crusty onions? It might take a bit of experimentation, I’ve had a few flops! These days I usually opt for a green leafy salad or some broccoli.

How to Cook and Use Pie Pumpkins
Destined for pie…not a bad way to go!

Pumpkin, Pecan, Mincemeat, or Apple Pie

I can grow my own pumpkin for pie, and I have wild apples I harvested and froze in October. I don’t have pecans…they just aren’t hardy enough here. I’ve been making pies since I was a kid, so I’ve never really understood why there is such a market for store-bought pies. I’ve had a couple of slices and they pale in comparison to a homemade pie. It really isn’t that difficult to make a pie from scratch, but many people have never tried.

To make a truly self-sufficient pumpkin pie, you would need your own eggs, milk, pumpkin, wheat, and lard. The spices are imported, so I guess we can’t get quite that self-reliant for our Thanksgiving dinner. What would a pumpkin pie be without cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger?


Most of Us Can’t Raise It All…

But we can try to supply as much of our own Thanksgiving dinner as we can. With one acre of land, I can do a lot, but I can’t do it all myself. It really isn’t easy to be completely self-sufficient, but it’s very possible to grow some of the food you need for your holiday feast or buy from a local farmer. Then cook it all up from scratch for a real sense of satisfaction! (Please don’t feel bad if you need to use some time-saving products from the store to make all the prep work go more quickly. I’m not a purist!)

Did you raise some of the food you will serve at Thanksgiving? What foods do you raise yourself? What would you like to raise, but haven’t tried yet? I would love to hear about your plans for Thanksgiving this year!

8 Comments on “Planning For a Self-Sufficient Thanksgiving

  1. We are raising our own turkeys for the first time, but are not set up yet with a butchering station. So we got our Thanksgiving turkey from our local CSA as we have the last few years. Perhaps by Easter we will be ready to harvest our first home-grown turkey. I am hoping our heritage breed female will breed with one of the boys and create a self-sustaining flock for our future holiday meals! Guess we’ll have to see how that goes.

    1. Hi Donna,
      Best wishes with raising your turkeys! I kept heritage turkeys for a few years and really enjoyed them. They are a lot smarter than people think they are! My turkeys liked to follow me around the yard when they were young. Keep up the good work!

  2. Mmmm.. when’s dinner? 😉 I love reading about meals that are completely or almost home-made/grown/raised, and your Thanksgiving meal is a wonderful example! Thanks for sharing this. It starts me thinking of what other meals I can serve that are completely “home-made”.

    1. Lol! Well, if you start driving in a few days, you could be here in time! I love to eat entirely homegrown meals too…such a sense of satisfaction! Thanks for stopping by, Vickie!

  3. LisaLynn, just thought I’d share if that’s okay. I make ‘gelled Chokecherry sauce’ instead of having the cranberry sauce that comes in the can. Hubby & uncle prefer it with their turkey since it’s not so chemically sweet.

    1. Hi Lady Locust,
      That sounds amazing! I would love to try this…although I don’t have chokecherries around us. I did back home on the farm though. Will have to search for them in the area. Feel free to share how make it, if you like!

      I always make my cranberries from scratch, super easy and tastes so much better than the canned!

      Thanks so much for sharing!

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