A Thanksgiving feast on a college student’s budget

Ryan Pattee

Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate everything you are grateful for, be with friends and family, and, of course, have a feast.

However, what would that feast look like if you had to make one on a college budget?

The main course

While Thanksgiving turkey is the meat of choice for the feast, there are cheaper alternatives for college friends trying to eat on a low budget. Ham and fried chicken are two simple alternatives that require little to no cook or prep time, and can be found at grocery stores or fast food chains in the area. 

The side dishes

Green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, cranberries, stuffing, rolls and mashed potatoes are just a few of Thanksgiving’s signature sides. Here are the alternatives:

Cranberry sauce already comes in a can, making it easy to throw on a plate, or dried cranberries can be thrown into salad or eaten by the handful out of the bag. 

In terns of potatoes, the alternative options are twofold: if one is looking to stick to traditions and wants to make mashed potatoes, boxed mashed potatoes can simply be thrown on the stove and ready in a short amount of time.

However, if mashed potatoes aren’t going to be feasible, buy a bag of frozen french fries and stick them in the oven. That way, the traditional potatoes will still be on the table, but in an alternative form. 

Rolls can be purchased pre-packaged in the bakery aisle of a grocery store, but one could harken back to “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” and make toast using bread already in a dorm or apartment. 

Substituting Popcorn for corn or stuffing is another way to save money and help eliminate extra calories on the table, too. 

If green bean casserole is on the menu, eliminate all the extra ingredients and buy only the basics, in the form of french fried onions. 


The final course of the meal, Thanksgiving dessert is typically filled with pies of various sorts-pumpkin, squash or pecan, to name a few. If making a pie isn’t going to work, and store-bought pies will put you over budget, pie-flavored ice cream will do the trick. Look for pumpkin pie, pecan or any fruit flavored pie ice creams at the grocery store- there should be plenty to go around at the table.