6 store-bought shortcuts for a stress-free Thanksgiving dinner

Thanksgiving table with turkey and sides
Photo Credit: VeselovaElena/Getty Images

When it comes to Thanksgiving dinner I’m usually a purist—everything from scratch. However, trying to cook about 13 dishes, using every last dish and utensil and inch of space in the oven, on the stove top and in your fridge, freezer, and countertop can just be too stressful. Not to mention it’s expensive to cook so much food from scratch!

That’s why it’s okay to use shortcuts. Thanksgiving Day should be reserved for spending time with family, catching up with relatives you haven’t seen in a long time (probably since last Thanksgiving), and getting to savor the food you’ve spent days making.

Here’s what can be store-bought without sacrificing too much on taste.

  1. Dinner rolls — Whether you buy pre-made deli rolls or the take-and-bake Pillsbury variety, they’re good enough to justify not baking homemade biscuits.
  2. Stuffing — It’s totally fine to use boxed stuffing mix like Stove Top as a base. It still has to be doctored up with onions, celery, poultry seasoning, and chicken broth though.
  3. Cranberry sauce — Fresh or from a can, does anyone really love cranberry sauce anyway?
  4. Pumpkin pie — You can order amazing pies at stores or bakeries that will do the trick just the same as a homemade pumpkin pie.
  5. Gravy — For the effort it takes to make a pan gravy, simply twist the cap off a jar, add some turkey drippings and voila!
  6. Green bean casserole — Canned or frozen green beans and a can of cream of mushroom soup, and you have Grandma’s green bean casserole.

There are a few things I cannot sacrifice homemade, however. Here’s a list of things that have to be made from scratch in my house because the alternative is just not good enough.

Mashed potatoes

Those instant mashed potato flakes that come in a box taste like paste. Add a little Southwest flavor to your Thanksgiving meal with this recipe for Tex-Mex mashed potatoes.

Thanksgiving Tex-Mex Mashed Potatoes | MakeItGrateful.com

Sweet potatoes

I can do canned pumpkin, but canned sweet potatoes, even in a casserole, just doesn’t cut it. Let those sweet potatoes shine with this recipe for roasted sweet potatoes with cinnamon pecan crunch.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon Pecan Crunch | MakeItGrateful.com

Macaroni and cheese

If you serve macaroni and cheese, it better be homemade. Here’s a killer recipe to impress your guests: Pumpkin beer mac and cheese with caramelized onions.

Pumpkin beer mac and cheese Thanksgiving side dish recipe | MakeItGrateful.com


If you’re serving a soup as a starter or appetizer, you have to go homemade. Your guests will enjoy this recipe for extra cheesy french onion soup, and you can make it ahead of time in your slow cooker to save the stress.

The perfect Thanksgiving starter recipe, french onion and sweet potato soup | MakeItGrateful.com

Don’t feel bad about taking a few shortcuts on Thanksgiving Day. Odds are your guests won’t even know the difference, and you’ll be able to enjoy the holiday.