10 Last-Minute Thanksgiving Recipes That Are Easy on the Budget

Thanksgiving is just days away, and you’re hosting this year! I host every year, and yet I routinely find myself scrambling for recipes the week of so I can surprise and delight the family. I’m not looking to spend a ton of time OR money, though, and that’s fine — because the following are easy, low-budget ideas to make the holiday special without frazzling the hostess:

1. Cranberry Chili Cheese Spread

It’s not truly a holiday in my book without cheese! This cream cheese spread is easy on the budget and heavy on flavor. Mix the softened cream cheese with whole-berry canned cranberries and minced green chilies, as well as a handful of seasonings like cayenne pepper, chili powder and garlic salt. Serve with assorted crackers.

2. Baked Brie with Gingersnaps

This is my own recipe and a winter holiday standard in this house. Simply put a wheel of Brie (a wedge works fine too, if it’s a small crowd) into a baking dish. Drizzle maple syrup all over the cheese and around the bottom of the baking dish and top the Brie with slivered almonds. Bake at 350°F until the cheese is melted and the syrup starts to caramelize in the dish. Serve with gingersnaps!

3. Ultimate Turkey Brine

I used this brine one year for my turkey, and my mom still talks about it being the most delicious turkey she’s ever had! Mix up the brine and pour it into a big bucket or pot a day before Thanksgiving, and submerge the turkey in it. Let it sit in the refrigerator overnight and it will save you a lot of time and effort the next day. The turkey comes out flavorful and juicy, and you don’t have to worry about herbs and seasonings other than a little salt, pepper and olive oil. Note: Use jarred turkey gravy and mix in a little of your turkey drippings before heating! No one will ever know the difference!

4. Slow Cooker Stuffing

This slow cooker recipe frees up your time and oven space on the holiday. If you remember to cut up the sour dough bread and leave it out on the counter a couple days before, you don’t even have to toast the bread in the oven first. Add to the recipe if your family has its own traditional stuffing ingredients; for instance, my mom makes hers with mushrooms and green olives! (Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it)!

5. Garlic and Herb Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are one of my all-time favorite foods, but they make a big, time-consuming mess in a hot kitchen. This recipe calls for buying the pre-made, refrigerated mashed potatoes, prepared as directed, and mixing in a garlic cream cheese spread. That’s all! Optional: Sprinkle with dried parsley and canned fried onions. 

6. Fried Brussels Sprouts with Honey and Balsamic Vinegar

I love easy recipes that only require a few ingredients yet give the impression that I’m a gourmet chef! This dish calls for only the Brussel sprouts, oil, a few shallots, honey, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper. Fry the sprouts with the shallots, toss with the honey-balsamic mixture and serve!

7. Apple Salad with Maple-Mustard Vinaigrette

Make this simple dressing with frozen apple juice concentrate, cider vinegar, oil, brown mustard, maple syrup, and salt. Tear up some mixed greens, add in chopped tart apples and walnuts and thinly slice a red onion to mix in. Toss with the dressing for an easy, delicious fall salad.

8. Orange-Ginger Carrots

Forego the sweet potatoes this year for another orange vegetable: the carrot! Just boil baby carrots, and top them with a mixture of orange juice, honey and grated fresh ginger. Sprinkle with fresh parsley for an added color pop!

9. Cranberry “Stuff”

My mom makes a delicious cranberry relish every year, but we kids always called it “the cranberry stuff,” so the name stuck. Now it’s a family tradition, and no holiday is the same without it!


      • 2 bags fresh cranberries
      • 3 ½ cups sugar
      • 2 cans crushed pineapple
      • 2 large boxes cherry gelatin
      • chopped walnuts, to taste
      • 1 liter bottle of orange juice/other favorite juice (or use water)


      1. Slice the cranberries in half and put them in a pot.
      2. Add juice or water to cover the cranberries.
      3. Add sugar, crushed pineapple, gelatin, and walnuts.
      4. Cook the mixture on medium-high and bring it to just BEFORE boiling (about five minutes).
      5. Let the relish cool to room temperature before serving.

10. No Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake

In a pre-made graham cracker crust, pour in the bottom layer mixture of cream cheese, milk and sugar. Next, blend canned pumpkin with vanilla pudding mix and milk, and pour over the first layer. Finally, add whipped cream as the top layer and refrigerate for four hours. You don’t have to break the bank or a sweat to make this holiday special. Keeping it simple will leave you more time to be thankful for the things that truly matter.


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