Welcome back to the collaboration between Mint and Brewing Happiness. I’m Haley, the girl behind Brewing Happiness – a blog about celebrating the small healthy choices we make in our lives, complete with recipes for everybody! I’m here to give you tips on living a healthy, happy life on a budget.
Since Thanksgiving is right around the corner and the holidays are already expensive enough, I thought I’d talk about the best ways to make delicious and cheap side dishes. Feeding a lot of people is no small feat. It depletes your time, energy and bank account. However, there are tons of ways to make cost-effective side dishes that leave everyone feeling satisfied.
5 Inexpensive Thanksgiving Side Dishes
1. Use inexpensive grains as your base.
I love millet as an inexpensive grain, but you can choose any that sounds good to you. I suggest buying from a bulk bin, so you can select exactly the quantity you want. Cook your grain in vegetable or chicken stock and you have a cheap and easy base for a side dish – just toss with seasonal vegetables and herbs. VOILA.
EXAMPLE MEAL: Warm Millet Salad with Squash and Green Beans (serves 6-8)
- .5 lb dry millet – $1.10
- vegetable broth – $2.49
- acorn squash – $1.61
- 1 lb green beans – $2.79
- .2 lb raisins – $1
- .25 lb walnuts – $2.50
- tahini – $6.39
TOTAL: $17.88, $2.98-$2.24/person
2. Potatoes are your best friends.
Because potatoes are filling and priced at under $1 each, you can feed a ton of people with very little cost. So make your classic go-to’s like grandma’s mashed potatoes and sweet potato soufflé. Or try being a little daring by adding them to your salads or come up with a new dish all your own!
EXAMPLE MEAL: Maple Apple Cider Sweet Potatoes (serves 6-8)
- 5 sweet potatoes – $1.60
- cinnamon apple tea – $3.79
- coconut sugar – $6
- cranberry sauce – $1.59
TOTAL: $12.89, $2.16-$1.61/person
3. Load up on cruciferous vegetables, especially broccoli and cauliflower.
A head of cauliflower or broccoli costs anywhere from $2.30 – $4, and can easily feed 6 to 8 people as a side. I love to put them in side salads or use them in place of potatoes for a lighter, healthier version of some classic sides – like this cauliflower gratin.
EXAMPLE MEAL: Healthy Cauliflower Gratin (serves 6)
1 head of cauliflower – $3.99
1 can coconut milk – $2.29
.1 lb nutritional yeast – $1.20
coconut oil – $5.99
bread crumbs – $2.29
parmesan cheese – $3.99
TOTAL: $19.75, $3.29/person
EXAMPLE MEAL: Balsamic Broccoli Thanksgiving Salad (serves 6-8)
1 head broccoli – $2.30
1 butternut squash – $4.11
1 bag frozen lima beans – $2.69
1 cup walnuts – $5
1 lemon – $0.59
TOTAL: $14.69, $2.44-$1.84/person
4. Get inventive with pantry staples.
Try to make your pantry multi-purpose, by using your pantry staples in multiple side dishes instead of buying unique or strange spices/extras you may never use again. For example, use the tea bags you already have in your pantry to flavor the sweet potatoes like I did in my Maple Apple Cider Sweet Potato recipe. Using the balsamic vinegar as a dressing for your Balsamic Broccoli Salad means you don’t have to buy a new dressing or sauce. This way you only have to spend money on the core items for each side dish.
5. Use seasonal produce.
Seasonal produce is usually very cost effective, because of the high supply. (Check out my last article to learn more about eating seasonally!) Seasonal produce often goes hand in hand with Thanksgiving, so it often isn’t hard to do. Foods like squash, kale, broccoli, pears, persimmons, potatoes, etc. are all in season and readily available to use. If you stick to using seasonal produce, you can help guarantee that you won’t spend money on miscellaneous recipe extras that drive up the price.
EXAMPLE MEAL: Garlicky Kale Holiday Salad (serves 6)
- 1 bundle kale – $2.50
- 1 acorn squash – $1.61
- 2 persimmons – $5
- 1 bosc pear – $0.83
- 1 pomegranate – $2.50
- vegan mayo – $3.69
- apple cider vinegar – $3.99
TOTAL: $20.12, $3.35/person
I based all of my pricing on my local Whole Foods, so the prices may vary based on where you are located. I omitted pantry staples (ie. Butter, oil, spices, salt, flour, etc.) from the cost analysis, because I assume most people will have them already. If you don’t happen to have one of those items on hand, the cost will be more expensive.
Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!
Over the next few months I’ll be covering a variety of ways to be healthy on a budget. Keep an eye out for those and head over to Brewing Happiness for healthy recipe inspiration in the meantime!