Between the turkey, ham, and holiday roast, the price of hosting a holiday meal can be daunting. But with a few minor adjustments, you can have an impressive but affordable feast on the table before all the relatives arrive. Esmee Williams of Allrecipes.com says that by getting creative (and applying some home chef secrets), you won't have to sacrifice your budget to entertain. Here are eight ways to save this holiday season:
- Switch to less expensive ingredients. Instead of serving a prime rib, Williams says many hosts are switching instead to cheaper cuts of meat such as a rib roast, chuck roast, or rump roast. "The secret is to serve the less expensive cuts of meat with a lot of condiments or garnishes. That's how you can really make it special," she says. By the time people add a gravy or horseradish sauce, they won't miss the expensive meat, she adds.
Ham, which tends to be less expensive than prime rib or seafood, is another option, she says, and it carries the added bonus of keeping well, so it can be used again for another meal later in the week. While buying a honey-baked ham carries a high price tag, this honey-glazed version that cooks can make at home tastes just as good - and it's half the price.
- Serve the pricey ingredients as sides or as part of bigger dishes. If you're still hoping to serve that salmon or lobster, consider making a pasta, soup, or dip out of it instead of featuring it on its own platter. Another option: Set the delicacy out as an appetizer. That way, you'll use just a fraction of the amount but still get all the flavor and elegance, says Williams.
[For more tips on saving on food, see 6 Ways to Eat Better for Less]
- Host a big brunch instead of a big dinner. The cost of hosting a dinner can easily double or triple because of the alcohol involved. By focusing on brunch instead, you can not only bypass the wine, but you can also serve egg-based dishes, such as a strata or omelet, which are much cheaper that meat-centered courses. While the price of eggs has gone up this year, they still clock in at a relatively affordable 25 cents per egg.
- Keep it casual. To take some of the focus off of the food, Williams recommends making a huge slow-cooker pot of chili. Since everyone's trying to cut back this year, guests aren't going to mind, she says.
- Make extra sides. "When there are more sides to choose from, people take less of the main item," says Williams. But even with sides, there's no need to go overboard—making too many dishes can lead to waste.
- Make a list and stick to it. During the holidays, retailers sprinkle all sorts of alluring items around the aisles, but if you can avoid temptation and stick to your list, then you'll have a much better chance of sticking to your budget. Williams says one common mistake people make is to buy too many baking items, from sugar and flour to parchment paper, because it tends to go on sale this time of year.
- Turn dinner into breakfast. One of Williams' favorite strategies is turning one night's dinner, whether it's roast chicken, turkey, or roast beef, into a pot pie. That way, you can use any leftover meat, vegetables, and gravy. All you need is a store-bought crust. "The flavors are already developed and you can use every last bit of what you have," she says. Homemade soup can also serve as a great next-day meal, as long as you have some stock handy.
- Spruce up drinks. Instead of Champagne, substitute the much more affordable Spanish sparkling wine Cava. While perusing the red wine section, consider buying a cheaper bottle, but then simmering with raisins, almonds and spices to turn it into a delicious warming drink, suggests Williams. Added bonus: It will make your home smell so inviting that your guests may not want to leave.