10 Store-Bought Thanksgiving Shortcuts Real Simple Staffers Swear By

We get by with a little help from these grocery store finds. 

Cooking Turkey Day dinner should be fun, not daunting—which is why we’re all for a little store-bought assistance. Buying a few pre-made items will free up oven space, minimize stress, and possibly even create new family traditions. Below, foolproof foods Real Simple staffers buy, and tricks for making them worthy of the holiday. 

1

Hors D’oeuvres

thanksgiving-dinner
Photo by Mikkel Vang

We buy peeled and deveined shrimp from our fish store with their cocktail sauce, which can also be found in the prepared food section of lots of grocery stores. We usually chop up some dill and mix it into the cocktail sauce to give it a bit of freshness and color, and plate everything with plenty of freshly sliced lemon wedges.
—Heath Goldman, food assistant

2

Dinner Rolls

My family “cheats” and buys Pillsbury crescent rolls for Thanksgiving dinner. It never disappoints. If you have any leftovers, you can use them to make little turkey sandwiches the next day.
—Sarah Yang, lifestyle editor, RealSimple.com

3

Crudité Platter

We buy pre-cut vegetables for a crudité platter and serve with a store-bought pickled relish or hummus. We store the cut vegetables in ice water in the fridge to make sure they stay fresh and, before serving, we sprinkle with just a little bit of flaky Maldon sea salt.
—Heath Goldman, food assistant



4

Cranberry Sauce

I use store-bought Craisins to make my (accidental) favorite cranberry sauce recipe. One Thanksgiving we had forgotten to buy the ingredients for cranberry sauce, and the only store open was a convenience store. Luckily, they sold Craisins, which I simmered with simple syrup and lemon zest to make what’s now a beloved staple at Thanksgiving dinner.
—Brandi Broxson, associate editor

5

Green Bean Casserole

For as long as I can remember, I thought my grandmother’s green bean casserole with the fried onions was a family recipe. It’s not. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I only recently realized it came from the back of a Campbell’s soup can. Needless to say, Campbell’s Mushroom Soup and French’s Fried Onions play a big role in our holiday traditions.
—Ashley Calame, associate director, brand communications

6

Ham

My family is a fan of The HoneyBaked Ham store’s spiral-cut ham during Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s pre-cooked (talk about easy!) and has a brown sugar glaze that will make you forget all about the turkey. I promise.
—Brandi Broxson, associate editor



7

Turkey

When we lived in a small apartment (with a small oven) we usually opted to buy the turkey. I know it’s not ideal to buy the main attraction of the meal, but it made fitting all the sides in our oven much easier and kept the apartment from getting too overheated between all of the extra people and having the oven on all day.
—Anni Cuccinello, senior manager, audience development

8

Pumpkin Pie 

We host “Friendsgiving” every year, and we always buy the pie (but make the whipped cream). We get our pie from Frankie’s Spuntino, and it’s always delicious! As far as sprucing it up, the homemade whipped cream is key. We use whipping cream with not too much sugar and a splash of bourbon. But the best part? We put on Devo’s “Whip It,” and each guest gets a turn at whipping the cream around the table while the song is playing. Sometimes we even need to start the song over if it’s not quite done the first time around!
—Wendy Granger, photo editor

9

Icebox Cake

My favorite Thanksgiving tradition came from my grandfather. His icebox cake is hands down my favorite part of the holiday. When he passed away a little over a year ago, I took over making it for the family. We always use the store-bought Nabisco “Famous Chocolate Wafers” and then make a quick homemade whipped cream with heavy cream, vanilla, and sugar.
—Ashley Calame, associate director, brand communications



10

Cornbread

Every year, we buy the Jiffy cornbread mix. We buy two boxes, and I’m in charge of making cornbread muffins (well, adding milk to the mix). I make the first batch, forget it’s in the oven, and it comes out a little burned. Then, I make the second batch, watch it like a hawk and it comes out great. No matter what, only two of the muffins get eaten.
—Samantha Zabell, associate editor, RealSimple.com