When attempting to make an acceptable thanksgiving dish that's half as good as mom's homemade pie, it can get pretty pricey, not to mention stressful. When moving towards exams and the expenses of second semester, that's the last thing students need. Easy, cheap thanksgiving meals are a must have this holiday season. Here are seven deliciously affordable, foolproof dishes that can be passed off as deceivingly extravagant. 

1. Cheesy Mashed Potatoes - $4

Olivia Mock

For this one, you'll need to make some mashed potatoes - obviously. I made the ones that come in a box (and look like little flakes you would think should be fed to a fish). Then, with a simple touch of our beloved Velveeta cheese, we have grade-A-taters.

Now, add 4oz of Velveeta for every 4 servings of mashed potatoes made. Be sure to mix in quickly after removing from the heat. I flavored it with basil before serving but any seasoning or garnish of your choice can be added. 

#SpoonTip: Put the pot back on the stove if the cheese isn't fully blending in.

2. Caramel Reese's Pumpkin Pie - $7

Olivia Mock

I chose to use pumpkin pie canned filling and a frozen pre-made pie crust for this cheap thanksgiving meal. While this may sound like a complicated option the prep time will only take up to 6 minutes, with the cook time being around 40 minutes.

#SpoonTip: If an even easier method is desired for this holiday treat, pre-made pumpkin pies can be bought instead.

For the topping, spread a thin layer of cool whip across the top with little pieces of chopped Reese's Peanut Butter Cups as well as caramel syrup. 

3. Jiffy Cornbread - $0.79 (per box)

Olivia Mock

Do you want the easiest, cheapest option possible while still looking like you put forth effort? This one's for you! While adding some traditional southern style food to the table, you're sure to get more bang for your buck. Not to mention, this side will definitely fill you up.

4. Maple Glazed Carrots - $1.60 

Olivia Mock

This online recipe can be easily adjusted to fit personal preference. The original recipe calls for squash, but substituting carrots was ideal for me. The syrup also created an interesting sweetness while also using a common ingredient. I then added basil for additional flavor. Every cent will be well spent on this cheap thanksgiving meal. Warning: you may confuse this vegetable with dessert.

5. Cold Bean Salad - $4 

Olivia Mock

This no bake dish is so easy a kid could do it. Literally. A little kid is shown making this meal here (where you can also find the recipe). For cost purposes, I limited myself to one can of white beans, two cups of fresh green beans, one tomato, and the vinaigrette of your choice (I used Greek).  

This combination of fresh food makes for a great vegan alternative for the perfect friendsgiving dish. This side also has an option to throw in some tuna for those who want extra meat in their meal. 

6. Turkey and Gravy - $3.50

Olivia Mock

Instead of going through the hassle of making a whole turkey, here's the college alternative. Originally, I was skeptical about this one. While buying pre-sliced turkey sandwich meat and mixing a packet of gravy doesn't sound like the most delicious option at first; you'd be wrong. After warming up the meat and gravy, taking a total of, at most, 5 minutes to make, this dish will taste almost just as good as grandma's hand stuffed turkey.

7. Pumpkin Pie Shots - $21 (or $7)

Olivia Mock

This odd combination of Irish cream, amaretto, and cinnamon schnapps creates a perfect spicy pumpkin pie flavor bound to make the party one to remember (or forget). Intentionally choosing the cheaper brands and using the pricing of pint size bottles this 'side' is still a bit more expensive than the others.

#SpoonTip: Different people bringing each bottle can make it more affordable.

Nonetheless, you don't want to miss out on this sweet drink; this is one thing everyone will surly be thankful for this holiday season.


For friends, or just for yourself, it's hard to go wrong with these seven cheap thanksgiving dishes. If everyone forgets, suddenly becomes too lazy for homemade meals, or somehow the food goes terribly wrong, you might want to consider just skipping the holiday fiasco all around and checking out these local restaurants instead.