Thanksgiving dinner table

07 Nov

Holiday Dishes to WOW Guests (not the budget)

In the next two months you’ll probably experience at least a little overwhelm with the number of potlucks, family dinners, school and work parties on the schedule. Now, the rest of the year you might only have one extra event a month, if that. So, if you’re adding multiple extra dinners throughout the next two months… that means the grocery bills are definitely going up. Did you budget accordingly? 

Now, last year this Farm Bureau survey says you can have a traditional meal for 10 people at around $50. And, that may be so, but even that bare bones $50 meal can push your budget over the edge. 

So, what do you do? Just say no to the invites? You may want to for your own sanity, but we think you can probably still enjoy the holiday get-togethers without completely breaking your budget.


  1. Find recipes that have low cost but high satisfaction. We list some of our favorites later. Some you can make for less than $3. That means you’re never showing up empty-handed. 
  2. Once you have your list of go-to recipes, you can plan ahead. If you know it’s coming, you can look over these recipes and begin stockpiling the ingredients you need as they go on sale. Always have at least one recipe that you buy extra for. So, when that last-minute party invite pops up, you’re not stuck overspending for a vegetable tray on the way. 
  3. Review time requirements for each recipe and plan which party you’ll make which items. If you know you have 3 Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners to get to in one day, then you better save your make ahead recipes for that day. But, if you know you have several hours free before a party, then you can choose your hot dishes for that day. 


Now, we’re all working off a budget, but if you’re finding yours to be pretty tight between Christmas play costumes, holiday travel expenses and gift buying, then these dishes might help. We chose the following recipes specifically because they’re crowd favorites without the high cost. 


Green Bean Bundles: 

If you can find fresh green beans or your favorite bacon on sale, then this recipe from the Kentucky FCS Extension office could become your next favorite holiday dinner go-to. It’s a great option if you’re supposed to bring an appetizer or finger food.


Corn Muffins: 


Now, if you already have cornmeal, then you might whip these up yourself. If not, we recommend stocking up on a few boxes of Jiffy Mix. These are usually around $.50 a box and only need two more ingredients to make them: 1 egg and ⅓ cup of milk. That means you’ll have 6-8 muffins or 16+ if you use a mini-muffin pan. You can make this dish for less than $1. And they taste great cold or warm! 


Corn Casserole: 

It’s a holiday favorite, so have those fingers ready when the family group text starts about the holiday meals! You’re already stocking up on Jiffy Mix, you probably have butter and sour cream already in the fridge. So, just add some off-brand cans of corn, and you’re spending around $4 for the one dish everyone will be excited to see. Here’s a recipe. 


Chocolate Pie: 


It’s Chocolate Pie, what else do we need to say? Now, you may not get that mile high meringue but that’s OK, the chocolate center is what counts. Plus, if you already have flour, shortening and water, then you can easily make your own crust and save a $1 or more. Most of these ingredients you should already have in your cabinet or fridge, so once you have the crust made, you’re ready to get started. The best thing? Minimal clean up. You need 1 skillet, 1 pie pan and 1 mixing bowl. 


Buckeye Dip: 

10 minutes before the party? No problem! This may cost a little more, but if you can buy everything on sale, then you’re good to go. Thankfully, most of the ingredients have a long shelf life so it will be ready when you need it. Here’s a recipe to follow.  


Banana Bread: 


Save those browning bananas. Don’t throw them away! Instead, make some banana bread. You could even make smaller ones to use as hostess gifts. You can usually buy packs of disposable 4 or 5 mini bread pans for $1 at discount stores. Plus skip the nuts, nuts can be expensive and will only complicate the process. And honestly it tastes great with or without!


Mozzarella Biscuits: 

Yes, mozzarella, not cheddar! These are great, especially if you have kids helping in the kitchen. You can roll these out and cut in fun holiday shapes (trees and snowmen for Christmas, or turkeys and leaves for Thanksgiving) Plus, no need for special flour or yeast to make these fluffy biscuits. Check out the recipe. 


Energy Balls:  

Have a Christmas breakfast, brunch or finger food buffet to cook for? These are simple to make a day ahead, stick in the fridge and they’re ready to go when you are. The coconut and flax seed are optional in this recipe. The honey is probably the most expensive item on this ingredient list, but honey lasts for a long time and it doesn’t take much per batch. So, with one thing of honey and one thing of oats, you can make a few extra batches. This is great for the office too! 


See, there’s no reason to get behind this month just because you have a few parties to attend. Make yummy dishes, stay on budget and start the new year right!

Want more holiday savings tips? Check out these articles, or start your Christmas Savings Account to lower your holiday stress next year.