The holidays are a time of enjoying family and celebrating abundance. But if you find yourself in a tight spot financially, the cost of the Christmas meal can make your holidays feel a bit less plentiful. With a little planning and creativity, the holiday dinner doesn't have to leave you strapped for cash. Here are some ideas for a delicious, healthy dinner that costs less, reduces waste and leaves your family healthier.
Potluck. If you find yourself preparing the Christmas meal by yourself, it can require quite a bit from your grocery budget. This year, determine early who your guests will be, and ask them to bring a dish. Perhaps they can bring their version of a traditional Thanksgiving food. (Be sure to have a meal plan so that you don't end up with five green-bean casseroles.)
Cook from scratch. Creating your Christmas meal out of real ingredients is healthier, tastier and often cheaper. While it may be more labor-intensive on the front end, your body, your taste buds and your budget will thank you. In my kitchen, I make one exception to this rule: Canned pumpkin does not taste any different than a fresh-carved pumpkin, and it saves hours of messy work.
Buy seasonal. Out-of-season foods are often expensive and much less tasty than fresh-from-the-vine local vegetables. When you're preparing for your Christmas feast, check out the various farmer's markets in our area. They offer fresh produce that is healthy and grown locally. You can likely meet the person who harvested your dinner.
Thankfully, many of our traditional Christmas foods are in season, including winter squash and sweet potatoes.
Count your guests. If you're hosting 10, don't cook for 20. Many holiday recipes yield much more food than you will actually eat. Think about cooking smaller portions. Make one or two desserts instead of five or six. You'll end up with fewer leftovers, which often get thrown out several days after Christmas.
Eliminate tradition. While most of our Christmas recipes come from long years of tradition and family get-togethers, is there that one recipe that always yields uneaten leftovers each year? If there is a traditional Christmas food that few in your family actually like, consider eliminating it. Less cost, waste and guilt will result.
Consider alternatives. Though Tofurky is the obvious vegetarian alternative to turkey, you may want to consider a completely different meal altogether. Once the alternative route is opened, you have endless possibilities. How about jambalaya? Seafood? Pasta? Chicken? Though traditions are strong, taking a year off from the traditional turkey could be fun, creative and frugal.