What To Bring To Friendsgiving When You’re Broke And Live In A Dorm
Thanksgiving is best spent with those you love, with family gathered around a table adorned with carbs and crowned with a turkey. But actual relatives aren’t the only loved ones deserving of attention, found family deserves to be celebrated too, and Friendsgiving does just that. Because this is a gathering attended and hosted mostly by young adults, the menu tends to be potluck, keeping stress levels low so everyone is free to enjoy the company. But finding a dish to contribute (that’s not chips and dip you bought form the grocery store on the way over) when you’re on a budget and have only the appliances in your dorm room can be challenging, so here are eight ideas that fit the bill without breaking the bank.
1. Anything But Turkey
Seriously, don’t try to bring a turkey. It’s expensive, and it can not, I repeat, CAN NOT be cooked in a microwave. Most importantly though, it’s unnecessary. It’s time to be honest with ourselves, turkey is just not that good. Its ubiquity on Thanksgiving tables must be a racket perpetuated by some very enterprising chickens looking to save their own tail-feathers. Is that a little dramatic? Eh, probably. But don’t fall for the turkey propaganda; Friendsgiving does not require poultry, and even if you have some Thanksgiving traditionalists in your group who absolutely insist, you should absolutely leave the bird to someone else.
2. Mashed Potatoes
Potatoes are cheap and almost universally loved. Crispy potatoes are arguably better than their mashed cousins, but everyone still seems to crave a creamy carb, so give the people what they want. Most recipes call for boiling the potatoes before adding the liquid ingredients, but you can achieve the same result in a microwave. Just put the potatoes in a bowl and microwave them until they’re tender enough to pierce with a fork, then proceed with your favorite recipe.
3. Green Beans
Most grocery stores sell bags of green beans (and other vegetables) that can be steamed in the microwave. Grab a couple of packages, steam them, and toss them in a bowl with a little bit of melted butter, garlic, and salt and pepper. Voila, a fancy and delicious side. Of course, the steamer bags of veggies, while a little easier, are also a little more expensive. You can buy un-packaged green beans from the bulk bin and cook them by putting them in a bowl with a tablespoon or two of water, covering with plastic wrap, and microwaving until they’re crisp-tender (about 5 minutes). Green beans might seem like a boring choice, but potlucks can often end up dessert heavy, meaning your contribution of a green vegetable will be an especially welcome addition to the Friendsgiving table.
Regardless of what you call it, this Thanksgiving staple is not beyond the reach of the dorm-bound student, at least, not one in possession of a slow-cooker. The main ingredients of this dish are bread and broth, making this a surprisingly budget-friendly option. Many recipes call for several herbs, but a single herb mix (such as Herbs de Provence) can be used instead. Try this recipe for crock-pot stuffing, and watch it disappear.
5. Cranberry Sauce
With only four ingredients, you can contribute a delicious homemade cranberry sauce to your Friendsgiving gathering. Stir together a bag of cranberries, a cup of sugar, and a half cup of water, then microwave until the mixture is thick and syrupy and looks like, well, cranberry sauce (about 5 minutes). Or you could just buy a can of the pre-made cran sauce– we won’t tell. It’s probably a little cheaper, and is actually many people’s preferred cranberry preparation. Just be sure to bring a dish to serve it on; your host will thank you.
6. No-Bake Cheesecake
No Friendsgiving celebration would be complete without dessert. And it’s a popular potluck choice for good reason, it’s fun to make, it gets the most praise, and when you’re living in a dorm with only a microwave and a panini press–if you’re lucky– it can be made without an oven. So, if you and your friends decide to assign dishes (a wise choice so you don’t end up with just a table of cookies and chips), get your hand in the air faster than Katniss volunteering for the hunger games. If you’re in this for the compliments, cheesecake is the way to go. It has an undeserved reputation for being difficult to make and is always a crowd favorite. Try this recipe for perfect no-bake cheesecake, and if you want to make it fall festive, stir a cup of pumpkin puree into the filling before pouring it into the pan.
7. Dessert Bars
There are tons of potential no-bake desserts, but many of them rely on the refrigerator or freezer to set them and then must be kept cold to prevent them from melting, making these treats not the best choice for Friendsgiving. Dessert bars solve this problem. They can be mixed, pressed into a pan, and allowed to set up in the fridge before being cut into bars and stacked on a platter with no need to worry about keeping them cold. Throw-back to your childhood with these rice crispy treats that only have 3 ingredients, making them delicious and budget friendly.
Ok, so you just can’t be bothered to figure out how to make your favorite Thanksgiving recipe dorm-friendly. You can still contribute to the Friendsgiving table– in fact, this might be the most important contribution. If you’re still shy of your 21st b-day bash try your hand at mocktails or pick up some soda. But if you’ve already tossed your fake id, opt for your alcohol of choice. It might not be the cheapest option, but it’s definitely the easiest. Just leave that bottle of Fireball in the back of your cupboard, and don’t show up with a case of Natty Light. You love your friends more than that.