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Hungry for life with an appetite for good food.

Thanksgiving on a budget

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My Thanksgiving experience this year taught me that broke college students can prepare a whole meal, too! Here are some tips that I took away from it:

  • Pardon a turkey, eat chicken. Rotisserie chicken is a great alternative to turkey because it’s ready to eat and inexpensive as well (about $5-$10 at Costco). It may not be traditional, but it does save the sleep effects of tryptophan from the turkey.
  • Cans and boxes are your best friend. As terrible as it sounds, canned food and boxed items are your best friend on a budget, especially if your kitchen does not have an oven. And almost everything is instant nowadays. So, you can have cranberry sauce from a can, boxed stuffing, boxed mashed potatoes, canned or frozen vegetables, and any additional sides such as instant macaroni and cheese.
  • Check if there are any open restaurants in your area. On Thanksgiving, my friends and I found that Boston Market and Uno’s Chicago Grill were open. I’ve never been to Boston Market (shocking, I know), but from what I have heard, they have great Thanksgiving fixings. Unfortunately for us, the line for Boston Market went well past the door (as expected). We picked up a few of the Reese’s Cup desserts from Uno’s. Or, you could even just ditch cooking and eat out.
  • Variety is the spice of life. I spent Thanksgiving with a friend from Hawaii, an Ecuadorian, and two Asians from New York. My Hawaii friend made ham and pineapple, and the Ecuadorian made “tortillas”: saffron-flavored potatoes filled with mozzarella cheese. These were simple meals that added a cool edge to the assortment of food. If you are cooking with others, ask if they know of any simple cultural dishes from their families.

These may not be the healthiest or wholesome options, but hey, desperate times call for desperate measures. It definitely was not like the Thanksgiving dinner prepared by my mom, but I really enjoyed it. And for a bunch of college students with no oven, this was a feast. Thanksgiving dinner does not always have to take two days to prepare. Sometimes, it’s just all about being resourceful.

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Author: Samantha N

My name is Samantha and I am a magazine editor living in New York City with a passion for food and writing.

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