Paleo Thanksgiving Potluck Party For College Students!

Thanksgiving it a time to celebrate all that we are thankful for: family, friends, good health and good old fashion paleo food! Last weekend I celebrated my first Thanksgiving of the year with my amazing college family…. potluck style. I roasted my first turkey ever and managed to stay away from burning it… it’s a MIRACLE!!! I am the only one of my friends who lives, eats, and breathes paleo, so when I sent out the invite for a Thanksgiving potluck party I wasn’t expecting it to be all paleo. With the amazing group of friends I have made at school they all respected my way of life and all cooked paleo dishes. With the exception of mashed potatoes, gravy and rolls :)

Erika and her turkey

I was in charge of the turkey, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie. All my recipes came from Sarah’s Thanksgiving blog last year, with a few of my own twists thrown in here and there.

My posts are all about getting the best deal for your paleo meal, so even though these recipes are not my own, I can tell you how much it costs to cook a Thanksgiving meal for 15 hungry college students while not breaking the bank!


12 lb turkey

Day before brine your turkey in:

2 cup water

2 cups kosher salt,

2 cups good whisky (optional)

¾ cup organic raw honey

Mix all the ingredients together. Make sure your turkey it defrosted and that you remove the giblets and rinse your bird. Put the turkey in a large pot and pour your brine over your turkey. Put a lid on it and keep refrigerated for at least 24 hours. Making sure to take your bird out of the refrigerator at least an hour before the cooking process so it is at room temperature when you cook it the next day.

Prep your turkey:

4 tbls grass fed butter at room temp

3 sprigs of fresh rosemary and Thyme (I personally used dried thyme because I couldn’t find fresh thyme)

Juice from 1 orange

Mix all the ingredients together.

Preheat oven to 400.  Wash and dry the turkey with paper towels.  Place the turkey in your roaster breast side up.  Pull back the skin from the breast and in between the skin and the meat, place the butter, rosemary, thyme and orange juice mixture. Save some of the butter mixture to rub on the top of the bird too. Sprinkle the entire bird with sea salt and pepper.  Cover and roast for 20 minutes.  Lower the heat to 350 and cook for an additional 20 minutes per pound, uncovering the bird for the last 30 minutes to brown the turkey.  Remove and let rest for 20 minutes before carving.  Make sure you use a meat thermometer to ensure that your turkey is done!

Total cost: $16

Cost per-person: $1.07


BBQ Bacon Wrapped Persimmons- made by Matthew Schupp

4 fuyu persimmons

8 pieces on bacon

5 skewers sticks

Cut persimmons into 8ths; cut pieces of bacon in half, wrap around persimmon slices and skewer (fit as many as you can on one stick). Put foil down on the BBQ so the bacon grease doesn’t catch on fire (learned that the hard way). Once the bacon is fully cooked take off the BBQ let them cool a little and remove from the sticks and put on your serving platter.

Total cost: $7

Cost per person: $ 0.48

Side Dishes

Honey Roasted Sweet Potatoes

1 bag of small yams from Trader Joe’s (about 4 large yams from the grocery store if you don’t have a Trader Joe’s where you live)

2 tbls grassfed butter

1 tbls raw organic honey

1 tbls cinnamon

Pre-heat oven to 350 line a cookie sheet with foil. Peel sweet potatoes and cut into cubes. Toss in melted grassfed butter honey and cinnamon. Spread them out evenly on the lined cookie sheet and roast in the oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown and tender.

Total cost: $5

Cost per person: $0.33

Green Beans – made by Alessandra Cappello

1 bag of French green beans (from Trader Joes, if buying then in bulk, about 1-2 pounds)

3 cloves of chopped garlic

½ cup extra virgin olive oil (evoo)

Salt and pepper to taste

Break the ends of the green beans off and rinse them. Once cleaned put them in a large pot fill with water until the green beans are covered, add a pinch of salt for flavor. Bring to a boil and cook for 4 minutes, until al dente (firm, yet tender). Drain the water and toss the green beans in garlic, evoo, salt and pepper.

Total cost: $2

Cost per person: $0.13

Mix Green Salad- made by Nicole Fillinger

1 bag of mixed greens

1 apple

½ cup sliced almonds

1 cup of cherry tomatoes

Oil and balsamic dressing (as much as you see fit, salt and pepper to taste)

Rinse green, tomatoes and apple. Core and cut up apple. In a large bowl put the greens, tomatoes almonds, apples and toss in dressing.

Total cost: $7.39

Cost per person: $0.49

Cranberry Sauce-Sarah’s Everyday Paleo Recipe with a few twists, made by Evan Garfeild

1 lb Cranberries (about 4 cups)

1 cup of fresh squeezed orange juice

½ tbls cinnamon

1 tsp fresh ginger

2 tbls organic raw honey (if you like your sauce tangy and a little sour leave out, it is just as delicious!)

In a large soup pot add the cranberries, orange juice, cinnamon, and ginger and bring to a slow boil.  Once all the cranberries have popped add in honey and simmer, stirring often until the sauce becomes thick, about 10-15 minutes. Pour your sauce into serving bowl, cover and refrigerate. (you can either serve warm or cold)

Total cost: $ 6.50

Cost per person: $ 0.43


Everyday Paleo Pumpkin Pie

1 sugar pumpkin

1tbls pumpkin pie spice


½ cup hazelnuts

1 cup pecans

4 tablespoons melted organic grass fed butter

Pinch of sea salt

Preheat oven to 350. Place the nuts in a food processor and process until the nuts are flour like or almond meal like consistency. Pour into a small mixing bowl, add the butter and salt and mix into a thick dough. Using your hands, spread evenly into a pie pan and back for 10 minutes.

Note: buy your nuts in bulk it is cheaper this way!!!


1 – 14oz can of organic pumpkin puree (nothing added, just pumpkin) à [I made my own pumpkin puree by roasting 1 sugar pumpkin and adding in 1 tbls of pumpkin pie spice.. I will include the instruction below if you want to do it this way]

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon fresh grated ginger

2 eggs

½ cup raw organic honey

½ cup coconut milk

While the crust is in the oven, whisk all of the pie filling ingredients together.  Pour into the curst that has been baked for 10 minutes, return to the oven and bake for and additional 45 minutes

Roasted Sugar Pumpkin: preheat oven to 350. Cut your sugar pumpkin in half and remove seeds. Place the pumpkins in a glass baking dish cut side down and add about a cup of water bake for 45-60 minutes. Scoop out the inside of the pumpkin into a food processor and blend until smooth (add a tablespoon of warm water if it doesn’t smooth out) once pureed add in pumpkin pie spice mix well.

Total cost: $11

Cost per person: $0.73

The grand total for the whole thanksgiving meal is: $54.89

That’s a whopping $3.66 per person!!! Now that is a price we can all be thankful for this thanksgiving year :)  This price includes only the major item’s bought for the dinner, this doesn’t include items that I keep on hand at all times, such as grass fed butter, oil, spices and eggs.

I want to end my post with a BIG thank you to all my friends for sharing all their wonderful recipes. The paleo potluck thanksgiving party was a blast and wouldn’t have been possible without all of you :) I am thankful for having such amazing friends that I am proud to call family

Happy Holidays Everyone!!


  1. joelle says

    Thanks so much!! I have a Friendsgiving (Thanksgiving party this weekend with college friends) this weekend and I didn’t know what to make that would be paleo friendly. You saved me!

  2. Diane says

    Um…Way cool and I’m glad you had a good time, but you did not divide that pie by 15 people, even in the pic it’s cut into 8 pieces…it makes all your math suspect…except the full amount spent, which, of course, you have grocery receipts for. Still, $3.66 a person is much better than any restaurant I know of.

    • Erika says

      yes Diane i know the pie was not by cut into 15 pieces however it did feed 15 people, we just finished the last piece last night actually. I took the picture and then realized i needed to cut each slice in half, the slices were actually a good portion size when i cut them into 16th’s.

      Not everyone ate the pie though it was really just for me and my roommate who requested it (everyone else had pumpkin cake, chocolate chip cookies and ice cream). But if you want to make it so the pie only fed 8 of your friends it would have been 1.37 per person, however i got my pie into 16th’s so it really was $0.68 per person. :)

  3. Laura B says

    Yay Erika that looks fabulous! And you have awesome friends :)

    I’ve already “warned” my parents that I’m making a paleo Thanksgiving. I’m so excited!

  4. Alissa says

    Can you check your turkey prep instructions? I have a hard time picturing how I am going to brine my turkey in 2 cups of water and 2 cups of salt. Hoping you meant gallons of water??

  5. kt says

    Do I appreciate the positive affordable Paleo thanksgiving is possible message? Absolutely! Do I feel you’re pulling a classic blog tactic with your pricing, definitely.

    And forgive me for venting, but you’re pulling an HGTV makeover moment. “You can remodel your entire kitchen for only $1, 000 and a weekend!” Sure if you have 25 staff members working full time behind the scenes, and 90% of your materials donated.

    What I mean is you are not giving credit to the important support staff of your meal:

    Cost of grassfed butter: 4.99 (plus shipping, I have yet to find it in stores)
    organic honey: 12.99 (if I buy it locally, less if online, but then there’s that shipping again)
    bottle of whiskey: well I don’t know what you consider good whiskey to be shall we compromise and say $45
    EVOO: $15, again this varies extensively
    All the various spices, let’s say you had most of them on the shelf already, but you had to run out and get “pumpkin pie spice” : $5.89

    And you’ve added another: $38.87 and that’s leaving shipping, tax, and the whiskey out of it.

    The reason I bring this up, is that I have come to love and respect the blog for many reasons. The straightforward and honest dialog being one of them.

    Does your thanksgiving meal sound lovely? yes

    Is $6.25 a person anything to be scoffed at? HECK NO! That’s great!

    But give credit where credit is due, those healthy fats, spices and honey add up. You have a very down to earth readership, and we won’t think any less of your meal knowing what it would actually cost someone to recreate it.

    • Sarah says

      Hi KT,
      I appreciate your venting but I have to defend my amazingly sweet college student assistant who in no way is trying to pull the wool over anyones eyes or trying to pull a fast one. She specifically mentioned in her pricing that she did NOT include the honey, butter, spices etc. because it was items that she already had on hand. Erika is a college student who pulled her friends together and had a party and shared the outcome. Might it cost more for some people, who do not have some of the essentials on hand, of course, but since you do know and respect my blog, I would hope that you wouldn’t just assume that we are somehow trying to be sneaky for any weird reason. It’s just a blog post about Thanksgiving with some budget friendly ideas and I’m extremely sorry if we offended you and I do totally understand where you are coming from. I’ll have Erika go back in and add the total amount spend on the staple ingredients that were not included. Mind you also that depending on where you live and how much of a bargain shopper you are, often you can find more of the pricier ingredients for less! For example, we can by Kerrygold brand grass fed butter at our Safeway or Trader Joe’s for only $2.99. : ) Thanks for your input!

      • kt says

        I’m sorry if I ruffled any feathers by my post. It wasn’t my intention to attack/offend/upset anyone.

        Hope – I would love it if there was an online community that helped source affordable options. That’s a great idea! The stress of trying to make the best choices on a shoestring budget, is apparently leading me to make less than supportive messages on paleo blogs.

    • Hope says


      I’m not sure where you live that things cost so much, that’s a bummer. I hope that you can learn to shop around and find locally sourced products and better priced items. They are out there if you know where to look.

      Even though I am on a tight budget I choose to purchase the $3 Kerry Gold butter over the $1 who-knows-whats-in-this-margarine…. or $8 on local, raw honey than $2 on high-fructose-corn-syrup-with-carmel-coloring-masquerading-as-honey. I also just purchased evoo (organic) for $5 for a 12oz bottle.

      And most of us are ok with sometimes spending a little more to get a better product, support local businesses, etc… Well, at least I am.

      Maybe your post will lead to a post on sources for paleo foods–it seems to have started here already…

      Good luck.

  6. Stephanie says

    Sheesh, KT, give the gal a break.
    I think it is refreshing to see a young college student taking such interest in her health. I know that I sure didn’t take that much interest when I was her age. I sure wish I did.
    I also buy grass fed butter (I too love Kerrygold) at Whole Foods (that is correct) and Trader Joe’s at the everyday low price of $2.79.
    Luckily I live in the California Bay Area, so I can get things at very good prices (organic raw honey for $13 seems pretty steep to me, I think I pay $4-5.)
    I can understand the frustration KT is expressing, but I think it is important to remember the underlying message…you can eat healthy on a budget, you just have to plan ahead and be resourceful.
    In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’d just like to say that I am thankful for all of the Everyday Paleo bloggers for providing such a resourceful place to keep us all on the right paleo track!

  7. Sara says

    Looks great! Congrats on making a tasty and affordable meal for a large group!

    And honestly, I already have all those “extra” items in my kitchen as well, so I am not really sure what KT’s problem is, especially because it was noted at the end.

    Thanks for sharing Erika!

  8. Chrissy says

    Erika I thought your blog rocked! And you do have amazing friends if they spontaneously decided to participate in the dinner in paleo format!! I certainly was not brave enough to hostess a Turkey Day in college. 😉 I will be trying the cranberry sauce and the pumpkin pie soon. Also, I find these outright contrary blog posts to be weird, I don’t see people challenging Sarah like this when she posts budget conscious blogs. Everyone should respect her guest bloggers the way they do Sarah. All the appropriate disclaimers were there about what she did and didn’t include in her breakdown and I agree with the other bloggers in the fact that locality drives prices. I get amazing organic syrup at my local farmers market for el cheapo! And the butter. And you can often concoct your own pumpkin pie spice from what is already in the cabinet. It’s a blog, not a hard and fast binding contract. It will be okay. You’ll be happy and less stressed and HEALTHY if you don’t get torqued up over a cool college gal writing a helpful and inspiring Thanksgiving blog. :-)

    • Chrissy says

      **organic HONEY, not syrup.** typo. best to correct that lest I get corrected that “of course syrup is cheap, it’s not honey.”

  9. Tanya says

    Hi KT,
    I can understand why you would think the wool has been pulled over your eyes, but I wonder if you are living in an expensive area? I live in the same college town as Erika and I am able to get Kerrygold grass-fed butter at less than $3.00., For honey, the local guys are more at $6-$8 dollars, but we are able to find some at Winco for less than $4/bottle. I wouldn’t touch the whiskey since my family wouldn’t allow it on basic principle – but it was optional. I can get a big bottle of olive oil at less than $6/bottle. And pumpkin pie spice is available at Walmart for cheap, or Trader Joes at less than $3/ each. I bought some last year and still have it.

    Anyway, I think if you can afford the premium stuff that’s great, but if you are on a budget like me try and make do with what you have. Or you can always do what I did in college and hit up your neighbors! 😉

  10. Hope says

    Thanks for the awesome post Erika! Being new to paleo every bit of info I can get is appreciated. I am NOT a college student but I’m supporting one (gladly by the way)… I’m a single Mom, living on a 100% commission income (very tricky most of the time) so I too make do with what I have on hand. If I shop carefully and locally, I can find wonderful things at a reasonable cost…I live in a decent size city in Ohio and thankfully we have a Trader Joe’s and some great farmer’s markets.

    I am thankful for all the wonderful info here on everydaypaleo. To all of you who post helpful info, my sincere thanks. I find this to be a very positive and encouraging place.


  11. Laura says

    Perfect post. I’m making that turkey this year for my in-laws (dun duh dun!!!). I want to make it right now!!!

    I love these budget posts. I really do!!!

  12. Dave says

    Just took the turkey out of the oven. I used 2 gallons of water for brining rather than the 2 cups in the recipe. The turkey cooked much faster than the recipe predicted. It took closer to 12 minutes per pound. The turkey looks great and I can’t wait to try it.

  13. Susan says

    Another thought about those added staple prices, it’s not like you are using the whole package of butter, or the whole bottle of whiskey, olive oil, or honey. You only use a portion of those things. If you started out with a bare kitchen, yes, you would have that initial outlay of cash for these items, but you didn’t use it all, so it really didn’t cost you the full amount to make the dinner.

    • Erika Schuler says

      I am really the only one of my friends from school who eats paleo. They were very sweet to contribute paleo items for the party however when it came to dessert i made the paleo pie and they brought whipped tipping and chocolate chip cookies haha

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