Score a free or discounted turkey as the centerpiece of your budget holiday meal.

Holidays stop for no one, whether you’re on a budget or not. Since Christmas is a time to reflect on what you do have, there’s no reason you can’t serve multiple seasonal side dishes on a budget. Of course, the most budget-friendly way to host Christmas dinner is to ask each person attending to bring a dish or two and you handle just the turkey and dressing or stuffing.  But if you want to show everyone a classic dinner by yourself that doesn’t scrimp on flavor, it is possible to host a Christmas dinner for eight for $50 or less if you follow the tips below.

The turkey or meat is the centerpiece, but also the most expensive component, of your Christmas meal. In the weeks before Christmas, grocery stores heavily discount turkeys to bring people inside, and stores such as Safeway, ShopRite and BJ’s Wholesale Club offer annual promotions where if you spend a certain amount  in a time period or buy specific products, you receive a free turkey. Some car dealerships offer a free turkey for a test drive; check your local news to see what’s going on in your area.

If you can’t score a discounted or free whole turkey, change the meat of the meal. Instead, purchase a turkey breast (using this roasted turkey breast recipe), turkey legs, a whole fryer chicken, chicken pieces or a small spiral ham.

Make your sides largely from vegetables and fruits you purchased fresh and in season in December, such as apples, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cranberries, oranges, potatoes, rutabagas, winter squash, turnips or yams. Keep the dishes simple so they bring out the flavors of each vegetable or fruit. Some suggestions include: baked apples, homemade applesauce, Brussels sprouts sautéed with bacon, carrot soufflé, mashed potatoes, butternut squash, apple and cranberry bake, butternut squash with brown butter and thyme, scalloped turnips and candied yams.

For dessert, make one pie and a large dessert you can cut into squares, such as Vanilla and Chocolate Delight, which combines a pecan shortbread crust with a cream cheese and pudding filling, crowned with whipped topping. If you want to make a pie, save money by making the pie crust yourself, then make a pumpkin (buy your canned pumpkin as early as possible, as it runs out closer to the holidays), apples or sweet potato filling to tailor it to the season.


If your family is okay with having Christmas dinner on paper or plastic plates, go with those, but if you want to serve them on real plates, purchase two inexpensive sets of four white dinner plates from Wal-Mart. Serve homemade iced tea and water with it, and your meal under $50 looks as amazing as a meal that cost twice that much.

Photo Credit: iStockphoto/boblin



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