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Thanksgiving on a budget

You’ve seen the picture. Mama hands papa a big, golden brown bird while a family sits around a table filled with stuffing, mashed potatoes, rolls and all the other trimmings.

Woman serving Thanksgiving dinner

The problem is you’re on a budget. After you buy the Thanksgiving bottle of wine you’re going to need to put up with your in-laws, you just don’t have the budget for a big meal. No big deal! Here’s a menu you can put together for the price of a turkey and a dollar or two per person. You’ll have all the flavor you’d want for a Turkey Day meal without the cost.

Picture the iconic Thanksgiving feast: a table full of dishes ranging from perfect roast turkey to cranberry sauce to mashed potatoes to so many different types of pies. Now, imagine how many gajillion dollars you’d have to spend putting that meal together. However, fear not, an inexpensive Thanksgiving dinner can be yours for about a little more than $30, not including the price of the turkey and a few items you should have around the house (salt, pepper, sugar, flour), without sacrificing quality or variety.

Here’s how:

Thanksgiving turkey (Approximately $15 to $20 for a 13-pound bird)

This is the one item that is going to cost, no matter what. However, because price is an issue, you don’t need a huge bird. In fact, smaller birds cook more evenly and tend to stay moister. Still, whatever you do, make sure your turkey comes with giblets and the neck. That will be important.

Mashed potatoes and gravy (total: $6.50)

Get a five-pound bag of potatoes, which will run you about $5. In addition, buy two cans of chicken broth, which will cost about $1.50. You’ll also need a little cream from the peas and a pat of butter from the pie, but we won’t add their cost here! To make the mashed potatoes, just boil them and mash them with salt, a little cream and three tablespoons of butter.

However, then we have to think about gravy. To make the gravy, toss the giblets and neck in about three tablespoons of flour, then brown them in three tablespoons of butter. Pour in the broth and let it get thick.

Corn mache choux (total: $8.50)

This dish will give your guests a little wow that they weren’t expecting from a budget meal. Buy a bag of frozen corn (about $2), a few stalks of celery for about $1 and some bacon, which you can hopefully find for about $5.

Budget corn mache choux

Serves 4


  • 4 strips bacon
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced
  • 2 cups frozen corn
  • Splash of cream (borrowed from the peas)
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper


  1. In a skillet over medium heat, slowly cook the fat out of the bacon.
  2. Remove the bacon and finely chop, reserve for later.
  3. Cook the celery in the bacon grease for eight minutes, then add the corn and two tablespoons of water. Cook until the corn is soft (about four minutes).
  4. Add the chopped bacon back to the skillet and cook until the water is mostly evaporated. Add the cream and black pepper and serve.

Creamed peas (total: $6)

Creamed peas are easy. Get some frozen peas for about $2 and a small container of cream for about $4. To make this dish, boil the peas in salted water until they are ready and add the cream.

Apple pie (total: $9.50)

What would Thanksgiving dinner be without dessert? To keep this year’s feast affordable, but delicious, we’re going to make our own apple pie. All you really need are apples (about $3), butter (about $5) and cinnamon (which hopefully you can find for about $1).

Budget-friendly apple pie

Yields 1 pie


For the crust

  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • Ice cold water

For the filling

  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 large apples, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cinnamon


For the crust

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Take the butter from the refrigerator and immediately cut it into eight pieces.
  3. Put the pieces in a bowl with the flour, sugar and salt and begin working the ingredients together.
  4. To do this, pinch the butter so that little pieces are pulled off and coated in flour. Do this until you have something that looks like little pebbles.
  5. Once finished, add the ice cold water a tablespoon at a time until you have something that looks like pie dough.
  6. Wrap in plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for an hour to set.
  7. After an hour, remove the crust, dust your counter with a little flour and quickly roll the pie crust out and place into a greased pie plate (use the butter wrapper from the filling to grease the pie plate).
  8. Bake the crust for ten minutes empty (called blind baking).

For the filling

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Let the butter come to room temperature.
  3. Remove it from the wrapper and cut into eight pieces, then melt those eight pieces over medium heat.
  4. Once melted, add the apples and cook until they are soft, about ten minutes.
  5. Add the sugar and cinnamon and stir to coat.
  6. Pour the filling into the crust and bake the pie for ten minutes or until the filling becomes set.

Total: $30.50

(Yes, it’s a little over, but you’re not going to use all the bacon or butter, so you’re ahead on groceries!)  With the price of the turkey, you’ve got an entire party for less than $50.

More budget friendly tips

A budget bash!
Entertain for $10 per person
More fun, less stress this season

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