I’m sure by now that planning for Christmas is already on your mind. You’ve probably ordered your Christmas cards, made your gift list, put up the tree and have started planning for guests. It seems like with all of the planning and budgeting for gifts, we often forget about budgeting for our holiday meal and when the time comes to buy groceries, we find ourselves turning our pockets inside out counting pennies and pocket lint, hoping that maybe there is a big sale we didn’t know about!
Does paying for that giant, lavish ham or prime-rib make you cringe? We all want a meal like the ones we remember as kids, with the entire family and food covering the whole table. Sadly, the stress of feeding a crowd and buying tons of food can turn the whole event from a perfect day to a perfect nightmare. Isn’t there a more reasonable way to celebrate?
Of course there is! But it might require a little planning or even a total revamp on what a traditional Christmas dinner looks like. There are a lot of ways to plan a delicious Christmas meal on a budget without your guests being any wiser. This budget-friendly Christmas dinner is just as decadent and delicious — I promise! Grab a cup of coffee or tea, relax and learn how to make a five-star meal on a fast food budget!
Set Your Budget
Setting a budget needs to be your first step in planning Christmas dinner. Figure out how many people are coming for dinner, and make a note of who is bringing a dish, and what they are bringing. Start saving money by sharing the delicious meal you’ve created and see if any relatives or other guests want to handle a particular side or dessert. The more dishes you delegate, the more money you will save—plus everyone will enjoy getting to help out in some way with the meal and share their special dish.
Make a cheap, delicious and bountiful meal all starts with a little planning. I like to start planning for the holiday, by figuring out what we are having for dinner the entire week. Maybe there will be some ingredients that we can use in both dinner and Christmas dinner; like bacon and butter. When getting started, get organized. Having a worksheet like these two, really helps visually see things in your menu. Whether you’re planning for a month or for a week, these worksheets are a great way to help visualize what is for dinner.
Choose easy meals that your family likes for the week leading up to Christmas. Here is an example of easy meals that will not require a lot of ingredients, or room in your fridge:
Sunday – crockpot spaghetti and meatballs (this is a great time to make extra sauce if you are serving Italian food at your Christmas dinner)
Monday – breakfast for dinner
Tuesday – pierogies (frozen)
Wednesday (Christmas) – Christmas Eve family traditions, no meal.
Planning The Perfect Budget-Friendly Christmas Dinner Menu
Take Time to Plan
Pull out your favorite cookbooks and magazines and browse through them for some inspiration. Then check out your favorite blogs and Pinterest and make some notes. Make notes of the dishes that will go well with your traditional menu or pick some fresh recipes. This is a great way to get into the spirit of the holidays and find new inspiration for your dining room table.
Mix It Up
Mix the old with the new. Christmas time is about traditions, but don’t let this deter your plans of adding a new side dish to the table or adding your twist to family favorites.
Many of us remember the Christmas meals we had as kids. Simple, traditional comfort food that was rich, heavy and creamy. When choosing recipes for your Christmas dinner, include dishes with different colors and textures for a more inviting meal.
Practice Makes Perfect
Don’t try out that brand new sweet potato souffle recipe yo saw on Pinterest on your guests on Chrsitmas day. If you’re itching to try out a brand new dish, make it before the big day so that you can feel confidant when the big day comes.
Take Inventory and Plan Ahead
Take inventory of everything before planning including your cooking equipment, dishes, bakeware, and appliances while keeping your kitchen layout in mind. For instance, it’s going to be difficult to roast a turkey, bake Christmas cookies and brown dinner rolls all at the same time if you only have one oven and all of your recipes require different cooking times and temperatures.
Plan dishes that you can make ahead of time or only require a short cooking time. Consider cooking these recipes in dishes that can be transferred right from the oven to the table. Speaking of which, make sure you have enough bakeware and serving dishes for all of the dishes you want to serve.
Shop at Home.
The next step in your menu planning process is to take inventory of what you already have on hand and Shop at home. Check out your fridge, freezer and pantry and see what you have on hand. Write it down, and keep a list beside your flyers, or other recipe inspirations and see what you can make with ingredients already in your kitchen. Shopping at home is a great way to stretch your grocery budget.
Build A Great Grocery List & Save
A great grocery list will save you time and money, so make sure that you write down everything – even the spices and the flour. I usually start with a scrap piece of paper and just in a long list, write down each ingredient for each meal on the menu, and then start shopping at home to see what we have. After shopping at home, and crossing off the ingredients I already have, I write my master list, categorized by department.
If your family likes leftovers, make sure to account for that when making your list. Also, don’t forget to include things like;
- paper plates
- plastic cups
- plastic forks, knives and spoons
- plastic wrap, foil and parchment paper
Stretch Your Dollar Even Further
Save even more money at the grocery store and on your Christmas dinner by following these six simple tips for slashing your grocery bill:
- Shop early and save more. Start shopping for Christmas dinner now. Buy groceries on your master list that are on sale now. If you have the room, and you know you’re going to have turkey at Christmas, buy an extra one at Thanksgiving when they are on sale for $0.59 a pound and keep it in the freezer. Same rules apply for your Christmas ham or prime rib – if you see this on sale before the holiday, grab it and keep it in your fridge or freezer.
- Make it homemade. Making your own versions of things like bbq sauce, and breads and salsas and dips saves you a ton of money. Convenience foods are expensive.
- Buying in bulk. From spices, to rice, to popcorn, to legumes to nuts and seeds, buying in bulk is awesome. I like to buy in bulk because I can get just the amount I need for the week or meal without worrying about foods going bad, or I can make a double or triple batch of foods and freeze in serving size portions.
- Use coupons. But, be careful. I get coupons from King Soopers (Kroger) for the items I buy most often, and that usually saves me about $5 per shopping trip. Use the coupons that are best fitted to your family. Using coupons can be tricky though, and can cause you to spend money outside of your menu plan and end up making you spend more money
- Buy food you actually eat. Don’t just buy fruit and veggies that you think you could add to a meal or your kids “might” like. If you’re trying to save money on your grocery bill, just buy the things that you like.
- Leave the kids at home. As cute as they look strapped into the car cart at the grocery store, giving you directions to turn left or right, they cost you money! I try to leave both of my boys at home when I get groceries because theres always just that one thing that they want, and look at me with those eyes, and I cave.
Traditional Christmas Dinner Menu for 8 for $51.69!
Feeds 8 Hungry People with Leftovers
Best Ever Mashed Potatoes (click for recipe)
Orange-Braised Carrots & Parsnips
Green Bean Casserole
Award Winning Sweet Potato Pie (click for recipe)
Budget-Friendly Christmas Dinner Grocery List:
- Spiral Ham
Brown Sugar Cloves
- Orange Juice
- Green Beans
- Cream of Mushroom Soup
- Salt and Pepper
- French Fried Onions
- Sweet Potatoes
Sugar Brown Sugar
- Evaporated Milk
Flour Vanilla Extract Butter
Freebies (You’ll probably find everything on this list in your pantry):
- brown sugar
- vanilla extract
- baking soda and baking powder
- dried herbs and spices
Easy Honey Glazed Ham Recipe
1 7-12lb spiral ham
1/2 cup honey
1 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp cloves
pinch crushed red pepper flakes, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and move the racks around so that your pan and ham can fit.
Unwrap the ham and rinse it under cold water. Place it on the rack in the roasting pan, and cover loosely with foil.
Bake 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine brown sugar, honey and spices in a sauce pan and cook over medium heat until the mixture is smooth and the sugar has dissolved.
Remove foil from ham and pour brown sugar and honey glaze over the ham.
Continue roasting 1 hour and 30 minutes, basting every 30-45 minutes until the ham reaches an internal temperature of 155 degrees. It will continue cooking to 160 degrees as it rests.
Let ham rest at least 20 minutes before slicing.
Classic Green Bean Casserole Recipe
4 cups green beans, cut and blanched
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup half and half
6 oz french fried onions, divided
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine green beans, cream of mushroom soup, half and half, salt, pepper and a handful of french fried onions in a bowl and mix well to combine.
Transfer to casserole dish and bake for 20-25 minutes.
Top with remaining french fried onions and bake an additional 5-10 minutes.
Orange Braised Carrots and Parsnips
1 lb carrots
1 lb thin parsnips
2 tsp grated orange zest
1 1/4 cups orange juice
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tsp thyme
pinch crushed red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
fresh parsley, chopped (optional for garnish)
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Trim and scrub parsnips and carrots, If the parsnips are thick, slice them in half or quarters lentghtwise so they are about the same size as the carrots. Likewise, slice thick carrots lengthwise if they are large.
Place the carrots in a dutch oven and add 3/4 cup of the orange juice, olive oil, thyme, red pepper flakes, salt and 1 tsp black pepper.
Place pot on stove over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.
Cover with lid and transfer to oven.
Cook 1 1/2 hours or until parsnips and carrots are very tender.
Toss with remaining orange juice and parsley.
Prefer turkey for your Christmas dinner? Try this recipe for a Foolproof Herb Roasted Turkey and 10-Steps to Great Gravy!
Get started on your menu planning now and watch the savings stack up. Following these simple money savings tips will let you achieve a delicious and budget-friendly Christmas dinner. Shopping at home and early will save you both time and money and will let you focus on the one thing that really matters this time of year: family memories. I’m sure if you’re anything like me, you will be eager to share your savings with your family!
Oh my goodness! Thank you for sharing such a detailed outline. I’m sure this will be extremely helpful for larger families!