Whether you're hosting Thanksgiving or participating in a family potluck, good sides are essential. Sure, the giant turkey is the centerpiece of the meal. But the sides are what really make it special.
Luckily, delicious, fancy-looking sides don't have to be expensive or take a lot of time. This list of cheap, easy sides will make it look like you did a lot of work -- enough work that even your in-laws will be impressed.
The Secret to Delicious, Cheap Sides
This list of side options certainly isn't comprehensive. It will just get you started. But after you look through these side ideas, you may want to get creative and try some sides of your own. Here are some keys to stick to if you want sides that are affordable and quick:
-- Start with cheaper ingredients. As you'll see from the list, it's easy to turn cheap ingredients like grains and vegetables into rock star sides. Cutting back on the more expensive ingredients such as butter and cheese will save you money.
-- Keep it simple. Some of the most famous, delicious meals are also some of the simplest. Don't forego a recipe just because it doesn't involve complicated ingredients and procedures. The sides listed below all involve just a few ingredients and are easy to prepare.
-- Try it ahead of time. There's nothing worse than a meal that looks fabulous on Pinterest but then bombs when you're counting on it. If you're unfamiliar with particular ingredients or preparation techniques, make the side ahead of time for a weeknight dinner.
10 Thanksgiving Sides to Try
Garlic Parmesan Roasted Butternut Squash: Delicious (and super cheap) butternut squash is the star of this recipe. Simply cube the squash, toss it with garlic, butter, melted salt, pepper and parsley leaves. Then, roast in the oven for about 40 minutes. Top with cheese, and you're done.
Spicy Roasted Brown Sugar Carrots: This dish uses carrots, one of the grocery store's cheapest items. Roasted with olive oil, salt, butter, chili flakes and brown sugar, these carrots are the perfect blend of spicy and sweet.
Slow Cooker Mashed Sweet Potatoes: Skip the more complicated sweet potato casserole in favor of this easy slow cooker dish. It's topped with butter, cinnamon, brown sugar and chopped pecans like the regular casserole. But making it in the crockpot is easy to do when you're in the midst of other holiday preparations.
Crispy Brussels Sprouts With Bacon and Garlic: Since it involves both blanching and sauteing, this is one of the more complicated dishes on the list. However, it's still quick and simple to prepare. And if you want a side dish that looks super fancy, add this one to your menu.
Alfredo Mac and Cheese: If macaroni and cheese is a must-have dish for your family feast, one-up it with this fancier version. Using mozzarella, Asiago or Romano, and chopped scallions, this is a fancier version of your favorite comfort food. The cheese ups the price a bit, but since it's based on cheap macaroni, it's still fairly inexpensive.
Oven Roasted Potatoes: Can you see a theme here with the oven roasting? That's because it's so easy! These potatoes tossed in olive oil, Italian dressing mix and garlic powder are flavorful and easy to make.
Acorn Squash with Cranberry Stuffing: This is a more ingredient-heavy side dish, but it looks really impressive. And since the ingredient list includes squash, celery, onion, apples and frozen cranberries, it's still pretty cheap. It's a delicious sweet-tart side option for Thanksgiving.
Corn, Zucchini and Feta Bake: This quick side dish is a little lighter, with the more summery flavors of corn and squash that are still indispensable at Thanksgiving. It includes zucchini, frozen corn and feta crumbles, along with green onions and some simple seasoning.
Easy Homemade French B read: There's really nothing more impressive than homemade bread. It seems like such a lost skill. But, actually, making your own bread isn't that difficult. This French bread recipe involves just five ingredients and a little practice. This is definitely one I'd suggest practicing on before Thanksgiving Day, but don't be intimidated -- it's not that complicated!
Dinner Rolls: There are as many ways to make dinner rolls as there are cooks who make them. I didn't link a specific recipe here because they're pretty much all cheap and easy. Again, it just takes some practice to master the art of bread making. But there's nothing better than fresh-from-the-oven homemade dinner rolls on Thanksgiving!
Abby Hayes is a freelance blogger and journalist who writes for personal finance blog The Dough Roller and contributes to Dough Roller's weekly newsletter.