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Where This Home Chef Gets Her Budget-Friendly Game Day Essentials without the Culinary Sacrifice

Tara Ippolito may share mouthwatering recipes to her 1.3M @aldentediva TikTok followers, but one of her favorite ways to share food is hosting friends at a tailgate on game day––and when it comes to scoring the best quality items at the best price, she always turns to Walmart.

Close-up of Tara in front of game day food

Tara Ippolito does it for the love of the game. Not the football game, the entertaining game. "Football Sundays are my favorite thing in the world," she says. "I'm not a huge football fan, but I'm a fan of what goes along with football," she says. Tara loves the sound of friends and family in her home, the kids in the kitchen, and serving up food to keep a crowd full and happy. Tailgating, she says, is the perfect way to bring everyone together.

Game-day food arranged on a table

Tara started her food blog,, back in 2013, when social media was just a twinkle in the eyes of the world. "Influencer wasn't even a word," she says. "Monetizing wasn't an option." So Tara simply cooked for friends––until sharing the same recipe countless times (hand written on recipe cards, at that) drove her online to share them publicly. When given the choice, though, she's cooking for a crowd. 

"My love of cooking comes straight from my love of entertaining," she says. "I love being outside in the fall. I love cooking over an open flame. And I just want everyone to be happy. I want them to be full when they leave and to know they had a good time." With her hot plate and air fryer in tow, Tara sets up an expert operation at every tailgate, sometimes expecting upwards of 20 people. But the cost of ingredients that come along with it can rack up quickly. Her top tip? Save at every opportunity. "If it's between $2 and $1.25, I'm going with $1.25. Especially if it's a brand I trust, like Walmart, with high-quality and private-label items. It's a no brainer for me."

Tara also likes that she can get everything she needs at Walmart, that she can choose pre-made options when she's short on time, and that they offer online pick-up and speedy delivery. (Game time won't wait!) Here are the items Tara's picking up for a winning tailgate with prices and quality that can't lose.

"I always try to have vegetarian options, and these garlic knots are always a hit," says Tara. At just a third of the price of some competitors, these easy-to-reheat garlic knots are a must-have for kicking off game day appetizers.

"This is the perfect dipping option for the garlic knots," says Tara. "For me, they go hand in hand." The value of this 24-oz. organic Parmesan Romano pasta sauce can't be beat.

When it comes to buying in bulk, Tara says Walmart offers just the right amount, which is why Walmart is her go to retailer. This four-pound bag of chicken wings can be tossed with your favorite sauce or served plain with dipping options. On game day, Tara serves them with ranch dipping sauce, celery, and carrots.

Tara has a recipe to upgrade boxed mac––with shredded cheddar and breadcrumbs––but for gameday, she keeps it simple. "Everyone loves mac and cheese," she says. "I like to use everything I have, so if there is some cheese leftover from a cheese plate, I might throw it in, but otherwise, I'd just cook it on my hot plate as is."

"What people want to eat, their dietary restrictions, and their preferences is very important to me," Tara says. "I think it shows people that you care about them being there. Some people don't feel like eating chicken wings and garlic knots all day; they want a healthier option." There's no better, simpler, or more affordable way to throw together a big green salad.

"I like to course out the food," Tara explains. "I'll do appetizers when everyone's flooding into the stadium. Then an hour before we go in, I'll serve hot dogs, and maybe a half hour later, I'll serve hamburgers." These 100% pure beef burgers are the star of any cookout, especially as Tara serves them, cooked over an open flame.

Served alongside the hotdogs, hamburgers, and salad, this macaroni salad is a hit of the sides. And when you can get 32 oz. at this price, it's easy to keep filling everyone's plates.

"These would be so easy to cut into squares to make a kebab," says Tara, who'd simply sprinkle them with a little lemon, salt, and pepper and serve them as a main with the other entrees. Sustainably sourced and vacuum sealed, this 12 oz. bag of all-natural, wild-caught Alaskan sockeye salmon is the perfect choice for those looking for a lighter option.

Tara's duties don't end just because the game does. "I'd put this out with the appetizers, but I'd also keep some out after the game, probably with the pasta sauce, so people have something to snack on before they head home," she says. With each 14 oz. loaf, there's plenty to go around.

For a fuss-free clean-up, Tara only uses paper tablecloths and paper plates when she tailgates, but she still likes to give her tables and appliances a wipe-down before packing them up in the car. This Great Value Cleaner has no added chlorine dye or parabens, and is made without formaldehyde, phthalates, ammonia, triclosan, or synthetic fragrances.

Portable, powerful, and all-purpose, this Air Fryer packs a major punch with 7-in-1 functionality, making game day prep easier than ever. What better way to keep the chicken wings crispy, the mac and cheese warm, and the buns perfectly toasted? This roomy air fryer can even roast a whole chicken. At this price, it's the gift that keeps giving at the tailgate and beyond.

All product prices are accurate at the time of article publishing.