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A Merry Meal: How to Make an Amazing and Affordable Holiday Dinner

Dec 08, 2023
Christmas at home supper party with young friends having fun eating together at evening.

Most holiday traditions are spent with family and loved ones coming together, making new memories, reliving old ones, and sharing laughs while enjoying a delicious meal. But with increased food prices, putting together a traditional holiday meal can cost families hundreds of dollars. If you’d like to prepare a holiday spread without breaking the bank, we have a few ways you can get creative with your holiday food budget.

How to Make A Merry Meal

Preparing a holiday meal when money is tight is stressful. But with a little bit of planning and creativity, you can stretch your grocery budget without stretching your wallet. Here are some cost-saving ways to make merry holiday meals in the kitchen.  

Plan Ahead and Parade Your Pantry

Before deciding what to make, first consider how much you can afford to spend. Take inventory of any items you already have and can use, then determine what to prepare that day. For the remaining ingredients, put together a shopping list with only what you absolutely need. This will help keep you from overspending. 

Ways to save money on your holiday meal:

  • Search for Deals: Check for deals, use coupons, and shopping ahead of time adds savings that'll help stretch your budget.
  • Peruse Your Pantry: See what canned vegetables, fruits, spices, starches, and pantry good can be used to create a side, desert, or homemade sauce.
  • Freezer Finds: Look through your freezer for meats, vegetables, and fruits that can be used as ingredients to build a meal. If you're buying ingredients, consider using frozen goods - they're convenient, nutritious, and quicker to prepare.
  • Less Expensive Alternatives: Traditional meats such as turkey or glazed ham can be expensive. Consider alternatives like roast chicken, blade steak, or even meat-free options. They're less expensive alternatives so your budget won't be hit as hard.
  • Brand-Name Buys: Save money by swapping brand-name items for store brands/ You'll be surprised at the cost savings.

With a bit of planning and careful sourcing, you'll uncover hidden savings for making a merry holiday meal this year.    

Get Creative and Untraditional with Your Meals

While stores, advertisements, and the media may have you believing that everyone cooks the same meal for the holidays, don’t be fooled because this isn’t true. Different cultures celebrate different food traditions and with some online investigating, you may uncover new meal ideas that’ll be fun, tasty, and affordable to make! 

Here are some creative, inexpensive, and untraditional meal ideas you can try:

  • Festive Food Bars: Create a taco, baked potato, or chili bar filled with topping options for people to customize their plates to match their palate.
  • Season of Soup: Making homemade soup is great way to feed a crow and doesn't cost much. Add a few side like bread or salad, and you've just created a low-cost comforting meal.
  • Potlucks: Host a potluck and invite guests to bring something to share. This will help reduce costs for everyone and also ease the workload in the kitchen.
This year, bring togetherness around the table with a new tradition of an untraditional take of a holiday meal!

Happy latin family having fun eating together during Christmas time

Enjoying the Holiday Spirit (without the alcoholic Spirits)

Alcoholic beverages can easily spiral your holiday food budget out of control, especially when making festive drinks that require specific ingredients and spirits. Consider swapping alcoholic spirits for non-alcoholic beverages.

Here are some ways to add some spice (not spirits) into your holiday beverages:

  • Frosty Fruits: Offer fruit-based drinks like festive punches, teas, lemonade, or water. For added savings, use frozen fruits instead of fresh.
  • Sparkling Cider: Instead of traditional bubbly alcoholic spirits, consider opting for non-alcoholic sparkling ciders and juices - you'll still get the bubbly just without the booze.
  • Miracle Mocktails: Try reversing your favorite cocktail into a mocktail. There any many recipes for creating holiday mocktails and the best part is - all ages get to enjoy!

Get into the yuletide spirit without the use of alcoholic spirits!

How to Make A Merry Meal

If you’re ready to save money but not willing to not skimp on flavor, here are a few untraditional holiday recipes you can make without sleighing your budget. 

Tidings of an Untraditional Taco Bar

The options are endless when it comes to making a taco bar – from meats to toppings, to what you choose to put your taco in (or on). Here is a taco bar recipe from “Apple Slices” that gives you all the ins out of putting together a tasty taco bar. 

Money Saving Tip: Substitute beef with ground turkey or chicken for additional savings. 

Fun & Festive Tip: Serve only red and green toppings for an added festive treat!

Rejoice with a Roast Chicken Recipe

Trade traditional turkey for the other (and less expensive) poultry – chicken! This roast chicken recipe from “The Spruce Eats” will save you money and time because the entire meal uses one sheet. Minimal costs, less work in the kitchen and less clean up. Less is definitely more with this holiday recipe!

Money Saving Tip: Use any vegetable on sale or subsite fresh for frozen. *Note: Frozen vegetables may affect cooking time. 

Fun & Festive Tip: Serve only red and green toppings for an added festive treat!

Grilled chicken meat on baking sheet

Savior of Soup

Be the savior of soups and savings with this inexpensive potato soup with sausage recipe from “Good Cheap Eats”. At less than a dollar per serving, it’s comforting for your soul, belly, and budget.

Money Saving Tip: Substitute fresh for frozen or canned alternatives. *Note: This may affect cooking time.

Fun & Festive Tip: Add a side of pumpkin biscuits for an untraditional but delicious treat!  

Preparing a holiday meal when money is tight can be stressful, but with a little bit of planning, creativity, and an un-traditional take on making a meal, it’s possible to make a merry meal without breaking the bank. For more budgeting tips and resources, visit www.peachstatefcu.org/blog/tag/budgeting.  

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