What to Buy for a Cheap Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving is expensive. Even if you’re just feeding a family of four, that Thanksgiving grocery bill can really creep up on you! But you don’t have to give up a side dish or even dessert to cut costs. You can have a cheap Thanksgiving dinner that still feels luxe. If you’re hosting Thanksgiving and don’t want to go broke—or if you’re bringing something to a Friendsgiving and don’t have much scratch to spend—here are our picks for some delicious, cheap Thanksgiving sides, along with an affordable appetizer, drink, and dessert. Splurge on the turkey, save on the rest. 

Trader Joe's Pastry Bites Feta Cheese & Caramelized Onions


Trader Joe’s Pastry Bites Feta Cheese & Caramelized Onions ($5.50)

These little pastry purses of salty, creamy feta cheese and sweet, caramelized onions are pretty cheap (you get 12 for just over $5), but they taste great and they look impressive. They’re warming and cozy and a perfect way to set the stage for a Thanksgiving feast. 

Read the full ranking of the best Trader Joe’s frozen appetizers

Credit: Liv Averett

Betty Crocker Creamy Butter Instant Mashed Potatoes


Betty Crocker Creamy Butter Instant Mashed Potatoes ($1)

For just $1 you can get six servings of extremely good mashed potatoes from just one package of Betty Crocker’s instant mashed potatoes. They are one of the best cheap Thanksgiving side dishes you can buy. If you’ve never had these before, you will be absolutely blown away and shocked by how good they are. You will wonder why you spent so much time peeling and mashing potatoes when you could’ve just been mixing some powdered taters with boiling water. 

Read the full ranking of the best instant mashed potatoes

Credit: Liv Averett / Walmart

Kroger Cornbread Stuffing


Kroger Cornbread Stuffing ($2)

While this didn’t come in at the very top of our boxed stuffing ranking, it tastes great and  is among the cheapest of the bunch. The Kroger brand cornbread stuffing mix is sweet and salty—but not overly salty. It’s rich and homey and channels that cornbread texture. Thanksgiving needs stuffing, but you don’t need to spend money on bread and vegetables and broth, etc. Just buy this instead. 

Read the full ranking of the best boxed stuffing

Credit: Merc / Instacart

Good & Gather Apple Cheddar Salad


Good & Gather Apple Cheddar Salad ($4)

Made with a blend of cabbage (green and red), lettuce, smoked white cheddar, carrots, kale, apple cinnamon chips, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, and green onion, this is a superb fall salad in a bag. The sweet onion vinaigrette leans into that sweet-savory thing that Thanksgiving foods have going on, and the smoked cheddar makes the whole thing taste almost bacon-y, even though it’s meat free.

Read the full ranking of the Target’s Good & Gather salad kits

Credit: Merc / Target

Henry Hotspur’s Hard Pressed for Cider


Henry Hotspur’s Hard Pressed for Cider ($8 for a 6-pack)

You could just get a bottle of three-buck-Chuck from Trader Joe’s, but cider is going to pair better with all the different flavors in a Thanksgiving meal. And it’s still pretty cheap at $8 for a six-pack. It tastes like fresh-pressed apple cider (including that earthy apple skin flavor) and it’s really nice and dry. It’s not cloyingly sweet like some hard ciders, which makes it very food friendly.

Read the full ranking of the best hard apple cider

Credit: Merc / Trader Joe’s

Bakery Fresh Goodness Sugar Free Pumpkin Pie


Bakery Fresh Goodness Sugar Free Pumpkin Pie ($5)

You can get the best premade pumpkin pie we’ve ever tasted for just $5. That’s crazy. It’s a whole dang pie and you can get it for less than a Starbucks Frappuccino. Even though it’s sugar free, this pumpkin pie is just sweet enough thanks to the natural sweetness in pumpkin. The crust is buttery and flaky. The filling holds together. It’s the perfect (cheap) Thanksgiving dessert to end your (cheap) Thanksgiving dinner. 

Read the full ranking of the best store bought pumpkin pie

Credit: Merc / Ralphs

About the Author

Justine Sterling

Justine Sterling is the editor-in-chief of Sporked. She has been writing about food and beverages for well over a decade and is an avid at-home cook and snacker. Don’t worry, she’s not a food snob. Sure, she loves a fresh-shucked oyster. But she also will leap at whatever new product Reese’s releases and loves a Tostitos Hint of Lime, even if there is no actual lime in the ingredients.

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  • Turkey Spam, Stovetop Stuffing, Birdseye Creamed Spinach, Twinkies, Thank You. Done.