There's one meal I cook the same way year after year: Thanksgiving. What can I say? I like the classics, and Thanksgiving gives me a chance to cook familiar recipes while chatting with friends and family.
I also like saving money; it's one of my favorite things. So this year I decided to head to Aldi, my go-to budget-friendly grocery store to see if I could buy an entire classic Thanksgiving dinner for less than $100.
Could it be done? I wanted to find out!
I set Kitchn's Thanksgiving menu generator, Thanksgiving-O-Matic, to "Totally Traditional" and let it do the planning. Since I love the classics, I made one small menu tweak: I replaced the meringue-topped pumpkin pie with the classic pumpkin pie. The recipes are similar and shouldn't affect the final price by more than a dollar or two.
How many people? This menu serves eight to 10 people.
What I didn't buy: Pantry basics, like spices, salt, pepper, and beverages.
- The Appetizer: How To Make Baked Brie in Puff Pastry
- The Turkey: How To Cook a Turkey: The Simplest, Easiest Method
- The Gravy: How To Make Turkey Gravy Ahead of Thanksgiving
- The Stuffing: Classic Sage & Onion Bread Dressing
- The Potatoes: Make-Ahead Mashed Potato Casserole
- The Sweet Potatoes: How To Make Classic Thanksgiving Sweet Potatoes
- The Veggies: Green Bean Casserole with Mushroom Béchamel & Crispy Onions
- The Rolls: How to Make Soft & Tender Dinner Rolls
- The Cranberry Sauce: How To Make Cranberry Sauce: The Simplest, Easiest Method
- The Pie: Classic Pumpkin Pie
The Appetizer: Baked Brie in Puff Pastry
Oh, no. I hit a snag shopping for the first course of the meal. Aldi sells small wheels of brie, but my store didn't offer puff pastry. Before I even had a chance to think of an alternative, I spotted a pre-made baked brie from Aldi's "Specially Selected" line. This one came wrapped in brioche, not puff pastry, but it was close enough for me.
Suggested alternative: If you can't find the wrapped brie, pick up a wheel of regular brie and serve with crackers or a sliced baguette. Brie not your thing? Check out Aldi's selection of other cheeses, like Kerrygold or pre-cut cheese cubes.
The Main: Turkey
Aldi offers a limited turkey selection. My store stocked traditional Butterball turkeys and a smoked variety. I nabbed a regular 14-pounder and called it a day. Since Butterball turkeys are pre-brined, the Thanksgiving-o-Matic and I parted ways on turkey prep.
Cost: $13.86 ($0.99 per pound)
Suggested alternative: Along with whole turkeys, you can also pick up a turkey breast or ham. In fact, Aldi offers more ham than turkey. Their spiral-sliced sugar-glazed ham is really popular and much cheaper than other spiral hams.
I wasn't sure if Aldi would have the rustic white bread I needed for the sage and onion stuffing, but to my delight, I found a big ol' loaf of Italian-style bread. It weighed 32 ounces. The recipe uses about 16 ounces, so the remaining bread will go into my bread basket. (And at some point during the meal, someone will surely ask, "Why do you put bread out at Thanksgiving? There's so much other food!" This person is usually eating a buttered piece of bread while they ask.)
Aldi didn't carry any fresh sage. In fact, I asked the salesclerk if they ever sold fresh herbs and she told me they often have cilantro, but that's about it. Your store's supply might differ. I decided to use dried sage, which I had at home in the pantry.
Costs: Italian bread $3.69; celery: $1.49
Suggested alternative: If you can't find the large round loaves of Italian bread, look for ciabatta or the sourdough squares. If you're serving a gluten-free stuffing, Aldi offers gluten-free sandwich bread; it makes a great stuffing. They also have small boxes of gluten-free stuffing mix.
Side: Mashed Potato Casserole
They had lots of potatoes. Lots. I was tempted to buy a 10-pound bag of potatoes because they were so cheap, but then I remembered that, although it was Thanksgiving, I didn't need 10 pounds of potatoes. So a more reasonable five-pound bag of russets went into my cart.
Costs: Potatoes: $2.99; cream cheese: $.89; sour cream: $1.19
Suggested alternative: If the store is out of Russets, get golden or white potatoes. These two potatoes contain less starch than Russets, so they won't whip up as fully. However, they are a good replacement in a pinch.
Our family divides itself into two camps: pro-sweet potato casserole and anti-sweet potato casserole. The latter group is also known as the "that's not a side dish ... that's dessert" camp. I'm in the pro-camp. And since I set the menu and do the cooking, it's always on our table.
Like most produce at Aldi, the sweet potatoes are prepackaged in a three-pound bag. You can't buy them by the pound. The recipe calls for four pounds and so, since I'm all about abundance on Thanksgiving, I picked up two bags.
Cost: Sweet Potatoes, two (three-pound) bags: $3.98
Suggested alternative: Don't like sweet potatoes? Skip it and serve roasted butternut or acorn squash. Aldi sells both.
Side: Green Bean Casserole
My husband makes our green bean casserole from scratch every year and, honestly, it's the best thing ever. So, green beans and mushrooms were underlined on my shopping list. (This is my code for "must buy.") I found bags of fresh green beans and containers of "baby bella" mushrooms. Both were half the size I needed. Two of each went into the cart.
When selecting ingredients for the green bean casserole recipe, I made a small tweak: I nixed the sweet onion. The reasons for this were twofold: I didn't want to buy an entire bag of sweet onions, and I like the more pungent flavor of fried yellow onions.
Cost: Fresh green beans, two (one-pound) bags: $3.98; mushrooms, two (eight-ounce) packages: $3.98; cheddar: $1.49
Aldi has a great selection of ciabatta rolls and, if I'm being honest, I was tempted to just buy a couple of bags and call it day. But since my goal was to shop the Thanksgiving menu, I resisted that urge.
Cost: Yeast: $0.79
Suggested Alternative: You can find both pre-baked rolls and "brown and serve" rolls. And if crescent rolls or biscuits are your favorite, you're all set — look for cans in the refrigerated section.
Side: Cranberry Sauce
Fresh cranberry sauce is one of life's true pleasures. The cranberries were easy enough to get; it was the oranges that proved a little bit of a problem. The recipe only needs two oranges, and the bags sold contained at least six. I decided to buy a bag because fruit never goes to waste in our house. If you don't need that many oranges, plan on stopping at a different store or pick up a bottle of orange juice.
Cost: Navel oranges: $3.49; cranberries: $1.49
Suggested alternative: There's no replacement for fresh cranberries in a cranberry sauce recipe. If you don't like fresh cranberry sauce or can't find fresh berries, Aldi sells canned cranberry sauce.
Dessert: Pumpkin Pie
As mentioned above, I made one big swap to the Thanksgiving-o-Matic recipe lineup. Out went the lovely looking meringue-topped pumpkin pie, and in its place came a very classic pumpkin pie.
Cost: Pie crust: $1.49; pumpkin purée: $.89
Suggested alternative: As with rolls, you can buy a pre-made pie without breaking the budget. Aldi sells both a traditional pumpkin pie in the bakery section and a "pumpkin supreme" in the freezer section. You can also pick up cheesecakes, apple pies, and cobblers. The desserts always seem a little scattered throughout the store. Check the bakery section, refrigerated section, and the freezers (both chest and wall freezers) for desserts.
You'll notice the recipes don't tally things like butter and flour. Since they're used in multiple recipes, I've grouped them all together here.
- Onions: $1.69
- Garlic (three heads): $0.99
- Flour (five pounds): $1.39
- Granulated sugar (five pounds): $1.69
- Brown sugar (two pounds): $0.99
- Vegetable oil: $1.99
- Chicken stock (low-sodium, free-range): $1.69
- Heavy cream (one pint): $1.69
- Milk (gallon): $2.69
Total cost: $65.94!
With $34.51 left, you can buy beverages, pick up a few bars of chocolate, and still pick up a few leftover items like fresh herbs on your way home.