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    Updated on Nov 14, 2019. Posted on Nov 14, 2019

    Here's How I Cooked A Complete Thanksgiving Dinner On An $100 Budget

    Host this holiday meal without breaking the bank.

    I LOVE Thanksgiving dinner. In fact, it's my favorite meal of the entire year. But when I hosted my first Friendsgiving, I realized just how expensive cooking for this holiday can be!

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    So this year, I wanted to find a way to make a delicious and satisfying Thanksgiving dinner without spending tons of money.

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    I did my grocery shopping at Trader Joe's because it's one of the more affordable options in New York City, plus they have a bunch of awesome prepared and frozen foods that are basically made for a Thanksgiving feast.

    For appetizers, dinner, and dessert, my total grocery bill came out to $91.55. If you like what you see, scroll to the bottom of this article where I've included a complete grocery list with prices to help you do your shoppings.

    Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

    Here's exactly how I cooked Thanksgiving dinner on a budget. Oh, and by the way, this made enough food to feed four hungry people. If you're having more people at your Thanksgiving dinner, you'll want to adjust the number of items you buy accordingly.

    Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed
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    Ingredients:

    Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

    1 log cranberry chèvre

    1 frozen creamy spinach and artichoke dip

    1 slice Camembert or Brie cheese

    1 French baguette

    Balsamic glaze

    Total cost: $11.66

    Baked Camembert Cheese

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    Baked Camembert is one of the easiest things you can make, and it's great for sharing. You could use Brie as well, and you can spice it up with whatever is in your pantry. I drizzled the cheese with honey and baked it in a 350°F oven for about six minutes until it was melty and gooey. Then, I topped it with more honey and a drizzle of balsamic glaze. You could also serve it with any fruit, nuts, or jam you have on hand.

    Cranberry Goat Cheese

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    This dried cranberry goat cheese log is so festive, it's basically begging to be on your holiday table.

    Spinach Artichoke Dip

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    Every get together needs at least one party dip, and this frozen spinach artichoke dip is one of my favorites at Trader Joe's. You can make it in the microwave or on the stove top. Just defrost it until it's piping hot and cheesy.

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    When I host friends at my apartment, I always have a spread of cheeses on the table. But Trader Joe's has plenty of great party apps you can swap in here if you want to ease up on the cheese factor. The frozen turkey cranberry meatballs, pastry bites with feta and caramelized onions, and camembert fillo bites are a few of my favorite easy apps, and they'll easily fit into this budget. Or you could spread the pre-made cranberry, apple chicken salad on toasted bread and serve it as crostini.

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    Broccoli and Cauliflower Gratin ($3.99)

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    I always like having a few vegetable sides on any holiday table, but of course veggies taste better when they're smothered in cream and cheese. Just heat it up for 25 minutes in the oven and serve. It's a super rich veggie side that everyone at the table will love.

    Mashed Potatoes ($2.49)

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    Making mashed potatoes from scratch isn't difficult by any means, but this frozen version is so easy and actually tastes delicious. You just heat them up in a sauce pan with a bit of water or milk for a creamier texture. That being said, if you want to make mashed potatoes from scratch you can easily do so within the $100 budget. Since butter and half and half are already in your grocery cart, just buy a bag of russet potatoes and make them the classic way.

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    Don't worry, the gravy is coming!

    Cornbread Stuffing ($3.99)

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    IMHO, If there's a single side dish your Thanksgiving table will feel naked without, it's stuffing. There's no other food I associate so strongly with Thanksgiving. This boxed version comes with a package of seasoning that you boil with water and butter. Then, add the cornbread and let it sop up all the seasoning. In about 15 minutes, you've got enough moist, flavorful stuffing for an army.

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    A single box makes a ton of stuffing, so you're probably going to have leftovers.

    Mashed Sweet Potatoes ($2.49)

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    It is an unspoken rule of Thanksgiving that you should both regular potatoes and sweet potatoes on your table. These defrost in a sauce pan just like the regular mashed potatoes. You can always spice up the sweet potatoes up with some marshmallow, cinnamon, and pecans if you prefer them sweeter. If you don't want two types of mashed potatoes, you could swap this side dish for simple roasted sweet potato wedges with olive oil, salt, and pepper, or sweet potato fries from the frozen aisle.

    Cheesy Spaghetti Squash Casserole ($4.99)

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    Remember what I said about vegetables tasting better when loaded with cream and cheese? This decadent cheese and spaghetti squash casserole is just more proof. But for those seeking something healthier, TJ's also sells spiralized butternut squash that you can sauté in olive oil.

    Roasted Balsamic Brussels Sprouts ($6.48)

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    When I was younger, my mom used to make plain, boiled Brussels sprouts and they were not very appetizing. But today, Brussels sprouts are the trendiest vegetable around. Toss them with a little balsamic glaze, and they taste incredible. There are a handful of Brussels to choose from in TJ's produce aisle, but I opted for the pre-cut, seasoned version. They are seasoned with garlic, salt, and pepper so you don't have to buy extra ingredients, and the fact that they are pre-cut makes roasting them so easy.

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    Toss the Brussels sprouts in olive oil and roast them in a 400°F oven for about half an hour. Once they're slightly charred and crispy on the outside, transfer them to a bowl and toss with the balsamic glaze.

    White Cheddar Mac 'n' Cheese ($1.39 x 2 = $2.78)

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    Mac 'n' cheese is always a hit at my Thanksgiving table, so I made two boxes so there was plenty to go around. TJ's has a bunch of different kinds of mac 'n' cheese, including some very easy frozen versions, but IMO there's nothing more satisfying than white cheddar shells.

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    You can always add some personal touches to make the boxed mac 'n' cheese feel more homemade. Add some pancetta or bacon, a little Gruyère, sun dried tomatoes, or bread crumbs on top.

    Gravy ($1.49) and Cranberry Sauce ($1.99)

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    Boxed gravy, FTW. Your mashed potatoes, stuffing, and poultry are begging for a splash of this savory, rich stuff.

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    Rosemary Lemon Spatchcocked Chicken ($15.09)

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    OK, you're probably wondering why I didn't make turkey, and the answer is twofold. First of all (and full disclosure), Trader Joe's doesn't get its turkeys in stock until pretty soon before Thanksgiving, which didn't work for the timing of this article. Also, I don't really like turkey. I know that it's the traditional thing to make for Thanksgiving, but I find turkey sort of dry and boring, and I much prefer chicken. Last year, I tried Trader Joe's bone-in, brined turkey breast (6.99 per pound), and it was pretty good. But at $4.49 per pound, this spatchcocked chicken was more affordable and looked really promising.

    Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

    You just put the chicken skin-side up in the oven for 60-70 minutes until it's cooked through, then slice it. The lemon rosemary marinade was delicious and it gave the chicken a ton of flavor. There was also a lot of meat on the bird. I got a chicken that was just around 3 pounds, and it easily fed four people. After all, let's be honest: The sides are the star of the Thanksgiving show.

    Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed
    Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed
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    Caramel Apple Tart

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    Ingredients:

    Frozen puff pastry

    Unsalted butter

    3 Granny Smith apples

    Cinnamon Bun Spread

    French Vanilla Ice Cream

    Total cost: $16.59

    Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

    Cut the puff pastry sheets into squares and peel and slice the apples. Then, line the apples diagonally across the puff pastry sheets. Top the apples with sugar and chopped, cold butter. Bake it in the oven for about 30-40 minutes until golden brown. I followed this simple recipe by Ina Garten, and it came out delicious, but instead of apricot jam I topped the pastries with TJ's cinnamon bun spread.

    Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

    I really enjoy baking for the holidays, so I wanted to make dessert from scratch. That being said, these dessert ingredients accounted for a lot of my grocery budget, so if you want to cut back, you could always skip the homemade desserts and opt for one of TJ's packaged baked goods. The apple crumble and apple slab pies are both delicious, and they also sell a handful of great frozen desserts like an apple galette, Nantucket-style cranberry pie, and pumpkin pie.

    Pumpkin Pie

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    Ingredients:

    Pie crusts

    Organic pumpkin

    Eggs

    Sugar

    Pumpkin Pie Spice

    Total cost: $15.94

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    I followed this Pillsbury recipe for pumpkin pie because it calls for only a handful of ingredients, which kept my costs down. The end result was definitely satisfying, but it tasted a bit more like a pumpkin soufflé with a slightly loose and airy filling as opposed to traditional pumpkin pie.

    Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

    As I mentioned, you could save a bunch of money by opting for Trader Joe's frozen pumpkin pie ($4.99) or the frozen pumpkin cheesecake ($6.99). But for me, homemade dessert goes a long way.

    So there you have it, a $100 Thanksgiving feast. Since you're not breaking the bank on food, you can spend your money on more important things.... like wine 🤪. But here are some short takeaways if you're hoping to try this for your Thanksgiving dinner:

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    —This is just a sample menu of what Thanksgiving foods you can buy at Trader Joe's for under $100. Take it as a guideline and customize your menu according to your preferences. Not a fan of Brussels sprouts? Try the haricots verts sautée kit or roasted asparagus. Gluten-free? Try the riced cauliflower stuffing or the rice pasta and cheddar mac 'n' cheese. There are so many items you can substitute.

    —Dessert was far and away the most expensive part of my grocery budget, but you can always take advantage of Trader Joe's frozen and baked goods to save cash.

    —Some of the frozen items take a bit of time to heat up, for example, the chicken and spaghetti squash spirals take around an hour. But everything on this menu is very low-effort, and you can easily cook the entire meal (minus baking) in two-three hours.

    If you want a complete print-out of my entire Trader Joe's shopping list to help with your shopping, you can download it here!