canned cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving table
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Nostalgia is a factor not to be discounted when it comes to food, and these five holiday staples sometimes seem even better from the box (or can). If you disagree, though, don’t worry; we’ve got you covered with homemade alternatives.

There’s something to be said for rolling up your sleeves and making a meal from scratch. All that hard work, patience, and attention to detail leading to the perfect mouthwatering Thanksgiving dinner or holiday feast? Amazing.

On the other hand, getting to eat something drool-worthy without the hard work? Well, that’s even better. When it comes to the holidays in particular, there are certain foods that evoke homey memories (the good old days before butter was a curse word and kale was on every menu) that just taste delicious right out of the package. I’m not saying you have to throw away your cookbooks, but no judgment if you reach for the packaged stuff when it comes to these foods.


easy sausage stuffing recipe


Sometimes it’s worth the extra work to create just the right unique blend of spices for your dish. This is not one of those times. I mean, is there anything that spells Thanksgiving more than a big old serving of Stove Top stuffing? I think not. (They even say it in their tagline.) The fact that it takes a grand total of two additional ingredients and less than 10 minutes to make it means that your energy can be spent elsewhere, like making sure the turkey isn’t dry or that your relatives don’t start fighting over politics at the table.

Stove Top Turkey Stuffing on Instacart

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Disagree? See our Ultimate Guide to Stuffing with tips and recipes (plus intel on the real difference between stuffing and dressing.)

Cranberry Sauce

defending canned cranberry sauce


You’ve probably already heard many of the reasons that this canned creation is better than its gussied up counterparts, but it bears repeating: If it doesn’t have ridges, get it off my table. The weird texture (is the Ocean Spray stuff a solid or a jelly?), and mix of sweet and tart somehow just…works. Especially on Thanksgiving, when savory foods dominate the menu, something sugary but not saccharine just balances out the main event. Just don’t forget the can opener!

Ocean Spray Jellied Cranberry Sauce on Instacart

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Think canned cranberry sauce is one of the worst Thanksgiving sides ever? See how easy it is to make from scratch—and see how to booze it up a bit if you want.

Frosted Cookies

There has been tons of controversy over whether these cookies are good or gross, and I’m here to end the debate right here and now. They’re freakin’ delicious; I’ll take them all. Whether you go for the classics made by Create a Treat/Lofthouse, or one of the knockoffs, finding them in your supermarket is sure to make you do an internal happy dance. The best part? They mix up their colors and sprinkles throughout the year to correspond with the nearest holiday, so you’re covered for everything from Flag Day to first Christmases.

Lofthouse Frosted Sugar Cookies on Instacart

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Prefer to bake everything from scratch? Try our Crackly Soft Sugar Cookie recipe and cover it with the creamy, sweet frosting of your choice. Don’t forget the seasonal sprinkles.

Green Bean Casserole

Green Bean Casserole recipe from scratch


Okay, so this one isn’t entirely packaged (hello, green beans!), but it just wouldn’t be the same without that creamy mushroom soup and fried onions on top. And getting some greens in in the midst of chowing down is enough to make up for skipping the turkey trot. Promise.

French's Fried Onions on Instacart

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Have a can-don’t attitude about it? See how to make green bean casserole more gourmet, but read up on the history of green bean casserole while you’re at it.


fluffy buttermilk biscuit recipe


I grew up watching TV shows and commercials that basically told me it wasn’t a holiday meal if there weren’t biscuits on the table, and I hold strongly to that belief years later. But why bother slaving away to make your own when you can have golden biscuits in less time than it takes to watch a sitcom? It’s a no brainer. Plus, fighting with your sibling over who gets the last flaky, salty biscuit from a can means the holidays have officially started.

Pillsbury Grands! Southern Homestyle Biscuits on Instacart

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Not lovin’ these from the oven when they come out of a tube? See how to make perfect biscuits from scratch.

Turkey Day Essentials

The Ultimate Guide to Thanksgiving
Kelsey Butler is a reporter and editor based in New Jersey. She has written for a number of health and lifestyle publications, including Women's Health, Brides, and NBC News Better. Hot sauce, black coffee, and bacon make up 50% of her diet.
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