Be a Better Guest

November 13, 2013

Cooking on the cheap shouldn't mean minute rice and buttered pasta every night. With a little creativity and a little planning, you can make the most of a tight budget -- without sacrificing flavor or variety. 

Today: Gabriella tells you how to be a better Thanksgiving guest. 

Thanksgiving is my platonic ideal of a holiday: It involves showing up to someone's house and eating a ton of food for free. Maybe I'll even do a dish or two at the end of the meal to show my gratitude. But usually I, without fail, drink the equivalent of a bottle of wine by 6 PM, eat a plate of food, then pass out on the couch immediately after the meal.

My family hates me.  

Shop the Story

After throwing my first Thanksgiving, though, I've become much more sympathetic to what my mother has to plan and execute year after year. So I've assembled some easy and affordable drink and dessert recipes to bring to whichever Thanksgiving dinner you're attending this year. They'll provide a welcome addition to the meal without overshadowing or clashing with any of the mains and sides that your host has already planned -- and will definitely guarantee you an invite back the following year.


Everyone's happy to receive another bottle of wine, and it requires minimal effort on your part. Brush up on affordable bottles here before you head to the wine store. If it's chilly where you are, heat up a batch of this spiced red wine for a post-dinner mug.


If you want to prepare something a little more extensive without turning on your oven, go with a batch of holiday punch. The Bumble Brown Punch and Brown Butter Spice Ale are both appropriately seasonal. 


Cookies are the easiest desserts to prepare and transport -- and even if you don't want to serve them during the meal, you can wrap them up in a tin and give them to your host as a small present. Some great fall picks include these Two-Bite Buckeye Cookies, Ginger Spiced Molasses Sugar Cookies, and Crispy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies


Arguably the best part of Thanksgiving, nobody's going to complain about another pie on the table. Check with your host to see if they've already got an apple or pumpkin pie. If not, make either this or this. If they do, mix it up a bit with this Pear and Dried Fruit Honey Pie with Blue Cheese Crust

Tell us: What are some of your favorite dishes to bring to other people's Thanksgiving dinners? 

52 Days of Thanksgiving
Check It Out
52 Days of Thanksgiving

Top-notch recipes, expert tips, and all the tools to pull off the year’s most memorable feast.

Check It Out

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • snowcitygirl
  • Sally Uhlmann
    Sally Uhlmann
  • AntoniaJames
  • Gabriella Paiella
    Gabriella Paiella
Yes, my name rhymes.


snowcitygirl November 14, 2013
Thanksgiving for me these past few years consist of gathering at my Gigi's (some pet-name form of dziadek, Polish for grandfather) house while my aunts do ALL the cooking. My newest challenge is sneaking in some fresh cranberry sauce and I am planning on bringing more again this year! There can never be too much cranberry sauce!
Sally U. November 14, 2013
The greatest gift any guest can give to a host and hostess is to be appreciative of the food you are eating at the moment. raise a toast or just cheer, with the simplest but heartfelt words, "Delicious! I am so happy to be here, enjoying this meal."
AntoniaJames November 13, 2013
This wonderful cider punch would be a good choice, too: Gewurztraminers seem generally to be quite reasonably priced, so you certainly won't break the bank making it. Plus, people love it! ;o)
Gabriella P. November 13, 2013
Perfect after-dinner drink!
AntoniaJames November 13, 2013
It's what we warm/pour when we get back from our hike on Thanksgiving, served with these , which instantly became a "must have" here. ;o)