Once the turkey preparation method has been decided and the dessert assignments have been handed out, it’s time to officially start freaking out about your Thanksgiving side dishes. To be honest, this is where many people cause themselves unnecessary stress by choosing recipes with so many ingredients they’d be expensive to serve a family of four, let alone a guest list of forty.

This is why I advocate a little reality check at this time of year and suggest simpler sides that focus more on flavor, affordable ingredients and presentation. You can also use many of these ideas for Christmas dinner or other special occasions throughout the rest of the year, as the required items can easily be purchased for several months if not for most of the year. (See also: 40 Frugal Freezer Meals)

Stuffed Acorn Squash

If you’re only hosting four to six people for the big day, then try celebrating winter squash by serving individual Thanksgiving side dishes of stuffed acorn squash. They cut apart more easily than larger varieties, bake quicker and can be stuffed with a variety of affordable things from a seasoned quinoa and raisin medley to a rice and ground lamb combo.

stuffed acorn squash

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Prefer a little more fiber than you can get with the white variety? Searching for less sugar than your typical sweet potato casserole will give you? Here’s a mashed sweet potato side dish that keeps things short on calories and tall on flavor.

mashed sweet potato

Pumpkin Casserole

Have you ever considered using canned pumpkin for something that wasn’t dessert? There are several savory options to try, including this affordable pumpkin and black bean casserole. It’s a great way to add color and nutrition to a traditionally rich menu that can lead heavily towards a white palette if you’re not careful. (See also: Penny-Pinching Pumpkin Recipes).

pumpkin and black bean casserole

Sautéed String Beans

It’s no secret that I love haricot verts at any time of year. In fact, they’re one of my favorite convenience foods to purchase on a regular basis. That being said, they’re particularly posh to enjoy around Thanksgiving. Preparing them with a water sauté cuts down on fat calories, but if you want them with more flavor than salt and pepper can provide, try tossing them with a homemade vinaigrette.

Cornbread Stuffing

Making cornbread ahead of time to use in stuffing is a breeze with this bulk homemade cornbread mix. When I know I want to enjoy some made from scratch when turkey day rolls around, I make sure to bake extra large batches of the stuff to go with dinner once a week for the month leading up to the big day. Then I store the extra in a large container in the freezer so it will be ready to go.

Cornbread Stuffing

Cauliflower Gratin

We’re big on cauliflower recipes in this house. Anything to help cut carbs and promote a greater intake of cruciferous vegetables, I say. That’s why this recipe for cauliflower gratin from Real Simple magazine caught my eye. It’s decadent enough for holiday enjoyment, yet with an ingredient list that most people will find workable.

Cauliflower Gratin

Glazed Carrots

It doesn’t get much more affordable than this, folks. Glazed carrots are relatively simple, require minimal ingredients and can be prepared fairly quickly. Here’s a fun recipe for whiskey-glazed carrots from The Pioneer Woman.

Glazed Carrots

Homemade Bread

You can do this with a savory quick bread, mixes for the bread machine, homemade rolls or even biscuits. The point is to have something yummy to slather butter on and dunk in the extra gravy. Choose a recipe that uses basic ingredients and change up the shape if you feel like you need to fancy things up a bit. Braided loaves, clover-shaped rolls and hand cut biscuits are all fair game, and all of them are affordable.

These Thanksgiving side dishes were selected for their affordability and the fact they are suitable for a wide range of dining preferences. What are your favorite Thanksgiving side dishes? Do you have any that use minimal ingredients and offer exceptional value?

Photo Credit: Ten Safe Frogs

Myscha Theriault

Myscha Theriault

A lifelong money cruncher who can squeeze a nickel ‘til it cries, Myscha is a syndicated columnist, best-selling author, and founder of Trek Hound and We Be Sharin’.