The holidays are fast approaching and not only do you need to decorate your home, buy all your gifts (and wrap them), but you also need to make a delicious and memorable Christmas dinner on a budget. All without going insane.
You can do it, mama. The key is having a plan.
That’s what this (free!) Printable Christmas Menu Planner is for. You’ll be able to make delicious and memorable foods with a minimum of stress that everyone is going to love, and stay on budget doing it.
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Use this Printable Christmas Menu Planner To Plan Christmas Dinner On A Budget
So how do you plan Christmas dinner on a budget? It’s not as hard as you might think. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
1. How many people are you feeding?
This is an important place to start. Are you feeding a family of four, preparing for surprise company just in case, or hosting a group of 20? Knowing this will help you decide what you can reasonably do with both your budget and the time it will take.
2. How much time do you have to prepare and present the food?
If you’re going to be busy with hostess duties or have a lot of young children, you might not want to plan a meal that is very involved. Or if you don’t have all that, but just don’t like being in the kitchen, that’s another good reason to keep things simple.
Maybe you’ll have lots of hands on deck and cooking is your thing, in which case it’s fun to try a more elaborate meal to laugh over as your cook together.
Think about your day and how you want it to look, and choose a meal that fits not only your idea of a good dinner, but one that that fits into your day before dinnertime, too.
3. How much time do you want to spend cleaning up the meal?
If you don’t have a dishwasher or any help in the kitchen, or you simply don’t want to have a lot of clean up, there’s beauty in casseroles, crock pots, and skillets.
Or you can work disposable cooking pans into your budget and just throw away as you serve!
(This one point has become so important to my family that we no longer HAVE a traditional Chrismas meal anymore. We do all finger food; we buy 8 -10 different kind of appetizers, bake them all and have NO clean-up. It’s the best!)
4. How much money do you have to spend on your Christmas feast?
And lastly, think about your budget. Potatoes are going to be a less expensive side dish than something like asparagus topped with olive oil and sprinkled with feta and bacon. Don’t feel bad embracing what you can afford; it’s about time together, mama. You got this!
Once you answer these questions, you’re ready to move on to the actual holiday meal plan. Here are a few simple steps (and don’t forget to grab your printable Christmas menu planner PDF to help!).
Christmas Meal Ideas
Now that you’ve figured out the scope your holiday feast, it’s time to plan the details of your family Christmas dinner. Here are a few steps to help you break it down.
1. Pick your Christmas dinner main dish
You can choose a tried and true family favorite or something that’s unique, but you’re sure they’ll enjoy. Consider if you want meat or pasta or a vegetable meal to be center stage.
One way to simplify Christmas dinner is to go one-dish style with a casserole or skillet meal. Some ideas are super simple lasagna, chicken Alfredo casserole, Korean beef bulgogi, or honey garlic chicken stir fry.
Another option is simple grilled meat: a sirloin, marinated chicken breast, or pork chop all work beautifully here. Shish kabobs are also possible (even vegetarian).
Slow cookers and Instant Pots are other easy ways to make a meal with minimal clean up. Check out this list of Instant Pot Christmas dinner ideas for some inspiration if you don’t have a favorite already in mind.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to take advantage of already made food that you just need to warm up. You can make lasagna up ahead of time and have it in the freezer ready to put into the oven an hour or so before dinnertime. You can buy a smoked turkey and just heat it up on Christmas Day. There’s no shame in thinking ahead and being time savvy as well as budget savvy, friend.
2. Choose your favorite holiday side dish(es)
One easy way to stay on budget is having several side dishes, as the ingredients for those tend to be less expensive than main dish ingredients.
You can do a simple tossed salad, mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, rice, steamed veggies, and bread all for very inexpensive prices to round out your holiday meal plan.
Or, if you wanted something a little fancier, consider a Waldorf salad, potatoes au gratin, or rice pilaf. You can make these from scratch, or (shhh, I won’t tell!) buy a box and whip them up at home.
3. Decide on the best dessert for Christmas
What dessert says Christmas to you and yours? If your money and time budget is tight, don’t overlook the simplicity of hot cocoa and cookies served on a nice tray to Christmas lights.
Brownies fresh out of the oven (scratch made and topped off with this home made cool whip – or your favorite box) are another delicious favorite with many and simple enough to make for both your pocketbook and time.
Pies made ahead or bought at your favorite bakery are another option.
How To Use Your Printable Christmas Meal Planner
Now that you’ve narrowed down what time and money you have and what you want to serve, it’s time to make your plan!
Simply write in your food choices on the Christmas meal planner PDF and create your shopping list. It can also help to make notes of what times to start each item in the oven, so you can keep your day moving smoothly.
And voila! A budget friend Christmas feast without the stress. Merry Christmas and Bon Appetit!