Thanksgiving Sides You're Better Off Buying From The Store

Thanksgiving will look very different for many Americans this year, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and public health experts' advice not to host large indoor gatherings. But the great thing about this holiday is that you can enjoy a delicious, table-filling, nap-inducing feast regardless of how many people are at your table. If you want to make it even more enjoyable, consider letting your local store provide some of your side dishes rather than trying to prepare the entire meal on your own. 

True, it's nice to have bragging rights to the creation of a holiday meal, but it's also time-consuming and tricky. When you think about all the Thanksgiving sides we consider mandatory on our holiday table, there are only a few that are truly best when homemade. Mashed potatoes, the most popular side dish of all (according to The List's recent poll), are both cheap and easy to make on your own (hint: mash them by hand and add some sour cream into the mix). Fresh veggies are easy to cook up. And if you have a personal specialty such as green bean casserole or mac 'n' cheese, by all means make it yourself (we need comfort food now more than ever). As for other Turkey Day standards, head for the store and pick up the pre-made versions. You'll appreciate saving time and dishes, and your family will savor the meal, store-bought sides and all. 

Go with canned cranberries and gravy on Thanksgiving

A turkey dinner isn't complete without cranberry sauce, as the write-in votes for The List's poll attest. Homemade cranberry relish isn't hard to make, but it can end up too tart or runny. For people who grew up on the canned version, there really is no substitute, and The Daily Meal recommends picking up a couple of cans rather than making a fresh relish that will go untouched. Ditto for gravy; why go to the bother of getting just the right balance of turkey drippings and flour when you can heat up a package of turkey gravy that tastes almost as good?

Baked goods are another category that can be farmed out. PureWow notes that pies and rolls can be difficult to get right, particularly when you're trying to put together a lot of other dishes at the same time. Instead of knocking yourself out making your own pie crust, head for the supermarket or your local bakery. 

You might also reconsider making your own stuffing: The homemade kind can easily end up soggy, and the only cure is to pop the whole mess onto a baking sheet and put it into the oven to dry out (per My Recipes). If you'd rather not spend more time in the kitchen, buy a box of good-quality stuffing mix, and you'll know the bread is pre-toasted to avoid mushiness.