This week, I’ve already watched my bank account plummet. Between buying stocking stuffers for four kids, hunting down the just-right gift for my significant other (who also celebrates his birthday on Christmas day!), and shipping off presents to family and friends around the world, I’m remember just how expensive the holidays can be.
And though I’ve budgeted for everything from our annual Christmas outings to hosting friends on Christmas Eve, any opportunity to save some money makes this time of year all the more merry.
So, for our Christmas Day dinner, we won’t be having the traditional $100+ spread. Instead, I’ve decided to serve up some budget-friendly eats. And though they’re lighter on the pocketbook that our usual fare, the flavors here are anything but light.
Menu #1: A New Twist on the Classics
For the main, we’re starting with this Holiday Ham Bake. Cutting back on meat is one of the easiest ways to save cash. In order to feed a crowd, I’ve decided to swap out a whole honey-baked ham and instead serve up this cheesy sweet potato and ham bake. Ringing in at just about $1 per serving, it’s a delicious way to share holiday flavors with the fam. Without breaking the bank.
1. Holiday Ham Bake
Estimated cost: $16.49
Yield: 12-16 servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 90 minutes
• 2 (10-ounce) bags frozen diced sweet potatoes
• 2 (8-ounce) bags mini cubed ham
• 1 (8-ounce) bag shredded mozzarella and provolone
• 1/2 sweet onion, diced
• 5 eggs
• 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
• 1/4 cup whole milk, half and half, or cream
• 1 teaspoon pepper
• 1 teaspoon fresh or dried rosemary, chopped
Save on your Holiday Ham Bake ingredients with Kraft coupons.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. In a large bowl. Mix together all ingredients until well combined. Transfer to a 9×13” baking dish.
3. Bake for 80-90 minutes, or until center of the casserole has set.
4. Garnish with fresh rosemary sprigs, if desired. Allow to cool slightly before serving.
Served alongside the ham, some creative side dishes that taste just like Christmas. Added bonus: Brightly colored and full of flavor, these eats are delicious, too!
2. Honey-Glazed Baby Carrots
Estimated cost: $4.52
Source: Damn Delicious
A touch of sweetness makes these Honey-Glazed Baby Carrots totally irresistible, even to the veggie-averse. They’re super easy to make, and swapping out the fresh herbs for dried keeps this yummy side dish easy on your wallet, too!
3. Cranberry-Pineapple Jell-O Salad
Estimated cost: $3.72
Source: Taste of Home
What holiday would be complete without Jell-O salad? Tart and sweet, Cranberry Jello Salad is loaded with crunchy bits of celery and walnuts, and has an added touch of nostalgia. Made in a baking dish or mold, it brings a bright, festive touch to your table.
4. Mandarin Spinach Salad
Estimated cost: $4.72
Bright and simple, store-bought baby spinach, canned mandarin oranges, and almonds are all you need to toss together this perfectly crunchy combo. Check the bulk bins of your local grocery and purchase just enough almonds for the salad. A drizzle of lemon juice is all the dressing this salad calls for. If you prefer a more mild vinaigrette, drizzle with a smidge of olive oil, too.
5. Cherry-Chocolate Dump Cake
Estimated cost: $4.87
Source: Dine and Dish
Served warm, this Cherry-Chocolate Dump Cake is truly divine. Add a dollop of whipped cream and dig your spoon into this scrumptious, inexpensive, and easy-to-make dessert.
Total estimated cost of menu: $35.54
This menu does such an excellent job keeping our eats in budget, and it looks like there’s enough left over to buy a bottle of champagne and celebrate savvy spending! Cheers!
Menu #2: Classy & Classic
Want another, more classic take on a budget holiday dinner menu? Our Savings Expert, Jeanette Pavini, went on Good Morning America to show you how you can cook for 10 without spending more than $40. That price even includes the wine!
Watch how Jeanette was able to do it, then read on for Jeanette’s own recipes.
Holiday Dinner Menu
• Creamy Sweet Potato Carrot Soup
• Crescent rolls
• Mashed potatoes
• Green bean casserole
• Slow roasted pork shoulder
• Peppermint Devil’s Food Cake
• Red wine
• White wine
• Chocolate milk
Total Cost: $39.18
How to Keep Your Holiday Dinner Under $40
Plan the menu around what’s on sale at your store. Store ads come in the mail, typically on Tuesdays, but you can also find them online. Fortunately, the ads that are out right now include a lot of ingredients used in traditional holiday dishes. From the potatoes to the chocolate cake, almost every item on Jeanette’s shopping list was on sale.
On top of the sales, she used coupons to bring her price down ever further. If she bought everything at full price, it would have cost $63.66, but she was able to shave off 38%, bringing the final price to $39.18.
Your Holiday Dinner Recipes
If you want to match Jeanette’s holiday dinner menu, here are the recipes using the ingredients along with a price for each.
1. Creamy Sweet Potato Carrot Soup: $5.64
Pureed root vegetable soups are an impressive first course. Better yet, they’re easy and inexpensive to make. Carrots are typically cheaper per pound than sweet potatoes, so we subbed out some sweet potatoes for carrots to bring down the cost. Serve soup in smaller coffee or espresso cups for great presentation and you’ll get away with making a smaller, less expensive batch.
• 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled
• 1 pound carrots, peeled
• 1 yellow onion
• 3 cloves garlic
• 2 Tablespoons olive oil
• 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
• 2 cans chicken broth
• 1/2 cup whole milk
1. Chop onion, carrots, and sweet potato into chunks. Mince garlic.
2. Heat olive oil in large saucepan and sauté prepared ingredients for 8-10 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and dried thyme.
3. Add broth. Bring to a boil, lower to simmer, and let simmer till ingredients are soft — about 15-20 minutes.
4. Take off heat and use blender to puree soup. (Immersion blenders work great if you have one.)
5. Add in 1/2 cup whole milk and season to taste with salt and pepper.
2. Crescent Rolls: $3.60
There’s nothing quite like a homemade biscuit, but “homemade” doesn’t mean you have to make them from scratch. Products like these Crescent Rolls make it possible to get that fresh out of the oven taste without any fuss. Plus, this is one item that frequently goes on sale and commonly has coupons available, making it possible to save two ways.
Regular price, you would pay $6.38 for two containers, but Jeanette found them on sale and used a coupon from Coupons.com to get them down to $3.60 — close to 45% in savings. No need to provide a recipe for these, simply cook according to package instructions and enjoy!
• 2 cans crescent rolls
Find your own Pillsbury® coupons here!
3. Mashed Potatoes: $5.45
Always compare the unit price between the individually sold produce and the pre-packaged bags. Often, the pre-packaged bags are cheaper, but since this was a special holiday ad, the individual potatoes came in at 59 cents per pound. Jeanette’s original recipe initially called for half-and-half, but since she was already buying whole milk for the soup, she subbed it out to save.
• 5 pounds russet potatoes
• 1 cup whole milk
• 1 stick butter (4 ounces)
1. Chop potatoes into 1-inch chunks.
2. Add to large pot of cold water with 2 Tablespoons salt, bring to a boil, lower to simmer, and cook till potatoes are soft when you insert a fork.
3. Drain potatoes and mash.
4. Add 1 stick butter, 1 cup whole milk, salt, and pepper to taste.
4. Green Bean Casserole: $5.32
Don’t shy away from frozen or canned vegetables. Some dishes like the classic green bean casserole, (which is a staple on many holiday tables,) actually call for canned. Plus, they can save you a lot of money over fresh. These cans were on sale for 59 cents each, whereas fresh veggies cost around $1.69 for the same amount. As for frozen, they’re often full of even more nutritional value than fresh because they’re frozen at their peak.
• 2 14.5-ounce cans green beans
• 1 can cream of mushroom soup
• 1 6-ounce container French’s Fried Onions
• 1/2 cup whole milk
1. Mix together green beans, mushroom soup, whole milk, and ½ the container of fried onions.
2. Place in a casserole dish and cook for 25 minutes in 350 degree oven.
3. Sprinkle remaining fried onions on top for the last 5 minutes of cooking time.
Put a twist on this holiday classic with these 7 non-traditional green bean casserole recipes!
5. Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder: $8.14
Ham isn’t the only meat you can serve on the holiday table. Around the holidays, a wide variety of meats go on sale, like this pork shoulder we found for $1.29 per pound. If you’re determined to serve ham, look for flash sales. That’s when you will often find the lowest price, so pay close attention to the ads that come in your mail. One of the best ways to save money is to not go overboard on ingredients. This six-pound roast is plenty to feed our party of 10. Use a meat calculator to see how much is recommended for you number of guests.
• 6-pound pork shoulder
• Olive oil
• Dried thyme
• 5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
• 1 can beef broth
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rub pork shoulder with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
2. Brown meat in pan on stovetop. Add chopped garlic, can of beef broth, and sprinkle with dried thyme. Bring it to a boil on stovetop.
3, Put it in oven at 350 degrees.
4. Baste every half hour with juices in pan. Add more broth or water as needed if liquids evaporate.
5. Let cook for 3-4 hours. When meat easily pulls away from the bone, the roast is ready.
6. Chocolate Peppermint Cake: $3.96
Make life simple with a cake mix, but then add a personal touch like crushing up peppermint candies and sprinkling them on the top. You will see some of the best sales and coupons on baking supplies leading up to the holidays, so it’s a good idea to stock up on these items now.
• 1 box devil’s food cake mix
• 1 container chocolate or vanilla frosting
• 2 candy canes
1. Prepare cake per box instructions. Frost.
2. Place candy canes in plastic bag and crush.
3. Sprinkle on cake.
Buy inexpensive wine and pour it into an elegant decanter. To save even more, buy in bulk (four to six bottles) and most stores will give you an additional 10 percent discount. Serve chocolate milk for the kids. They deserve a treat, too!