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By Christine DiGangi / Credit.com
November 20, 2015

Hosting a Thanksgiving dinner can quickly get expensive. There’s the turkey, if you’re going the traditional route, and side dishes, beverages and desserts will add up, making a Thanksgiving dinner cost a lot to prepare and provide.

The Department of Agriculture expects turkey prices to be as much as 19% higher than they were last year, up to $1.36 per pound. A 10-pound bird (which would feed about 6 people) would cost $13.60 alone if that holds true, and Thanksgiving dinner is much more than a turkey.

One way to keep costs down (and make sure everyone has something they like to eat) is to ask people to bring something to dinner. If you’re on a budget and planning to make something for Thanksgiving, one of the best things you can do is work with in-season produce.

“That’s always going to be less expensive,” said Amy Margulies, a registered dietitian with RetroFit, a weight-loss solutions company.

Shop Local & Save

Miranda Hammer, a registered dietitian who posts recipes to her blog The Crunchy Radish, also said shopping local and in-season will help keep down the cost of your Thanksgiving meal preparation. She said squash, Brussels sprouts, carrots, sweet potatoes and dark, leafy greens are fresh and affordable right now.

Beyond working with fresh, in-season ingredients, you can keep meal costs down by using canned or frozen produce, though Margulies recommended rinsing canned food to reduce the sodium.

Pricey ingredients aren’t always necessary, either.

“Some recipes will all of a sudden call for a really expensive ingredient that you need, like, two tablespoons of. You can skip it,” Margulies said.

Keep Your Kitchen Stocked With the Staples

At the same time, it’s helpful to keep a kitchen stocked with common ingredients, such as spices. You may spend several dollars on the basics upfront, but if you use them for many dishes throughout the year, they don’t cost much on a dish-by-dish basis. Hammer said her kitchen is always stocked with a quality bottle of olive oil, dijon mustard, vinegar, and salt and pepper, and for fall and winter she keeps cumin, cayenne pepper, coriander and cinnamon on hand.

We asked Hammer, Margulies and some other food bloggers and recipe creators to share some affordable recipes for Thanksgiving cooks on a budget. Food prices vary widely by location, but each of the recipe creators said the main ingredients for their dishes can be bought for less than $10.

Brussels Sprouts & Shiitake Bacon
Recipe by Miranda Hammer, R.D., at The Crunchy Radish

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 12-15 large shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps sliced
  • 4 cups Brussels sprouts, approximately 1 pound, trimmed and sliced in half
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup low-salt vegetable broth
  • 2 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar

Directions

  1. For the bacon, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a sheet tray with parchment paper and toss sliced mushrooms with 1 tbsp olive oil and a pinch of salt. Bake for 10-15 minutes until mushrooms are crispy. Check frequently to avoid burning. Set aside.
  2. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add Brussels sprouts and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, allowing sprouts to brown in spots and to soften, 5–7 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add shallots, and a tad more oil, if needed.
  3. Continue to cook, stirring often, until shallots are soft, about 3 minutes. Add the broth to the skillet and increase the heat to bring to a boil. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of pan. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until all the broth has evaporated, 1–2 minutes. Stir in the vinegar. To serve, transfer to a bowl, top with bacon and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Makes 4 servings.

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Roasted Cauliflower
Recipe from Amy Margulies, R.D., at RetroFit

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets, stem peeled and diced
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 Tbsp hot sauce
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp panko bread crumbs
  • nonstick cooking spray

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Spray pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add cauliflower to pan and sauté for 3 minutes.
  2. Add garlic to pan and sauté for an additional 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in olive oil, salt, pepper and breadcrumbs.
  3. Place pan in oven and roast for 15-20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Cauliflower should be lightly browned.
  4. Remove pan from oven and place contents in a large serving bowl.
  5. In small bowl, whisk together hot sauce and lemon juice. Pour over cauliflower, toss well and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

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Southern Style Squash Casserole

Recipe by Katie Moseman at Recipe for Perfection

  • 1 1/2 pounds of yellow squash
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, plus more for topping
  • 1 1/2 cups crumbled Town House Wheat Crackers, or similar, plus more for topping
  • 2 Tbsp mayonnaise

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and set out a quart-sized casserole dish.
  2. Wash the squash and cut into ½ inch rounds. Put about a half-inch of water in a pot and bring to a boil. Add the squash, cover with a lid, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5-7 minutes. Squash is done when the middle part of the largest rounds is starting to break up and the seeds are coming loose.
  3. Drain the squash. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked squash, cheese and mayonnaise. Stir until the cheese is melted. Add the cracker crumbles and stir vigorously until well combined, allowing the squash to break up as you stir.
  4. Scrape the mixture into the casserole dish and smooth out evenly. Sprinkle with a little more cheese and some more cracker crumbles. Bake 30 minutes and serve warm.

Sweet Potato Polenta

Recipe from Nicole Cline of SeasonlyCreations.com

  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup polenta
  • 1 medium sweet potato, cleaned (about 5.5 x 2.5 inches)
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp cold butter, cubed
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Place sweet potato on a sheet pan and cook for 50-60 minutes, until potato is cooked through. Use a fork to test tenderness.
  3. Peel skin off the potato once it is cool.
  4. Place potato in a food processor (according to your food processor’s instructions) and run the processor until it is pureed. Set potato aside.
  5. In a medium saucepan, bring milk and water to a boil.
  6. Reduce heat so liquid is simmering. Add polenta, salt and pepper. Stir frequently until mixture becomes thick, about 25 minutes.
  7. Add pureed sweet potato, cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar; mix well. Cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  8. Remove saucepan from heat and add cubed butter.
  9. Line a 9×5 inch pan with wax paper and spread hot polenta out evenly over pan. Allow to sit for 5 minutes. Cut into desired shape and serve immediately.

Makes 8 servings.

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Soft Baked Pumpkin Cookie Cake With Spiced Frosting

Recipe from Nicole Cline of SeasonlyCreations.com

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the spiced frosting:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 2 Tbsp whipping cream
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • Sprinkles (optional)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9.5-inch glass pie dish and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg together until thoroughly combined. Set aside.
  • Using a standing mixer or a medium bowl that can accommodate a hand-held mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla and beat until just combined. Add pumpkin and beat until just combined. Scrape sides of bowl between each addition.
  • Add half of flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined. Scrape sides of the bowl, then add second half of mixture and beat at low speed until just combined.
  • Add dough to greased pie dish and using a rubber spatula, press the dough out to the sides so that it is easily distributed. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Allow cookie cake to cool completely before frosting.

For the spiced frosting:

  • Using a standing mixer or a bowl that can accommodate a hand-held mixer, beat butter and vanilla on medium speed until creamy.
  • Add confectioners sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and beat on low to medium speed. Once sugar is fully incorporated, beat on high speed while adding the heavy cream. Keep on high speed until frosting is light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Frost as desired.

Makes 12 servings.

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Teriyaki Vegetables

Recipe from Amy Margulies, R.D., at RetroFit

  • 2-pound mix of vegetables (pea pods, carrots, zucchini, broccoli, any favorites) rinsed and cut into 1-nch pieces
  • 4 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp sesame seeds, lightly toasted
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated

Directions

  1. Place one pound of veggies in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover with a lid and microwave for 5-6 minutes, stirring every 1-2 minutes. When tender (may need extra time,so be sure to check, as microwaves vary), transfer to a serving bowl. Place the second pound of veggies in the microwave-safe bowl, and repeat as above.
  2. Once all veggies are steamed and tender, mix the rest of the ingredients (soy sauce through ginger) in a small bowl. Add mixture to veggies and mix using a large spoon, covering all veggies with the mixture.
  3. Marinate for 1-2 hours in the refrigerator, stirring frequently.
  4. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 16 servings.

Healthy Peppermint Fudge

Recipe from Amy Margulies, R.D., at RetroFit

  • 1 13.7-ounce brownie mix
  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract
  • nonstick cooking spray
  • crushed peppermint candies (optional, for garnish)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine pumpkin and brownie mix in a large mixing bowl. Stir until smooth.
  3. Add peppermint extract and mix well.
  4. Spray a 9-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Pour mixture into pan.
  5. Bake fudge for 30 minutes, or until the mixture appears fudgy, but slightly undercooked.
  6. Allow the fudge to cool to room temperature.
  7. Place the pan in the refrigerator for approximately one hour.
  8. Remove pan and slice into 36 squares.

Makes 36 servings.

Maple Citrus Roasted Carrots

Recipe by Miranda Hammer, R.D., at The Crunchy Radish

  • 12-14 large rainbow carrots, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • Juice of 1 small orange and 2 tsp orange zest
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional garnishes: microgreens, gomasio

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a sheet tray with parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, orange juice, zest, cayenne, olive oil, a pinch of salt and a good grinding of pepper. Toss in carrots and coat well.
  3. Transfer carrots to the sheet tray and roast for 30-45 minutes or until fork tender. Check frequently and turn halfway through cooking. Cooking time will vary depending on pending thickness of carrots.
  4. Serve with garnishes if you wish.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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