Anyone else love planning holiday meals? I get so excited coming up with special foods that we might not normally splurge on. Last year I shared our 2016 menu and how we were keeping it in our budget and it was one of my most popular posts - ever! I'm back to do the same thing this year with a few more details :D
I summed up my plan perfectly last year so I'm going to take the easy route and copy and paste from there:
For holidays, though? Bring on the food! I love making a huge spread of all sorts of foods. But I also know we have a food budget to work with and if we go too crazy we could be paying for it (literally!) for months to come. We give ourselves a slightly larger food budget during December but it's still within our income - nothing gets put on credit cards. I also do my best to stock up on lots of staples in October and November so we can eat what we have on hand instead of needing to buy ingredients every week for meals. By eating out of our pantry and freezer I can use the grocery budget in December to buy the food needed for those fun meals and all the Christmas baking I love to do. I also use the weekly budget in December for keeping stocked on perishable items like milk, eggs, cheese, and fresh produce.
I've already got our whole month planned out for food (although we are already over halfway through!) but I've been trying to balance buying new and eating what we have. Having an Aldi in town has greatly helped my ability to stock up on staples for a low price. You can see our first Aldi trip for Thanksgiving week here and our second Aldi trip for Christmas here.
On to the menus!
Christmas Eve App Buffet
This has become a yearly tradition and it's so much fun. Last year my parents and brother were in town for Christmas but this year it's only the seven of us so we are downsizing our menu. We still want a decent variety but we also want to make sure what we are making will actually get eaten by the kids!
I'm bummed that Sam's no longer carries the off brand version of these so we have to spend a bit more per ounce to get the Hillshire Farms version. It's less over all though (our store charges $6.98 for 48oz) and we will only use half the package for the meal and save the rest for another time. We already have BBQ sauce on hand.
The 48 count of cheese sticks at Sam's Club is $7.98. This works out to a little less than $0.16 per stick. I cut the sticks in half for the recipe and use 14 sticks (allowing for 4 mozzarella sticks per person). The only item I don't have on hand is panko bread crumbs. I found those for $1.56 at Walmart but we only need half the box. I'm using Pioneer Woman's recipe from her book, Food from My Frontier.
We already have sausage and cream cheese on hand but we paid $0.78 for the sausage roll and 0.99 for the cream cheese. The large pack of mushrooms at Sam's Club is $3.98 and we will use about 2/3 of it for this appetizer (the rest will be for other meals).
I picked up ground beef for $1.88/lb and used three pounds to make this version of meatballs the other week. Only about one pound of the meatballs will be used for this though since there are so many other items to eat. This will allow for 2-3 meatballs per person. I had all the ingredients for the sauce in my pantry and fridge already.
Can't forget a healthy item! Carrot and celery sticks, broccoli, and pepper strips along with ranch dressing. I've got all the veggies on my list for Friday and we will use what's left from the tray for future meals.
Christmas Morning Breakfast Buffet
Yup, another buffet! We really enjoy the snacking aspect of a buffet, coming and going as we choose. I try to pick items that I can make ahead and just pop in the oven in the morning so I'm not stuck in the kitchen while everyone else is unwrapping.
One loaf of bread from Aldi is $0.85 and a brick of cream cheese is $0.99. We already had the cream cheese as well as the eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla.
Yogurt & Granola
I picked up a tub of yogurt from Sam's for $1.98 and made this homemade granola using items I already had on hand. Do you see why I love keeping my pantry stocked with basics! So many options for homemade foods.
One small pack of tortillas from Aldi ($1.29) plus two sausage patties (from the freezer), shredded cheese, and eight eggs ($0.48/doz).
I've never made the same thing for Christmas dinner twice since we've been married. Granted a few of those years I didn't cook because we went to someone else's house, but I digress. Now that we've decided to stay home every year I get to have fun creating a menu that changes each year! Maybe at some point we will find a meal that we want to eat each year but right now we enjoy switching it up. In past years we've done Drip Beef Sandwiches, Homemade Chinese buffet, and lamb chops (when there was only one kid to feed!). Last year we did a steakhouse feast at home.
This year we are doing something similar but bring the summer to the winter with a BBQ!
Sam's charges $2.89/lb for brisket but they are HUGE. This recipe is only for 3lbs so while we paid $36.39 for the brisket it is 12.68lbs. We will stick the rest in the freezer for future meals. We did need to buy liquid smoke because it's not a normal ingredient we keep on hand but we had Google Express credit for Walmart so we got it for free from there.
I picked up a 10lb bag of potatoes at Aldi for $3.39 and we will use six, or about 2lbs worth. We already have cheddar cheese and sour cream at home.
Pasta was on sale a few weeks ago for B2G3 free and I grabbed a tri-color rotini to use for this. We have the cheese sticks that we bought for making mozzarella sticks, olives and pepperoni from Friday's pizza night, and broccoli from the veggie tray. The only thing I needed to pick up that we didn't already have was Italian dressing which I got for free using Google Express credit we earned.
Nothing overly fancy - lettuce, veggies from the veggie tray, cheese, and croutons with dressing. It's okay for things to be simple!
I almost made this for Thanksgiving so I actually have all the ingredients already! Well, I take that back, I don't have oreos for the crust but we thought a brownie crust would be even more amazing.
It's hard to come up with an accurate total for our three holiday meals but I'm guessing out of pocket it's less than $40. Is it more than we would ever pay for three meals? Sure! But these are special meals and a lot of the ingredients that we bought will get used again and we will have plenty of leftovers for lunches during the week.