The Most Popular Thanksgiving Sides on a Budget

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Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and after more than a year of virtual lockdown due to the ongoing pandemic, Americans are ready to relax with family and cook up all the classic holiday preparations. These include not only the turkey (or tofurkey), but also the wide range of side dishes.

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Often times, the most memorable aspects of Thanksgiving dinner are the stuffing, mashed potatoes, yams, cranberry sauce, gravy, and all the other side dishes.

So how can you save on making those must-have treats that are so essential to the entire meal? GOBankingRates spoke with chefs and savings experts to find out their top tips.

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Plan ahead and make a list

“Plan your Thanksgiving meal from start to finish – from starter to dessert,” said Casey Rooney, food blogger at Get on my plate. “Next, make a list of all the items you will need for those dishes. Then review! If a dish seems to have too many ingredients, cut it out or find an alternative.

From your final list, you can start looking for coupons and in-store promotions for just the items you need.

“The key is to have a full list / menu and stick to it so you don’t get distracted by tips and displays when you get to the store,” Rooney said.

Aim for enough, not too much

“Plan carefully how much food is needed for your Thanksgiving meal, without overdoing it,” said Erin Hendrickson, dietitian nutritionist and food waste expert at No Waste Nutrition. “According to the USDA, Americans throw away $ 293 million worth of food around Thanksgiving because of overestimating portions. Don’t feel like you have to overcook, but rather prepare yourself enough. Remember that not everyone will eat all of the dishes on offer.

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Ask guests to bring a side dish

“The biggest financial hack for sides – if you’re hosting – is asking each of your guests to bring a side,” said Katie Roberts, consumer analyst at DealNews. “It’s fun, because it involves everyone and it reduces the financial burden on the host. “

An easy way to do it?

“Assign each guest a category to guide them: vegetables, bread, potato, dessert, etc.” Roberts said. “The truth is that people wait to be invited to participate, and it makes each guest feel like they are part of the experience.

Buy in Bulk – Sometimes

“If you feed a crowd, go shopping at a food club [like Costco] could save you money on bulk items like bread, canned goods or meat, ”said Gina Abernathy, founder of the Home at Cedar Springs Farm blog.

But it’s not always better to buy in bulk.

For example, 5 to 10 pounds. potatoes are more than enough for a large gathering compared to buying 20 pounds at a big box store, ”Rooney said. “The same goes for yams. “

Monitor sales

“Many grocery stores around the holiday season will have weekly sales on basic groceries, produce and meat,” Abernathy said. “Watch for turkey sales and promotions. I can sometimes get a 20 pound turkey for $ 10.00.

Saving on a turkey might not seem like a straightforward way to save on a side dish, but if it cuts down on your overall grocery bill, it’s definitely worth it.

Look for coupons in in-store ads

“Sunday is the best day to buy the newspaper because all the weekly ads are there,” said Chief Nik Fields. “If a store is missing your item, most stores’ prices will match as long as you have the ad.”

Buy early

“Shopping early will ensure you have all the items you need for your meals,” said Abernathy. “It will also prevent you from buying or paying too much for an item you need at the last minute.”

Buy generic

“Store branded items are generally much cheaper than branded items, and they are often of the same quality,” said Kysha Harris, chef and food writer at The Spruce Eats.

Buy discounted products when available

“Many grocery stores have a discount section full of bruised, stained, or expired items like potatoes, fruit and squash,” Hendrickson said. “Often these items are still perfectly usable. Bruised or expired fruit can be used in a pie or dessert, and stained potatoes or squash always taste great mashed or baked in casseroles.

Buy daily bread and rolls

“The next time you go to the supermarket, head to the back of the store where the day-old bread or liquidation section is,” said chef Marlene Moore, chef at Temptations Food Court at Pechanga. Resort Casino. “Often there will be an assortment of breads, rolls, baguettes and more.

“Find a few that will fit in your freezer for up to a day or two before Thanksgiving,” Moore continued. “Defrost them, reheat the slices of bread and buns in the oven to serve and with the range you choose, guests will think you have given a lot of thought to provide a nice assortment to choose from, just like in a restaurant.”

Abandon the ingredients of sour cream and fancy salad

“When looking for recipes (or creating your own), cut down on ingredients and keep it simple,” Rooney said. “Do you really need to buy a whole jar of sour cream for mashed potatoes and can you settle for regular milk and butter?” Because there is a good chance that half of the sour cream will not be used.

Rooney advocates the same “keep it simple” logic when it comes to salads.

“Green vegetables mixed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar are great for a bit of greenery on your plate,” Rooney said. “No need to have a salad with four different bottled dressings – most of which will go to waste.”

Don’t buy pre-made salads

Tip: Pretty much anything you buy out of the box will cost you more than if you DIY it. This does not exclude salads.

“Buy some unwashed salad and wash it yourself,” Chef Michael Johnson said. “This will save on the cost of purchasing the bags of premixed lettuce.”

Follow the road in a box

“A great way to save on Thanksgiving sides when your budget is tight is to buy canned mashed potatoes and stuffing,” said Brian Malarkey, chef and founder of Chefs Life Cooking Oils. . “I have used canned mashed potatoes in cooking contests and they are pretty amazing.”

Malarkey added that his favorite type of canned stuffing is the original Stove Top Turkey.

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Serve devil’s eggs

Instead of a complicated (and arguably pricey) appetizer, you might want to consider classic, simple devil’s eggs.

“Eggs are inexpensive and they can be served beautifully,” said Rebekah Zeismer, Conagra Brand Development Manager. “Adding mustard to the yolks is a great way to add flavor and add volume to the filling. Try Gulden’s on a budget for a spicy kick.

While stuffed eggs are a relatively inexpensive dish, Moore points out that inflation has pushed up the price of eggs, so you need to be in thrift mode when buying them.

If you cook frequently, you will still need eggs, and they will keep for several weeks at the right temperature in your refrigerator, ”said Moore. “When you can find them in bulk, it often drastically drops the price per egg.

Swap your mac and cheese ingredients

“Save money (and calories!)” By using just one cup of freshly grated cheddar cheese (buy store brand / block brand of cheddar to save more money), you will be able to keep your macaroni at. decadent and holiday-worthy cheese. “

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Make your own cranberry sauce

Always make your own cranberry sauce, ”said Tom Borgia, executive chef of Grille 151 in Weymouth, Massachusetts. “It’s super easy and way better than anything you can find in the store.”

Here is a DIY cranberry sauce recipe recommended by Borgia:

  • Equal parts cranberries and brown sugar (2 pounds each is generally good for most families)
  • Then use 2 tablespoons of apple pectin and 2 bunches of rosemary plucked in cheesecloth.
  • Tie it into a ball.
  • Simmer over low heat until the sugar and pectin are dissolved.
  • Wait for it to cool before serving.

Make sauce with corn flour

“Thicken the juices from the cooked turkey platter with cornmeal and avoid the instant gravy granules that are full of spices and unnecessary extra costs,” Johnson said.

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Last updated: November 2, 2021

About the Author

Nicole Spector is a writer, editor and author based in Los Angeles to Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Vogue, The Atlantic, Vice and The New Yorker. She is a frequent contributor to NBC News and Publishers Weekly. Her 2013 debut novel, “Fifty Shades of Dorian Gray,” received rave reviews from Fred Armisen and Ken Kalfus, and has been published in the US, UK, France and Russia – well let no one know what happened with the Russian edition! She has an affinity for Twitter.

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