Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and the time is nigh for resurfacing that gravy boat. This particular holiday is a favorite for many people, including me and mine, but also a stressful one, because getting a very involved meal with lots of components on the table is not instinctual for even the most perfectly capable cooks. There is a lot to say about being more prepared and relaxed for this gathering, but if I had to say just three things, they’d be:
- Plan ahead.
- Make lists.
- Shop in advance.
Let’s dig into that shopping thing. While shopping at a price club with a friend and splitting up supersized packages to get those amazing savings is always a good idea, it’s particularly brilliant at this moment in time. Here’s why: It’s likely that you will be buying pretty similar ingredients and, this year especially, it’s also likely you will not need 15 pounds of baking potatoes, or 4 pounds of craisins. So, make a joint shopping list and decide which items you can split and which items you want all to yourself (2 pounds of Brussels sprouts, yum)—and proceed accordingly.
While some of your Thanksgiving shopping has to be done days before the big day, much of it can be done weeks before, and a leisurely visit down the aisles of a New Jersey Costco in late October revealed plenty of Thanksgiving staples stocked to the rafters. Fresh turkeys are still a-coming, but cans of pumpkin and evaporated milk are in full supply right now.
Here's what I found:
1. Baking Potatoes
One year my mom decided we would have roasted potatoes for Thanksgiving instead of mashed potatoes, and when my sister found out, she stood up, got in the car, drove to the market, and bought another batch of potatoes to mash. Some things can change, but this clearly wasn’t one of them. At Costco, $10.99 will get you 15 pounds of baking potatoes (that’s 73 cents per pound!). If you want to go the shortcut route, 3.25-pound packages of Idahoan Buttery Homestyle Mashed Potatoes are boxed up and available for $6.99.
2. Sweet Potatoes
Also a nonnegotiable item on many people's Thanksgiving tables. You can get 6.5 pounds for $7.99, which is quite a bargain.
3. Brussels Sprouts
One of the other quintessential Thanksgiving vegetables, beloved by many (and who cares about the people who don’t like them—more for the rest of us!). At Costco, you can get 2 pounds of Brussels sprouts for $6.09.
4. French Green Beans
These slender, tender beans—also called haricot verts (which means “green beans” in French, wouldn’t you know…)—are great to buy in bulk when you’ve got casserole on the menu. 2 pounds sell for $6.69, which is less than the price I often see them at the market. They’re hand-trimmed, too, which is pretty snazzy.
5. Crispy Onions
And if you’re a cook who just can’t walk away from that classic old-school green bean casserole, then you’ll be happy to know that Costco sells a 24-ounce bag of Fresh Gourmet Crispy Onions for $6.99.
6. Turkey Brining Kit
If you’re planning to brine your turkey, know that a container from Rotelle with an assortment of seasonings and spices can be yours for $8.29. (Note: No turkey included!)
A three-pack of Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Classic Stuffing is (48 ounces total!) is $8.59, and if you’re a Stove Top family, eight 6-ounce boxes are bundled up for $8.49.
Or pick up a six-pack package of Galil Organic Roasted Chestnuts (21 ounces), shelled and ready for eating or cooking for $8.19. Chop them up and add them to your favorite homemade stuffing. The same brand is sold on Amazon for far more money!
We eat our Thanksgiving meal at around 5:30 p.m., so there’s always the issue of lunch—when and what and how to not ruin everyone’s appetites or cause additional cooking and stress. Our traditional Thanksgiving Day lunch is right around noon: a big pot of my Very Mushroomy Mushroom Barley Soup and a graze board of sorts with cheese and charcuterie for nibbling. At Costco, an assortment of salami, prosciutto, soppressata, and coppa (all uncured) from Fratelli Beretta is $16.79 for two 12-ounce packages. A 24-ounce Columbus charcuterie sampler with six types of sausage and salami is $15.89.
10. Pureed Pumpkin
Load up for a fleet of pumpkin pies, pancakes, and more. Three 29-ounce cans of Libby’s pumpkin are $7.29 (at my local grocery store, one 15-ounce can is more than 3 bucks!).
11. Ready-Made Pies
But if you don’t feel like making your own Thanksgiving dessert, you can pick up a ridiculously large Costco-baked pumpkin pie for a low price of $7.39.
All of the warm spices—ground ginger, cinnamon, whole cloves—are available in large containers for a fraction of supermarket prices, compared ounce to ounce. 10.7 ounces of ground Kirkland Saigon cinnamon is $3.49; and from McCormick, a 6.5-ounce container of ground ginger is $3.69, a 9.75-ounce container of nutmeg is $10.69, and a 6-ounce container of whole cloves is $7.99.
Currently, 64 ounces of dried cranberries is just $10.99. That is a lot of dried cranberries—and you use them in all sorts of ways in the Thanksgiving meal, as well as throughout the whole baking and holiday season.
14. Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
Does anyone have the willpower to pass up a hot crescent roll? Five 8-ounce packages are $9.69. That’s 40 rolls, waiting to happen. And guess what a single 8-ounce package of Pillsbury rolls costs at a leading supermarket chain? $4.19.
15. Heavy Cream
Land O’Lakes heavy whipping cream is $4.19 for 1 quart, which is a really great price for an ingredient I use large (almost unconscionable) amounts of over the holiday weekend.
16. Canned Whipped Cream
Or if you want a shortcut to whipped cream, you can buy three cans of Reddi Wip aerosol whipped cream for $10.99. I just found a single can at a local store that goes for about 5 bucks.
Costco has a nice selection of apples at some terrific prices. 10 pounds of Red Delicious are $3.99 (just over a buck a pound!), 5.5 pounds of Gala are $9.79, and 5.5 pounds of Juci apples are $14.69. If you’re looking for organic options, you can pick up 5.5 pounds of organic Fuji apples for $8.99, or 5.5 pounds of organic Honeycrisp for $17.09.
Recipe: The Best Streusel Apple Pie Ever
Kirkland Praline Pecans are downright decadent, and $14.49 will get you a whopping 2.5-pound container. These would be great for nibbling with a drink before or after dinner, and for adding to a cheese board. But also for: decorating a Sweet Potato Pie or topping a slab of Lazy Oven French Toast. Lots of other nuts are available as well, such as walnut halves with pieces, pecans, almonds, and more.
A gorgeous bread basket rounds out a Thanksgiving buffet perfectly. Costco bakes their bread on-site, and the offerings are varied and quite sophisticated. Twelve artisan rolls are $7.39, a generously seeded two-pack of multigrain loaves is $8.59, while two country French breads sell for $7.39 (each is 1 pound). A crusty 30-ounce round of cranberry-walnut bread is priced at $9.79.
Or, pick up a box of Penguin All-Natural Cornbread Mix or Krusteaz Pumpkin Spice Quick Bread Mix—both packages make multiple loaves and are priced at less than $10.
20. Paper Plates
If paper plates are part of your holiday plan, grab a pile of 165 sturdy Chinet plates, made from compostable material, for $19.99. Chances are you'll be able to use them throughout the year, too, even if your gatherings are smaller this year.
21. Food Storage Containers
For leftovers. If your family is anything like mine, you make a ton of food and want to freeze leftovers, or share them with neighbors. Twenty-five 38-ounce Snap Pack storage containers with lids can be yours for $8.59, and your visitors will be happily thinking of you again the next day when they tuck into their leftover turkey and Harissa-Spiked Parsnip Puree.
(Note: Prices have been updated to reflect information from Costco.com and Costco via Instacart in November 2020 and may be subject to change.)
Additional Recommendations From Food52 Editors:
22. Kosher Salt
It’s not a Thanksgiving-specific purchase, but between my turkey’s dry brine and seasoning all my various dishes (boiling potatoes alone calls for several palmfuls), last year on the big day I went through about half a box of kosher salt. A three-pound box of Morton’s (saltier by weight than Diamond Crystal, so it lasts even longer!) is just $2.69.
26. Olive Oil
Second only to salt, when prepping a big meal I go through olive oil at record speeds. Dressing salad, roasting vegetables, maybe a tray of olive oil lemon bars to being some oomph to the dessert lineup, I can’t have too much EVOO on hand. A two-liter jug of Kirkland Signature Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil is $11.49—practically a steal.
23. Yukon Gold Potatoes
Nothing makes creamier mashed potatoes than Yukon Golds. Their waxy innards mash smooth without going gluey. Don’t tell the Thanksgiving-police, but sometimes I forgo the mash if I get really nice Yukon Gold potatoes: Instead, I boil them until tender, smash them flat, toss with lots of oil and salt (see purchase suggestions above), and bake the taters until crispy-crunchy. At Costco, 15 pounds runs you just $8.59—that’s probably enough for 10 Thanksgivings. Luckily, potatoes last for weeks.
24. Butternut Squash
Whether you’re eyeing a butternut squash soup or a roasted squash salad, it goes without saying that a pre-broken-down butternut will save you loads of time and possibly a hand injury. A 2-pound container costs $7.39.
25. Graham Crackers
A graham cracker-crust pie is always welcome at my Thanksgiving dessert table. I’m currently dreaming about this vegan pudding pie. Maybe two, considering four 14.4-ounce boxes is just $8.99.
You’ve got this! Now find a shopping partner and start ticking things off your list.
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