Golden-brown turkey right out of the oven.


8 Ways to Save Money on Christmas Dinner

Dec 5, 2018

Christmas dinner can be an elaborate (and expensive) production, but really, it’s all about gathering around the table and spending time together over the holidays. There are plenty of ways to save money on the big feast, without scrimping on the experience.

Do a ham instead

Baked ham with a side of decorative Swiss chard.

A cured ham can be more affordable than a turkey, depending on where you live and shop, and ham isn’t as finicky to roast, either — it simply has to heat through, with a sticky glaze brushed on for the last half hour of cooking time, so it doesn’t burn.

Ham is also ideal for large crowds, especially if you don’t have room to sit around the table. Make it a buffet, pile some soft buns or biscuits beside the ham, add a ramekin of grainy mustard, and let people assemble their own sandwiches they can nibble as they chat or play.

Ham and cheese biscuit.

Bonus: it appeals to kids as well as grown-ups, and there’s no fussing with gravy.

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Shop around

Raw turkey with stuffing.

The turkey is often the priciest item on your dinner table, but grocery stores often have great deals over the holidays to lure shoppers in. Often you can get one for free — or a steep discount — if you stock up on other necessities you’ll need anyway, like cereal and toilet paper.

Save on the appetizers

A bowl of spiced popcorn.

Cheese and cured meats can be pricey ways to start dinner — go for a batch of hummus (simple to make, and canned chickpeas cost about a dollar) with fresh pitas cut into wedges, or a big bowl of spiced popcorn to nibble instead of nuts.

Make some soup

Beet and potato soup with a sour cream swirl and topped with chives.

Whether you’re hosting or contributing to a meal, soup is inexpensive and filling — you can use virtually anything you have on hand, or choose whatever’s on sale at the grocery store. Root vegetables and winter squash are particularly affordable and festive at this time of year.

Go heavy on the veggies

Colourful coleslaw.

Luckily, traditional turkey side dishes can be affordable — if you’re hosting, buy a smaller piece of meat and bulk it up with side dishes, and if you’ve offered to bring something, make it potatoes or sweet potatoes, winter squash, cranberry sauce (even homemade, a bag of fresh or frozen berries is under $3 and easy to fancy up), a colourful, cabbage-heavy slaw (which also travels well), or the dinner rolls.

Affordable desserts can also be fancy

Pavlova cookies.

Fruitcake and plum pudding can be expensive to make with all their dried fruit, nuts and booze, but a simple, warm gingerbread with a dollop of whipped cream is wonderfully festive. Or try your hand at panna cotta (cream set with plain gelatin, flavoured however you like) or pavlova, which requires only egg whites and sugar — pick up a lemon, too, and turn the yolks into a tart lemon curd to fill it with. Or make this delicious chai-spiced ginger cookie log, with a package of crisp gingersnaps and spiced whipped cream — everyone goes nuts for it.

Mix up a big batch of punch

Fruit punch with lemon slices and cranberries.

Buying beer, wine and stocking the bar can be the most expensive part of a holiday dinner — mix up a big bowl or pitchers of punch with fruit juices and sparkling ginger ale or soda water, and pick up one bottle of gin or vodka for people to spike their own if they’re so inclined. This takes care of kids and non-drinkers as well, and you won’t be tending bar all night.

Make it potluck

Roasted turkey.

This takes pressure off the host, too — after all, you’ll be the one vacuuming and setting the table. This is often the arrangement at our house: the host roasts the turkey, and everyone else brings a side dish or dessert. Warm anything that needs reheating in the oven (or microwave) as the turkey rests.

Bonus: no one will be running back and forth to the kitchen, and you can all enjoy the meal.

Article Author Julie Van Rosendaal
Julie Van Rosendaal

Read more from Julie here.

Julie Van Rosendaal is the author of six best-selling cookbooks (with a seventh due out this fall), the food editor of Parents Canada magazine and the food and nutrition columnist on the Calgary Eyeopener on CBC Radio One. She is a recipe developer, TV personality, food stylist and writes about food for local, national and international publications. She is perhaps best known as the voice behind her popular food blog, Dinner with Julie, where she documents real life at home in Calgary with her husband and nine-year-old son. Connect on twitter @dinnerwithjulie.


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