Though college students come in all different shapes and sizes, the truth is we’re all united by our desire to eat great food while spending the least amount of money as possible. And Thanksgiving, which is just around the corner, is no exception. Whether you’re spending the holiday cozied up with your roommates or you’re ambitiously trying to cook dinner for your parents, this guide to getting the most bang for your buck is the real secret ingredient to a successful meal.

Note: Not included in this shopping list are basic kitchen ingredients including: flour, butter, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and salt. All ingredients were purchased at Wal-Mart, despite the shame it caused me to shop there. But hey, a discount is a discount.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes


Photo by @ali_synthesis

One of the staples of any good Thanksgiving dinner are sweet potatoes: good tasting and good for ya. This easy recipe only requires four ingredients, two of which (butter and milk) you probably already have in your kitchen. Additionally, I always recommend topping your mashed sweet potatoes with marshmallows, God’s gift to mankind. This means you need to pick up the following three ingredients:

Sweet Potatoes: $0.96 for 6 ($0.48 per pound)

Maple Syrup: $2.18

Marshmallows: $1.47

Total Spent: $4.61

Cranberry Sauce


Photo by Sophie Rupp

You really don’t need any explanation for this one. The tartness of cranberries balances out all those sweet and savory flavors in the rest of your meal. You don’t have to do anything fancy for this. Keep it simple, low-cost and buy it canned.

Canned Cranberry Sauce: $1.38

Total Spent: $5.99

Easy Pumpkin Pie


Photo by Sophie Rupp

When the word “easy” is in the title of a recipe, you really have nothing to fear. This pumpkin pie is another four ingredient creation, though you’ll need to make the pie crust yourself using basic kitchen ingredients in order to save yourself some dough. The other ingredients you’ll need to buy are:

Libby’s Easy Pumpkin Pie Mix: $2.74

Evaporated Milk: $1.00

Total Spent: $9.73



Photo by Sophie Rupp

Though your mom’s freshly baked rolls are probably better than the frozen kind, let’s face it—you can’t even toast a Poptart. Do yourself a favor and pick up a package to ensure your guests aren’t missing their daily dose of carbs.

Frozen Rolls: $3.27

Total Spent: $13.00



Photo by Sophie Rupp

It really doesn’t get anymore classic than Stove Top Stuffing. Or any cheaper. Shhhh no one has to know you didn’t make this from scratch. It will be our little secret.

Stove Top Stuffing: $1.25

Total Spent: $14.25



Photo by Sophie Rupp

And now, the item we’ve all been waiting for. The bird. The main event. The climax of your meal. This is by far the most expensive item, but you can still get a decent-sized Butterball (the king of the turkey world) for about the price of a dinner out on the town–and I promise its leftovers will make you many more meals than that tiny appetizer you ordered.

Turkey: $14.71 ($1.77 per pound, 8.31 pounds)

Total Spent: $28.96

Congratulations, you’re done! Everything you could possibly need to make a complete Thanksgiving meal, all for the price of a Papa John’s delivery pizza and an order of wings. Looks like you and your bank account have a lot to be thankful for this year!