I've been chatting with several people, like myself, that are on a tight budget for Christmas this year. I was looking over a couple of the inserts in our Sunday paper from local grocery stores with the expensive "holiday food" available. I truly do understand wanting to buy special food items for the holidays, but when you think about cutting corners, it's a good place to start. Presentation of your food can make it special, even if it's not the most expensive.
1. Boneless Beef Tenderloin: this can be $12.99 a pound or more. Why not substitute a pork loin which can be as low at $2.00 a pound. It can be served with the same sides, and spices or rubs, and roasted in the same way.
2. Seafood: Jumbo scallops or shrimp are easily $10.00 a pound. For half the price you can buy the medium size, and use them in the same way. The taste is the same, and the only difference would be in the length of time you cook them.
3. Spiral or Honey type hams: These type of hams can run $4.00 a pound and up. Watch sales for a "butt" cut of ham. They are very lean, and meaty, but sometimes they can be as low as .99 cents a pound. Glaze it yourself if you wish, or roast it plain, but I've used this cut of ham for years and it's delicious.
4. Wings: Buffalo, Asian, BBQ etc. are around $4.99 a pound. Make them yourself and a fraction of the cost. I'll share some recipes this week or next week.
5. Pre-made Cheese balls: Run $5.00 a ball and up. Cheese balls are SO easy to make. We have a lot of dips and spread recipes on OFL that are inexpensive and just as tasty. Anything that is premade is more costly, so consider making your own.
6. Breads: All types of quick breads, muffins and cupcakes are available in the stores, but for a fraction of the cost you can make your own. Below is the recipe I'm using to make breads for my husband to take to work, and as gifts for friends and teachers.
1 box cake mix *see below
1 small box instant vanilla pudding
1 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup poppy seeds
Optional: 1 tsp. juice or extract *see below
Beat together all the ingredients in a large bowl on slow to start, then on medium speed for 2-3 minutes. Pour into 2 regular size bread pans that have been sprayed with pan spray, or you can coat in a very light coating of margarine or butter. Bake for 50 minutes in a 350 degree F. oven .
Notes: I am using several cakes flavors this Christmas. Banana, pineapple, orange, and lemon cake mixes. You can add a tsp. of lemon, orange or pineapple juice if you wish or a tsp. of an extract like vanilla for extra flavor.
Presentation: I use Christmas themed trays, and cut the bread ahead of time. (I don't include the ends of the bread because the kids and I eat them to taste test.). I place a row of one flavor, then a row of another, etc. on the tray. When it's filled (don't squash the pieces together) I cover with foil or plastic wrap. I also send a knife and butter with the tray.
As gifts: To give as a gift, I wrap the bread in colored plastic wrap, and tie a bow with a name tag around the bread. Another nice presentation is to place the wrapped bread in a gift bag, then add a box of holiday tea to the bag as well.
I wrote an article for OFL last month sharing ideas for making your own party platters.
Click here for the article: Do-it-Yourself Holiday Entertaining