Healthy Cooking

5 Thanksgiving Foods You Should Buy Instead of Make to Save Time, Money, and Stress

Photo: Getty Images/10,000 Hours
You've (hopefully) started to think about what to make for Thanksgiving—but have you given much thought to what not to make? Even for people who love to cook, prepping for Thanksgiving is stressful. You'll definitely want to keep a few recipes that nothing found in the aisles of a supermarket would be able to replicate, but there's no need to cook everything yourself.

Thanksgiving made from scratch takes a lot of time and money. So give yourself a break. Registered dietitian and The Foodie Dietitian blogger Kara Lydon, RD, says there are five foods you should always buy at the grocery store. And the rest, well, you can whip those up homemade to impress your COVID-19-sized gathering this year.

When considering what to make for Thanksgiving, these are the foods you should buy pre-made

1. Cranberry sauce

"With all there is to prepare and cook for Thanksgiving, cranberry sauce shouldn’t be one of them," says Lydon. "You can find a number of canned and jarred varieties that are inexpensive and just as delicious as the homemade kind." A can of cranberry sauce is $1.50 and still full of antioxidants.

2. Gravy

The turkey and stuffing require a lot of attention, and when it comes down to it, people care a lot more about those main events than the side of gravy, which is why Lydon says to do yourself a favor and buy it. "When it’s finally time to take the turkey out of the oven, the last thing you want to be worrying about is collecting all the fat drippings to make gravy. Save yourself the time and stress and look for store-bought varieties with simple ingredients." Plant-based Thanksgiving? No problem. Try a vegan gravy to appease everyone at the table.

3. Rolls

"No one has the time to let dough rise on Thanksgiving so leave this one to the pros," Lydon says. "Everyone will love store-bought dinner rolls warmed up in the oven and you’ll save a ton of time and energy." Unless you already have all the staples needed to bake them yourself, buying rolls pre-made is the cheaper option. After all, aren't you sick of baking after a year of banana bread?

4. Salad

While it's a good idea to add some fiber to your plate, most people don't come to the Thanksgiving table with special requests pertaining to the greens. "Save your energy for the delicious turkey and mashed potatoes by purchasing a few premixed salad bags for a quick nutritious side," Lydon says. Since bagged salad is still all fresh ingredients and nothing preserved, it will be just as nutritious.

5. Apple pie

Peeling, cutting, and prepping the apples for this classic Thanksgiving dessert is a lot of work, and chances are most of your guests will be too stuffed to dig in anyway. "Instead, check out the offerings at your local bakery for a low-stress and crowd-pleasing dessert," says Lydon. You'll be supporting a local business that will be *thankful* for your business—it's a win-win.

Here's how a dietitian serves up her Thanksgiving plate: 

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This post was originally published on November 20, 2019; updated on November 24, 2020. 

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