Tasty holiday meals on a budget
by Cecelia Hostillo, Columnist
Dec 05, 2012 | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The holiday season can bring financial stress that burdens your spirit. From purchasing gifts to traveling to planning an elaborate holiday meal, extra expenses make it hard on families this time of the year. It is also an investment of a great deal of time. Many families skip holiday traditions to avoid overspending. Skipping the big Christmas meal may not be the answer to pinching pennies; choosing to eat a nutritious meal can help you avoid the extra spending and extra calories. Here are ten tips to help you plan a holiday meal that is nutritious, economical, and can save time.

1.Scale back. When it comes to holiday meals, many families have a tradition of having much more food than is needed – more than they can even enjoy. This year, think about: less total food, smaller portions of expensive menu items, and a smaller number of foods served. The guidelines of MyPlate suggest that half your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables, which are more economical to serve than specialty meats.

2.Serve healthy foods. They give you more value for the dollar. For example, pumpkin or sweet potato pie is a better buy than French Silk or Pecan, because they offer more nutritional benefit (even if the cost happens to be similar). Likewise, choose a healthy green salad or fruit salad instead of gelatin-marshmallow fluff. Since fresh fruits and vegetables can be costly, consider canned or frozen fruits. They have a longer shelf life, so you can stock up when they are on sale.

3.Make it yourself. This applies to just about anything: mashed potatoes, gravy, pies, bread cubes and seasonings for stuffing, or cranberry sauce. In almost every case, it will cost more if you buy the frozen convenience food or package mix.

4.Beverages: serve water to drink along with other beverages. People will drink less of the other beverage if they can use water to quench their thirst. Consider juice (apple juice can be inexpensive) instead of wine or other alcohol.

5.Get your money’s worth out of leftovers. Handle them safely (refrigerate or freeze promptly) so they will be used for meals in the days ahead. Don’t throw away a turkey carcass or ham bone; cook it for soup some other time.

6.Skip the fancy paper plates, napkins, cups and decorations. That money spent will end up in the trash. Instead, make decorations, and consider making or buying cloth napkins; they cost more in the beginning, but they pay for themselves quickly if they keep you from needing to buy special napkins for each holiday. Using “real” dinnerware, flatware, and glassware may require more time for clean-up, but they are environmentally friendly and budget-friendly because you do not have to buy them.

7.Establish a budget. Making a plan for your holiday meal can save money and time. Establishing a budget is vital since there are extra expenses this time of the year. Include coupons, food stamps and WIC vouchers as a part of your budget. Don’t buy “extras” with the money that you save, unless they will be used for your holiday meal.

8.Make a list and check it twice. Preparing a list for just the items that you need for your holiday meal can also help you avoid spending extra money. After you have created a list, check out your local food sources for items such as meat, eggs, cheese, baked goods and produce from Kentucky producers. If you can’t find the items that you need at your local food source, then go to your local grocery store.

9.Check your cabinets and refrigerators first. Adding a few things in your cart at the store can cost you many extra dollars at the cash register. Don’t forget to look in your cabinets and refrigerators to see what you already have. Little expenses like salt and pepper, and other small condiments add up quickly. Look for the spices and herbs you will need at discount stores.

10.Use your small appliances. By using the microwave, baking bags, electric skillet and grills, steamers, and slow cookers we have expanded our ability to quickly prepare healthy meals. These options also allow more family members to help with food preparation, too.

It is important that we remember the most important thing about the family holiday meal is being with family and friends. It is not so much about what we eat as it is about who we eat with. Holiday meals can be healthy, economical, and time friendly and still be very successful.

For more information contact Cecelia Hostilo at the Trigg County Extension Office by calling 522-3269. Information for this article was obtained from the Cooperative Extension Services of the University of Kentucky, University of Illinois, Utah State University, Mississippi State University, and the Iowa State University.

Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.


Canola oil cooking spray

4 Granny Smith apples, cored and cut into thin slices or bite-size pieces

1/2 cup raisins

3 tablespoons apple juice

1⁄4 cup whole-wheat flour

1⁄4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1⁄4 cup brown sugar

3⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3⁄4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 tablespoon cold butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 375 ̊F. Coat an 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray. Combine apples, raisins and apple juice in bowl; toss well. Transfer apple mixture to baking dish. In another bowl, combine flour, rolled oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. With pastry blender or knife and fork, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over surface of apples. Lightly coat top with cooking spray. Cover and bake 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 20 minutes more or until apples are tender. Remove from oven and let stand on wire rack at least 20 minutes. Cut into squares and serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 6 servings

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: 170 calories; 2.5 g total fat; 1 g saturated fat; 10 mg sodium; 39 g carbohydrate4 g dietary fiber; 2 g protein

Apple Pie Turkey Salad

2 1⁄4 cups cubed cooked turkey

2 cups diced celery

2 cups Granny Smith apples, unpeeled, cored and diced

1⁄4 cup raisins

2 tablespoons reduced-calorie mayonnaise

2 tablespoons plain or vanilla low-fat yogurt

1⁄4 teaspoon nutmeg

1⁄4 teaspoon cinnamon

Salt and pepper

In a large bowl, combine turkey, celery, apples and raisins. In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, yogurt, nutmeg and cinnamon; fold into turkey mixture. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Refrigerate or serve immediately on crisp lettuce leaves and garnish with grated Cheddar cheese, if desired.

Yield: 6 servings

Nutrient Facts Per Serving: 169 calories; 4 g total fat; 38 mg cholesterol; 128 mg sodium; 17 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 17 g protein

Light Pumpkin Pie

1 cup ginger snap cookies (about 16 cookies)

1⁄2 cup egg whites (about 4)

1-16 oz can of pumpkin (2 cups)

1⁄2 cup sugar

2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or 11⁄4 tsp ground cinnamon, 1⁄2 tsp ground ginger, 1⁄4 tsp cloves)

1-12 oz can evaporated skim milk

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grind the cookies in a food processor. Lightly spray a 9” glass pie pan with vegetable cooking spray. Pat the cookie crumbs evenly into the bottom of the pan. Mix the rest of the ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Pour into the crust and bake until knife inserted in center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Allow to cool and slice into 8 wedges. Optional: Serve each wedge with fat-free whipped cream. Store in the refrigerator.

Yield: 8 servings

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: 165 calories; 1.5 g fat; .5 g saturated fat; 1.5 mg cholesterol; 170 mg sodium; 32 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 6 g protein
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