Today’s post is written by Agness, of Run Agness Run blog. Agness is a health and fitness freak from Poland, travelling across Asia. She espouses a healthy lifestyle with running, work-outs and fresh organic food. She loves experimenting with organic ingredients in her kitchen and sharing it through her blog, and on Instagram.
Agness lets us in on her tips for making Christmas dinner both easy and affordable:
The festive atmosphere and celebration of the Christmas season sometimes pressure us into going beyond our budgets. This is especially true as we prepare our Christmas dinner. We are tempted to indulge and spend a lot of money on buying premium ingredients, and we end up cooking complicated menus. However, we do not need to spend a lot to enjoy a beautiful Christmas meal. I have discovered ways to make Christmas dinner easy and affordable without sacrificing fun and indulgence.
This year, I have resolved to enjoying Christmas dinner and make it special with these five creative and practical tips:
#1 Find less expensive and healthier alternatives to traditional main dish favourites
Let’s face it – ingredients for traditional Christmas meals can be expensive, and the dishes could take hours to prepare. But with proper planning and the right recipes, I believe that we can create fabulous Christmas meals for a fraction of the cost and preparation time of a traditional dinner menu. Here are some alternative holiday dinner recipes that can do the trick:
- Instead of spending half of the day roasting turkey and preparing sides and stuffing to go with it, I recommend serving an equally festive and tasty Asian-style pork shoulder that could be slow cooked in the oven for only 4 hours. Try adding a sweet-sour pineapple sauce. The pork dish cuts main dish prep time by a few hours, and needs no stuffing and side dishes, just a delicious sauce that you could cook in 2 minutes.
- For a healthier and cheaper lasagna dish, cook vegetarian lasagna using celery root and mushroom. These two ingredients, when combined are bursting with flavor, and the best thing about it is that compared to traditional lasagna, this dish cuts the calories and cost in almost half.
- Instead of using smoked salmon, I experimented with smoked mackerel and eel, which is much cheaper. It tasted really great – especially the eel. Use horseradish to flavour the smoked mackerel, instead of the traditional dill and lemon that we use for smoked salmon.
#2 Avoid stress during the day itself by preparing ahead of time
With only a few weeks left until Christmas, it is best to prepare now so to avoid getting stressed out on Christmas day, so we can actually enjoy the day with our loved ones. Sauces, stocks, and gravies can be prepared well in advance, and frozen. I generally avoid going to the supermarket a week leading up to Christmas because it literally feels like I’m in a war zone. Plus, things are usually out of stock already. I’m getting ready by stocking up on my dry goods and cupboard staples by shopping 2-3 weeks in advance, so that I don’t experience holiday panic.
Since I’m hosting Christmas dinner this year, I have also checked my linens, crockery, and silverware way ahead of time, and made sure that I have everything I need. It’s a good thing that I checked them earlier because I discovered that I need more serving dishes, and I can buy them now before the stores get too crowded.
#3 Ask guests to participate in the festivities
I have invited some friends to join me this year for Christmas dinner. Instead of letting myself get stressed out by attempting to do everything by myself, I’ve asked my guests to bring their own meal contribution. I told them that I will be providing the main dish, the table decorations, some appetizers, drinks and the venue. I am excited to serve healthy and festive Christmas drinks recipes that I’ve been working on. Some people are too shy to assign family members and friends to bring specific things, but not me. I asked everyone who comes to chip in with something to make the dinner more varied and fun. They are all happy to contribute, and I think that we will enjoy a special time of tasting other people’s food and enjoying what each of us brought to the meal.
#4 Serve poached pears in spiced sauce as dessert.
I am not in charge of dessert this year, but this is what I see every Christmas: most people are too full with the main dish and sides to fully appreciate a rich pudding or a decadent cake for dessert. Buying or even making your own Christmas cake or pudding takes a lot of effort, too. An easier, cheaper and lighter dessert alternative is poached pear with spiced sauce. This is easier and faster to make, and less costly than traditional Christmas desserts.
#5 Make edible, homemade gifts.
I love creating homemade gifts for my friends and loved ones. Just the thought of doing something for them using my own hands fills me with happiness. And through the years, I have noticed that they appreciate my presents all the more because they were made with love and affection. Aside from the joy it brings, homemade gifts – especially edible ones, are cheaper than store-bought presents and stay in the memory for longer (especially compared to the standard ‘socks’. I can’t reveal my homemade gifts yet because people I know will most likely read this article, but I’m very excited to see my loved ones’ reactions.
Having a great Christmas shouldn’t take too much work and shouldn’t cost a lot of money. If there’s plenty of love and laughter to go around, then you’re all set for the happiest Christmas!
What are your tip for making Christmas dinner easy and affordable? Leave your thoughts in the comment box below.