A Very Costco Thanksgiving: Feeding 8 People for $80 (Plus the Cost of Pie)

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Photos by Katharine Shilcutt
What's in the booooox? WHAT'S IN THE BOOOOOOOX?
Even though it's just me and the mister at home, I still do enough shopping at Costco that I could be mistaken for a Mormon housewife. Why? I'm a sucker for a good deal. (Also, I go through a ridiculous amount of onions, peppers and tomatoes at home each week. Why not buy in bulk?)

And although Costco is well known for having excellent options for throwing parties or serving large dinners -- the moist, delicious sheet cakes alone are a triumph of industrial-scale baking -- I'd never seen a fully-cooked, ready-to-heave-at-your-guests box of Thanksgiving dinner before this past weekend. Yet there it was, squatting resolutely in frozen foods aisle 035.

The box promised to feed a group of eight to 10 people (sans desserts; what the hell -- that's the best part!) for the low, low price of $79.95. And because the entire meal is pre-cooked, the box claims that it can all be ready in 90 minutes -- after thawing. I couldn't resist and decided to test out the box on some unsuspecting friends and family members for a pre-Thanksgiving dinner.

See also:
- Top 5 Under-$25 Wines for Thanksgiving
- The Mayo Clinic's 10 Tips for Choosing and Prepping a Turkey
- Why Beaujolais Nouveau Pairs Surprisingly Well with Thanksgiving Dinner

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Not the recommended means of unpacking your own Thanksgiving box.
Grabbing it out of the freezer was easier said than done, however, as the bottom of the box wasn't taped up and immediately spilled its entire contents across the concrete floor. Bags of frozen green beans and tubes of muddy-colored gravy scattered like buckshot in all directions as I stood petrified in shame. Now everyone in a 100-foot radius could see that I was the one sorry sap buying a frozen Thanksgiving box this year.

A managerial-looking fellow shuffled over to the scene of destruction and barely acknowledged me as he began to repack the contents into the box with a look of defeat on his face, before wordlessly hefting another [taped-up] box into my shopping cart. Happy Thanksgiving, dude.

Now properly in the spirit of the holiday, I grabbed a $5.99 Costco pumpkin pie to supplement the box, waited in the already-ridiculously-long lines (if you haven't already done your Thanksgiving shopping at Costco, you would appear to be screwed for now) and hauled my bounty to the car. Other shoppers stopped me along the way to ask about the boxed Thanksgiving dinner, but I sensed they were more interested in regarding the meal as a freak show than as a legitimate holiday option.

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Fool your guests into thinking you actually cared enough to cook for them!
Unpacking the feast at home, I wasn't terribly surprised to see that it more or less resembled a frozen version of an MRE. The mashed potatoes and cornbread stuffing came out of the box in IKEA-style flat-pack sheaths, the ultimate in space-saving food engineering. Only the turkey, vacuum-sealed and surprisingly pert, looked appetizing. However, despite being pre-cooked, the nine-pound turkey requires three days of thawing in the refrigerator -- so don't buy this the day before and think you're set. Rookie.

On the other hand, the three-pound-each pre-cooked sides only require a day's thawing in the fridge. And if you forget, don't sweat it. They're all relatively easy to heat up with an extra 20 to 30 minutes on the stovetop (or an extra 10 minutes in the microwave). That's the good news.

Also good news: Quite surprisingly, the box can totally feed eight to 10 people -- ten if they're average eaters, eight if they're really hungry. Which leads us to the bad news.

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Everyone's all smiles...before they actually start eating.
Your guests are probably not going to be super hungry for most of the stuff that comes in the Thanksgiving box (which my own guests quickly christened "Fakesgiving"). Although none of it is terribly bad for you -- even the butter-saturated green beans and "garlic confit" mashed potatoes -- the sheer amount of sodium contained in an average plate will quickly make you bloat and tire.

Here's a quick run-down of how the individual items shook out:

Location Info


Costco Wholesale

1150 Bunker HIll Road, Houston, TX

Category: General

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Mai Pham
Mai Pham topcommenter

LOL "If you are the type of person who desperately wants to host Thanksgiving in your own home but doesn't want to/doesn't know how to cook and also somewhat dislikes the people you're inviting over, this box is for you. "


I'm going to be "that guy" and point out that chicken has more tryptophan than turkey.  We get drowsy because of all the carbs!


Ah, Thanksgiving.  :)


I like this review; I found it very informative and gave me a lot to go on. But one thing I really don't agree with is something you said at the end...I shop at Wal Mart, and I've been able to get ALL of my Thanksgiving fixings for less than $50...every year. And sometimes, it's even less! One year, I managed to do it for $30! And if you were shopping at CostCo, I don't see how you wouldn't be able to do the same? It's not that my meal is lacking, either; I always get at least 2 Sara Lee pies (@ $3 a piece...and usually, I will buy as many as I can fit in my freezer), green beans (*in a can, yes, but that's because I use the next 3 items as well and make my awesome green bean casserole...the one that never seems to make it to the "leftover" stage), cream of mushroom soup, bullion cubes, french fried onions, stuffing, yellow onions, celery, russet & gold (*& sometimes purple) fingerling potatoes, LOTS of REAL butter, heavy cream, sour cream, deluxe mixed nuts, macaroni & cheddar cheese (*the home baked kind, not that orange crap in a box), yams, marshmallows, gravy mix, jellied cranberry, whipped cream (*NOT cool whip, though I will sometimes bite the bullet and grab the $1 tub of that oil/air mix), rice, & rolls. And I'm not even sure that's everything...but I can guarantee you that it's more than whatever was in that box! And it definitely tastes better, too!As I said above, I shop at my local Super Wal-Mart that has pretty much everything you could ever want to eat there, so that definitely helps. But you're comparing it to shopping at CostCo, so I'm wondering why you think you wouldn't be able to buy all that for $80 or less when I know for a fact that you definitely can! When I saw the price of that "meal", I let out an audible gasp. And I've usually got the task of feeding at LEAST 8...so next time, forget the "MRE Thanksgiving" and head over to Wal Mart for a cheaper, tastier meal! Or if Wal Mart isn't your speed, I'm sure you can balance the costs by shopping for the non-perishables at one of those value markets like Aldi's or Save-A-Lot and buying the fresh meats, dairy, and veggies at your local favored super market.

WestSideBob topcommenter

Awaiting the obligatory post that TJ's has a similar box @ $ 60.00.  It's full of savory goodness, the turkeys were prepared in a humane way and everything including wrappers is eco-friendly.


I'm impressed you have eight chairs in your house Shilcut!

texmex01 topcommenter

Gotta love Costco, you can get anything in a box there, and they feed you while you are walking around!


@EatingOurWords wait, your kitchen is elevated above your dining room, rendering it a simple matter to rain down hell on complaining guests?

kshilcutt moderator editor

 @gcbeehler I had to scavenge around just to find that many. But before long I'll have a proper dining table and chairs like a real grownup!

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