Christmas Dinner on a Budget
All my tips and tricks for creating a beautiful Christmas dinner on a budget that won’t put stress on your finances or holiday mood!
Christmas is a wonderful time of year, but gosh it can cost a lot! And never mind all the gifts, what about the food? Christmas dinner, especially if you are feeding a large crowd of people, can end up costing a fortune. But it doesn’t have to! By keeping a level head and planning in advance, you can have a special day without breaking the bank. In this post, I’m sharing all my tips and tricks for creating a beautiful Christmas dinner on a budget that won’t put stress on your finances or holiday mood.
Christmas dinner doesn’t need to be fancy.
It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that Christmas dinner needs to have all kinds of new recipes we have never tried before, full of expensive ingredients, and a fancier air about it than other family meals we provide. This way of doing Christmas can be fun in its own way, but it is not necessary! If you are feeling the pinch this Christmas, stick to classic recipes that everyone loves. Chances are the ingredients will be affordable or already in your pantry. And by making just a few dishes you already know how to make, you will eliminate expensive last-minute panic purchases.
This may seem simple and obvious, but really, sit down and come up with a plan. What do you want to serve over the holidays?
Set a budget and stick to it.
This is one thing I struggle with constantly around the holidays, and I don’t think I’m alone. It is so easy to get caught up in the moment. We tend to think we need all new everything to make the day special. But the truth is, you do not need that new set of dinnerware you walked by at the mall, or the flatware that matches your new charger plates (you didn’t need the new chargers either!). If you set a budget you are comfortable with and commit to staying within it, you can avoid these spontaneous purchases that can really put you over the top. The same goes for the food itself! If you set a modest budget, be constantly aware of it and don’t make excuses or justify purchases that will put you over the limit. Just make a list and then stick to it! I promise that your Christmas dinner on a budget will be just as special and you won’t have the extra stress of knowing you can’t really afford it.
Part of planning ahead to save money is starting early with your shopping, cooking, and baking! If you do things ahead of time, not only will it save you time and stress, but you can stretch the costs of a big dinner out and help your budget at the same time.
- Cranberry sauce cans, packets of gravy, turkey sales, bread (you can freeze it!), frozen vegetables, boxes of stuffing, jars of mincemeat…all of these things can be purchased well ahead of time and allow you to spread out the holiday costs.
- And, try doing some of your Christmas baking a few weeks in advance and freezing it! Make homemade cookies, breads and buns early and stick them in your freezer. These little costs add up and anything you can do in advance will be a big help.
Take stock of what you already have.
My first instinct when I’m planning a big dinner is to make a list of everything I need and then rush out to the store and buy everything, brand new and all at once. But if I stop and think about it, that’s not a great plan! Chances are that I have a lot of what I need already hanging around in my pantry, fridge, and freezer (for both dinner and holiday baking). It is worth making a list of everything you need and then first going through what you already have, making sure you don’t spend money on doubles and extras. If that means a good pantry or fridge clean while you’re at it, that’s not a bad thing either!
Buy generic brands and inexpensive staples.
These are all ideas that will save you money but won’t compromise your celebration! Sometimes simple really is best.
- Buy generic or house brands (who will notice?).
- Purchase a utility turkey, or even try a smaller cut like a delicious turkey breast, if your gathering is small.
- Make a ham instead of a turkey.
- Add fresh herbs to everything, which will actually improve the flavour of your dishes and elevate the look of them for very little cost!
- Root vegetables are affordable and classically festive! Serve mashed potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, and/or parsnips. Brussels sprouts are also a cheap and easy Christmas dish.
- Make your own gravy from scratch using drippings instead of a package.
- Buy the cheapest bacon for wrapping your turkey or adding to Brussels sprouts (looks don’t matter here).
Watch for sales.
It’s always a good idea to shop sales for groceries, and this is even more true at the holidays! If you start keeping your eyes open early, it is possible to get a lot of what you need for your Christmas dinner without having to pay day-before or day-of prices and stay on budget. For example, whole frozen turkeys can be very affordable if you get them on sale, and they will keep for a very long time in your freezer waiting for the big day. Make a list of everything you need to purchase long before Christmas comes (do it today!), start watching flyers and strolling past the items you need at the grocery store, and treat it like a fun little treasure hunt. You won’t regret it!
Set a budget friendly table.
This principle applies to table decor as well as food! Chances are that over the years you have accumulated enough decorations to be able to create a beautiful tablescape with no new purchases. Our theme is simple is best, remember? Use your current plates, add some festive napkins, create a simple centrepiece like a garland with mason jar candles, or make some simple orange slice napkin rings to make your guests feel welcome and celebratory. That is all you need.
Save money on holiday drinks.
It is very easy to spend a LOT of money on snacks and drinks over the holidays! Two things that come to mind are alcohol and charcuterie boards, holiday staples in so many homes. It is possible to spend SO MUCH on alcohol at Christmas time, especially if you are trying to cater to every single person’s individual drink preferences. Make a cheery, festive, and affordable punch instead! You can make it alcoholic or not, depending on the vibe. Call it your signature drink and avoid the counter full of expensive bottles for real savings this year.
Holiday snacks on a budget.
And instead of a board full of expensive meats and cheeses, serve a cheeseball and crackers or a spinach dip! Your guests will still have something delicious to snack on as they visit. And best of all it will not cost you a small fortune. I’m sure you can think of other ways you could substitute a cheaper option for a typically expensive one if you try!
Share the load!
As hosts, we are sometimes hesitant to ask for help. So, I’m telling you right now: It is ok to ask for help! Asking your guests to bring a side dish potluck style is not rude. Chances are, anyone you are inviting over for Christmas dinner would love to be included in this way! People enjoy contributing. This is a great way to make your guests feel like they are part of the festivities.
Use leftovers wisely.
Christmas leftovers might be the best part of Christmas dinner! If you are intentional about using these wisely for the few days after Christmas, all that food suddenly seems much more affordable. You can make pot pies, turkey or ham sliders, Creamed Turkey on Toast, just for a few ideas! Turkey freezes beautifully too so there is no reason for waste. Here are more Turkey Leftover Ideas, as well as Ham Leftover Ideas.
I hope this list of tips for an affordable Christmas was helpful! If you are looking for a complete, easy to create, and budget-friendly Christmas meal idea, try my Ham Dinner or Turkey Dinner menu! In these posts, I help with the shopping list right down to the order for cooking everything! You can’t miss with either of these tasty holiday meals.
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Merry Christmas everyone!