Christmas dinner is one of the most important meals many families serve all year, and as such it’s very easy to let the ingredient cost run out of control while planning the menu. With a bit of forethought, discipline and savvy shopping however, you can have a stylish offering that also helps you save money. Here are ten ideas for doing just that.
1. Stuffed Squash
Winter squash is one of the favored frugal fall foods at our house, and we enjoy it in a variety of ways. When it comes to a special Christmas dinner or other winter holiday meal however, we like to stuff one and bake it for an affordably elegant experience. For a medium sized stuffed squash, about one to one and a quarter hours at 375 in the oven will get the job done. Because all of the stuffing ingredients are pre-cooked before they go in, you basically just need to wait until the knife goes through the squash without resistance. A bit of water in the bottom of your covered baking dish is also recommended.
Other than that, you can do a bread stuffing with cranberries and nuts, a rice, lamb and raisin mixture with cinnamon and cardamom, or a quinoa and tempeh blend for those who prefer to eat less meat. The finished product slices easily into a layered dish that pairs well with a green salad and some mushroom gravy.
2. Turkey Breast
Because they tend to go on sale quite often during the winter months, frozen turkey breasts are typically an affordable choice for Christmas dinner. They also take less time to thaw and cook than the full birds. Consider serving yours with roasted yams, traditional broccoli casserole and one of your favorite gingerbread recipes for dessert, for example a bundt cake.
3. Cornish Game Hen
While the per pound rate might make you take a second look, the truth is that purchasing one or two Cornish game hens at a time for a Christmas dinner or other occasion is a relatively affordable proposition. They also cook quickly, and can be served with green beans and other money-saving side dishes to create a holiday meal you can feel confident about serving a significant other who is new on your personal network scene.
4. Stuffed Portobello Caps
Whether you are dishing up a carnivorous version or going for the full vegan Monty, stuffed portobello mushrooms are an elegant Christmas dinner alternative to poultry. Serve with a green salad and search your family repertoire of pumpkin recipes for a fun dessert that all will enjoy. Wine selection is certainly your personal choice, but I find I prefer a red with the meatiness of the portobello flavor.
5. Roast Pork
Whether you are tossing a full pork butt in the smoker for a rustic back-country menu, or slicing up a pork loin into medallions to serve with homemade cranberry sauce and steamed squash, roast pork is a favorite for many during the holiday season. It also typically goes on sale during the colder months as a loss leader, making it a winner to freeze ahead for those who prefer to buy in bulk. Consider serving with some homemade red velvet cupcakes and after-dinner coffee cocktails.
6. Boneless Leg of Lamb
If you don’t mind going the frozen route, many a warehouse store such as Sam’s or Costco will offer affordable prices on legs of lamb throughout the holiday season. A winner with sweet potato casserole and a wild rice blend, lamb is a full-flavored option for Christmas dinner that is suitable for grownups and younger diners alike.
7. Baked Stuffed Fish
It may not be what many in North America consider traditional, but stuffed fish is a stylish option not just for Christmas dinner, but at any time of year you are having guests over. Lighter than many mainstream meats, it pairs well with champagne, white wine or even lighter sangria’s for scrumptious special-occasion dining.
8. Clam Chowder
Trying to keep things casual this Yuletide season? Consider a clam chowder with biscuits, drop cookies and a few soup garnishes for fun. Beverages can range from tea punch to spritzers depending on how your family chowder recipe is seasoned.
9. Sundried Tomato and Blue Cheese Pasta
If Italian cuisine is your idea of a special occasion meal, then don’t be afraid to parade it out for guests during the holiday season. This chicken and gorgonzola pasta with sun dried tomatoes is one way to go, but I’ve also kept it vegetarian using blue cheese and a heavy cream sauce as the base. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley, pine nuts and freshly-ground black pepper.
10. Glazed Ham
Traditional glazed ham is another way to go when feeding a crowd, as cured hams are a hot sale commodity offered by various grocery stores as a way to lure in holiday meal planners. If you are serving one for Christmas dinner, you can pair it with everything from rosemary potatoes and steamed baby spinach to pumpkin casserole and a mixed green salad.
Whatever your favored foods for Christmas dinner, options are available for you to serve it affordably, with style and using recipes your family will enjoy for years to come.
A lifelong money cruncher who can squeeze a nickel ‘til it cries, Myscha is a syndicated columnist, best-selling author, and founder of Trek Hound and We Be Sharin’.