The winter holidays bring with them a fair amount of chaos, much of it related to the number of food fests we each host. Here are a handful of helpers you can pick up affordably at the grocery store to help speed things up at home.  (See also: Cheap and Tasty Ideas for Christmas Dinner)

Puff Pastry

If you like fuss free baking but still like to keep things fancy, try incorporating some puff pastry recipes into your holiday repertoire. From a more elegant casserole to gorgeous appetizers, there are plenty of things to try. Here’s a fun vegetarian pot pie to get your creative juices flowing.

Pie Crust

Thanksgiving Dinner

Sure, when I have time to make a bulk batch of homemade pie crust I’m happy to do it. However, it seems during the last few years I’ve hosted fewer events due to traveling and other business-related activities. This means I’m much more likely to purchase pre-made pie crusts from the store.

They are easy to unfold, ready to use and provide a homespun taste and feel that takes very little extra time. If you bake pies and quiches all the time, this might not be budget friendly for you. If you only bake things in pie crust a couple of times during the season however, it’s more than affordable.

Shrimp Rings

These make a stylish statement at any gathering, especially if you re-plate them onto a base of parsley or greens. Bonus? They’re often on sale, making them an affordable seafood choice for holiday or New Year’s Eve entertaining.

Boxed Wine

There are many things you can do with boxed wine during the holiday season, including mulled wine, gourmet pot roast, swanky sauces and more. If you’re celebrating the holidays somewhere warm, sangria certainly isn’t out of the question, either. (See also: Hot Homemade Drinks)


I know many swear by going the homemade route with this, but I honestly find that I rarely have the extra room on the stove and mine doesn’t come out that much better. When I used to do roasts in the crock pot frequently, it was nothing to add in a bit of thickener and a few seasonings towards the end. Now that our holidays fall in line with our plant-based diet, making mushroom gravy from scratch is just too much effort with everything else I have going on during holiday meal prep. That’s why the Campbell’s canned mushroom gravy makes my list of simple canned foods that go the distance.

Canned Topping

The squirt cans that house whipped cream, soy whip and whipped rice toppings aren’t something we purchase all the time. But they are definitely a holiday item we use to dress up happy hour at home events, Christmas morning coffee cocktails and other special drinks as well as topping off traditional favorites like pumpkin pie. Considering these products only get used occasionally, we find them an affordable upgrade to add to our holiday grocery shopping list.

Cranberry Sauce

I’ll admit that the variety of online recipes for hand crafted cranberry sauce is certainly inspirational. And truth be told, I do like a nice homemade sauce when I have the time. It’s just that – like the gravy situation mentioned above – making it from scratch just hasn’t been in the cards the past few years. Also, since we’re hosting fewer events one can pretty much provides all we need. Plus, I can get a can of the organic stuff cheaper than I could ever make it on my own.

Baking Mixes

With all of the coupons flying around at this time of year, and the fact that many of the Duncan Hines, Pillsbury and other brands sell for roughly $1.25 in my area, using some of the pre-flavored mixes is a sensible way to supplement your holiday baking goals affordably. Some of them are even accidentally vegan, so as long as you prepare them with an acceptable egg substitute like flax or soy flour you’ll be serving a treat that’s also cruelty free. A few favorites we like to enjoy at this time of year are spice cake, cranberry-orange sweet bread and red velvet cake.

Hot Chocolate

The pre-mixed envelopes store well in the pantry and can be used to create hot toddy recipes well past the holiday season and into the new year. One of my favorites is to enjoy a mug of hot cocoa with a shot of butterscotch schnapps. It’s truly tasty, and doesn’t require any more than those two ingredients and some hot water.

Do you have some favorite holiday helpers from the grocery store? How do you use them to prepare for foodie events where the whole family will be attending?

Myscha Theriault

Myscha Theriault

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’.