Saturday, November 19, 2016

Planning a Frugal Holiday Meal

I have been reading various internet articles about how to plan a frugal holiday meal and some of the tips offered are something I would not consider frugal or desirable.  So, I thought I'd share how I plan a frugal yet TASTY homestyle holiday FEAST, one that you can enjoy without having to starve yourself for weeks ahead just to be able to afford it.

A meal plan is VITAL for a holiday meal so that you know what you need to buy, you don't plan too many similar dishes, and you don't forget anything!   I try to utilize foods that are free to me (husband gets a turkey from his employer, we have canned or frozen garden produce, etc.), inexpensive (sales, made from ingredients I already have), and things that I can use in more than one holiday dish, ex. cranberries.  I cook from scratch, so the plan also helps me to plan my time wisely i.e. what can be made ahead.  I found this handy printable at along with even more handy tips!

I also plan the meal based on typical sale prices, portions, and KNOWN recipes.

  • MANY items go on sale for a few weeks before the holiday.  Watch for those sales!  Know what you will typically need and get those things when they are on sale.  A big tip:  some stores mark fresh turkeys down to extremely low prices right after Thanksgiving, so it's a good idea to grab one THEN and freeze it for Christmas dinner!  
  • Unless you want a lot of leftovers, you had better be aware of how many portions you'll need.  Don't buy a 20 lb. turkey to feed a family gathering of six people unless you plan for a lot of turkey leftover meals or plan to freeze the extra.  Do the same with side dishes and desserts.  Trust me, I'm well known for cooking way too much food!  Family WILL get tired of eating the same leftovers for days afterward!  A general rule of thumb is 1 lb. of turkey or ham per person if you want ZERO leftovers, 2 lb. if you plan on leftovers.  I found a chart on for other foods as well, although it looks to me to be one of those "zero leftovers" meals.   
  • Holidays are not a time to try to impress with a recipe you have never tried to make.  Do yourself a favor, save yourself a lot of frustration, and just don't.  
Now, if you are hosting plenty of extended family and know that the meal will be too much for you $$-wise and time-wise, don't hesitate to delegate!  Someone else can bring a veggie tray, or green bean casserole, dinner rolls, or a bottle or two of wine.  

Set your table the night before, unless you have little ones or pets that would get on the table.  Turn the dishes and glasses upside down to avoid getting dust in them; turn right side up before guests arrive.  It's also a good idea to get out all serving dishes and serving spoons/forks so that you're not scrambling to find them at the last minute.  If you will have kitchen help, you can even write down what food each dish will hold on a scrap of paper and put it right in the dish; this helps your helpers to know what will go where so that they can help dish up the food.

We will be taking part in a potluck Thanksgiving meal this year, but if we didn't my plan for the meal this year would have included:
veggie/pickle tray (using inexpensive veggies such as cucumbers, broccoli, grape tomatoes, baby carrots, homemade pickled beets, pickled cucumbers, pickled peppers, black olives.  Veggies can be prepped the day before where needed and quickly arranged the next morning)
turkey (free from husband's employer, cook in an oven bag to save time)
homemade cornbread & sausage stuffing (make cornbread from scratch, cut up veggies, brown the sausage all the day before)
mashed potatoes (crockpot recipe!  Prep potatoes the night before and store in fridge in water)
turkey gravy (easy enough to make while turkey is resting after roasting)
sweet potato casserole (another crockpot recipe, bake sweet potatoes the day before and mash.  $1.09 for 3 lb. sweet potatoes vs. $1.29 for 29 oz. can - Aldi prices)
traditional green bean casserole (not my favorite but some family members expect it, use green beans canned from the garden)
sauteed green beans w/bacon, mushrooms, and red onion (using frozen green beans and red onion from the garden, must be made shortly before the meal but doesn't take long)
potato rolls (make the day before, use bread machine to make the dough, ingredients all on hand)
broccoli cranberry salad (buying fresh broccoli, using part of the package of bacon from the previous sauteed green beans recipe, other things are typically on hand, prep the day before and put together the morning of the meal)
fluffy cranberry fruit salad (cranberries purchased on sale, everything else already on hand, make the salad except for whipped cream and nuts the day before) 
pumpkin pie, apple pie (all made from scratch, make the day before)
pumpkin cake roll (make the day before but don't put together with cream cheese filling until the morning of the meal)
orange cranberry cupcakes (bake and frost the day before, uses more of the seasonal cranberries that I buy on sale)

*The recipes for many of the above are in this blog*

Have a Happy Holiday Feast!

No comments:

Post a Comment