Is there a better holiday than Thanksgiving? No gift-giving or costume-buying to worry about, and the much-loved food is surprisingly affordable to make. Even hosts who spring for a whole turkey can make up for the expense elsewhere on the table. These budget-friendly Thanksgiving dishes are time-honored classics that feature inexpensive ingredients, and some can be used in delicious leftover recipes.
Not only are potatoes cheap at less than $1 a pound, they are also versatile. There are many ways to celebrate the humble spud. Mashed potatoes are easy to make, and these are so delicious they don't even need gravy. Start by peeling and cutting about one potato per person into cubes. Boil the potato cubes 15 to 20 minutes, or until extremely tender, then drain and place in a mixing bowl. For five to 10 servings, add 4 to 6 tablespoons of sour cream, 2 to 4 tablespoons of milk, and 2 to 4 tablespoons of butter, according to taste. Blend with a mixer until perfectly creamy and add a pinch of salt and pepper. As a final touch, top with fresh chopped chives and shredded cheddar cheese.
No need to buy the main ingredient in this dish -- just save the ends and stale pieces of bread typically left over from a loaf. Store them in the freezer for a few weeks ahead of time, thawing and chopping into cubes when it's time to cook. Stuffing instructions from Recipe4Living call for three to five loaves' worth of bread, along with chicken broth, turkey giblets, two bunches of celery, one onion, butter, and sage.
Fresh cranberries may cost more than pre-made sauce out of a can, but cooks who prefer to make the Thanksgiving feast from scratch can save money with a recipe from the blog Eating Richly. It pairs costlier cranberries with apples to make a more affordable dish that might also be more palatable for kids than tart cranberry sauce. Combine the fruit with sugar and water over high heat, then simmer until the sauce reaches the desired consistency. Like cranberry sauce, it can be spiced up with orange zest, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and nutmeg to taste.
For a classic green bean or broccoli casserole, start with a simple recipe from French's, which includes cream of mushroom soup, milk, pepper, and, of course, crispy fried onions (feel free to choose another brand). Improve on the basic recipe by adding shredded cheddar cheese, salt, and garlic to taste.
Homemade macaroni and cheese is no more difficult or costly than the box variety. It takes just a package of dry pasta, 1.5 cups of milk, 2 cups of shredded cheese, 2 tablespoons of butter, and 2 tablespoons of flour. After cooking the noodles as directed on the package (leave them al dente), melt the butter in a saucepan with the flour until the flour dissolves. Slowly add the milk and stir continuously on medium to low heat until the mixture thickens. Sprinkle in salt and pepper to taste, along with half the cheese, and stir until melted. Combine the drained noodles and the milk mixture in a casserole dish and top with the remaining cheese. Cover and bake at 350 degrees until hot and bubbly.
The main ingredient in this classic Thanksgiving dish is very cheap this time of year (about $1 a pound), so opt for fresh over canned. Peel, cut, and layer the yams (or sweet potatoes) in a casserole dish, cover with about a quarter-cup of butter cut into small pieces, and sprinkle with half a cup of brown sugar. Bake at 400 degrees for about 25 to 40 minutes, until the yams are fork soft. Remove the dish and cover with marshmallows, then put back in the oven until the marshmallows melt.
A cheap twist on traditional candied yams, this recipe is even easier and just as affordable. Instead of peeling and cubing the yams or sweet potatoes, just scrub them, poke them, and stick them in the oven until they're soft. Then cut them in half and scoop the insides out. Following a recipe from Food & Wine, whisk the sweet potatoes with butter, maple syrup, cinnamon, salt, and cayenne, then put them back in the skins and top with marshmallows. Bake until they're heated through and the marshmallows start to melt. Finish off with a broil for about one minute.
Squash is another tasty, seasonal complement to Thanksgiving turkey that sells for about $1 a pound this time of year. Peel, seed, and cube the butternut squash and toss in a large bowl with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic until coated. Lay in a single layer on a baking sheet and cook at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes, until lightly brown and fork tender.
For this classic Thanksgiving dessert, turn to a recipe rated nearly 5 stars on Allrecipes. All it takes is canned pumpkin (which should cost about $2), eggs, condensed milk, spices, and an uncooked pie crust (unless, of course, you take the time and trouble to make the crust from scratch). Mix everything together, pour into the pie crust, and bake according to the instructions.
Most of the ingredients for this easy fall recipe are probably already in the pantry. While preheating the oven to 375 degrees, mix together a half cup of flour, three-quarters cup of packed brown sugar, a half cup of rolled oats, one-third cup of softened butter, a half-teaspoon of cinnamon, and three-quarters teaspoon of nutmeg until crumbling (a mixer helps). Grease an 8-inch square baking dish and fill with 4 cups of cored, sliced apples. Cover with the crumbled topping and sprinkle extra brown sugar on any exposed fruit. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the apples are soft but not mushy. Serve topped with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
Never heard of dump cake? You're missing out. The ingredient list includes canned pumpkin, eggs, butter, brown sugar, white sugar, evaporated milk, spices, and spice cake mix. Pecans are optional -- and pricey -- so skip them to cut costs even more. Mix everything together except the cake mix, pour into a 9 x 13 pan, top with the spice cake mix, and bake at 350 degrees for about an hour. Allrecipes has the complete instructions.