Elegant & Affordable Holiday Meals

A placesetting with holiday bow around napkins and cutlery
Image by Freepik

It’s possible to achieve an affordable and elegant holiday meal. This might mean shifting the definition of “dinner”, shopping with careful consideration, or letting guests contribute to the menu. Here are some tips to help you create meals with all the holiday glow, while staying within your budget.

Skip the main course

Dinner without a main course may sound strange, but if you start with hearty appetizers, move on to a self-serve soup or salad bar, and follow that with by a selection of small desserts, your guests will be satisfied. Serve mostly affordable options along with a few that cost a bit more, and you’ll have an elegant, unique, and budget-friendly spread that guests will enjoy. Here are some tasty and affordable options for a “side dish” holiday gathering:

Baked Chicken Meatballs
Baked Chicken Meatballs – 3 Guiding Stars
Tandoori Shrimp Skewers
Tandoori Shrimp Skewers – 3 Guiding Stars
Chicken Satay
Chicken Satay – 2 Guiding Stars
Eggplant Parmesan Sandwich
Eggplant Parmesan Sandwich – 1 Guiding Stars

Choose more affordable cuts of meat

If a main course on the menu, choose recipes that impress, despite being made from affordable ingredients. Consider cost-saving cuts that create delicious dishes like sirloin with roasted vegetables or a herb rubbed roast. Likewise, don’t overlook the elegance of a simple piccata with pasta and mushrooms using chicken thighs, medallions cut from a lean pork tenderloin, or without any meat for a vegetarian meal.

Carefully curate a potluck

If the thought of a potluck dinner stirs up an image of mismatched dishes with tastes and textures that don’t quite work together, then reconsider what a crowdsourced meal can be. A perfect potluck is still a thoughtfully a planned menu, but the prep and cooking shared among cooks. If you’re hosting a potluck party, prepare the main dish and an easy appetizer, while answering the “what can I bring” question with suggestions like fresh salad, roasted vegetables, dessert, or whatever works best with the rest of the menu you’re managing.

Plan a menu with similar ingredients

A simple way to save money on a special meal is to plan the menu around similar ingredients. Many holiday dishes require fresh herbs, perishable, or specialty ingredients that you may not use often and cost a lot. Choose recipes that call for the same special ingredients. For example, this White Bean & Pine Nut Dip recipe calls for many of the ingredients also found in pesto sauce and they could work together in a flavorful meal.

Try a brunch!

I’ve written before about how much I love brunch and shared a menu and shopping tips. Inviting friends for brunch brings a delightful spirit into your home that matches the joy of the season. There is something about brunch that encourages slowing down and savoring the moment. With several affordable recipes and many Guiding Stars earning foods to enjoy, like eggs, fruit, avocado, and whole grain breads you’re on your way to a festive brunch that saves you money while cherishing the holiday season with friends and family.