Let’s face it. Few of us have kitchens so large and so stocked with state-of-the art appliances that we can cook an entire Thanksgiving dinner in a single day. For those of us with modest sized kitchens and a single oven, cooking a budget-friendly Thanksgiving meal is something that usually has to be staggered over several days.
While occasionally I’ll ask my guests to bring a covered dish potluck style to help spread both the costs and the prep time, an other alternate is for the hostess to prep some of the side dishes in advance of the holiday. For this system to work, it’s important to plan a menu that includes several of these budget-friendly dishes that can handle a few days of refrigeration without getting soggy.
This article isn’t a list of recipes that you should make for Thanksgiving. Instead, it’s a recommendation of budget-friendly side dishes that can be prepped ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday so as to free up kitchen space for cooking the Turkey and all the trimming on the big day itself.
1. Salad dressings and cold sauces. With fresh veggies, salads, and fruit salads increasing in popularity as a Thanksgiving side dishes, salad dressings and cold sauces (cranberry or yogurt honey) are a great way to add a little extra pizzazz. Oil & vinegar-based salad dressing, raspberry or orange ginger vinaigrette, Italian, and Catalina are a few budget-friendly salad dressings that can be made up a week ahead of Thanksgiving.
2. Molded fruit salads are the quintessential budget-friendly Thanksgiving side dish that can be prepped at least a couple of days ahead of the holiday.
3. Dinner rolls or artisan breads are always a welcome addition to a Thanksgiving meal. While homemade dinner rolls are the most affordable option, artisan breads are also easy and budget-friendly to make. Homemade breads can be prepped a day ahead of Thanksgiving, and then reheated in the oven on Thanksgiving Day .
4. Cooked vegetable dishes. Cooked vegetables of all types are both budget-friendly and traditional Thanksgiving dinner side dishes. While the cooking for these dishes must happen on Thanksgiving, the prep work can be done the day before. What I do is peel, slice and dice these veggies the day before, and then package them in a storage container which can be placed in the refrigerator. Most veggies can be stored in a sealed bag with just a sprinkling of water to keep their crispness. Cut up potatoes and yams must be submersed in salted water to prevent discoloring.
5. Desserts. It isn’t Thanksgiving without pie. Pumpkin and apple pie wrap up this list of traditional budget-friendly dishes that can be made from scratch before Thanksgiving and kept refrigerated until meal time.