How to Make a Frugal and Festive Christmas Dinner from the Pantry

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Aside from the gifts under the tree, one of the big expenses of the holidays is the food.  Nearly everyone finds that their grocery bill is up this time of year.  You’re hosting parties, putting together a no-holds-barred Christmas morning breakfast, and making a gigantic feast for friends and family.

Stop!  You don’t have to go broke to enjoy the holidays!  It doesn’t matter what the neighbors are putting on their table this year.  Particularly if the money is stretched thin, there are lots of ways to make your dinner frugal, but still festive.

One way to keep your food  bill under control this year is to focus on treats that you can make right from your pantry.  If you’ve been following the stockpile principle, then the food in your pantry was purchased at the lowest prices available. Because of this, you can focus on purchasing only a few specialty items, like a ham or turkey, and enjoy delicious yet thrifty treats for the rest of the holiday season.

Don’t feel obligated to invest in out-of-season delicacies like fresh berries and asparagus in December!  Focus on the produce that is in season, and supplement this with canned and frozen fruits and vegetables. Make the presentation lovely, with fancy toothpicks in the appetizers and your nicest china.

Another option is a tradition of the non-traditional.  My daughters used to get tired of the 4 turkey dinners every Christmas so we began to do something different at our house.  Every year, we picked a different type of food and made our dinner totally different.  We had Greek food, Mexican fiestas, and Italian dinners.  Many times, these types of dinners can be put together for far less money than the traditional turkey, ham, and fixings.

Following are some ideas for homemade goodies that will make your guests feel well-fed and pampered, without emptying your pockets. You’ll discover that many of the ingredients already reside in your pantry, or are standard groceries that will be in your fridge, like eggs and cheese. Links to the recipes are embedded – if the name of the item is underlined, just click the name and it will open up a new window with the recipe!

Appetizers and Party Food

Homemade crackers

Yogurt cheese seasoned with herbs

Spicy peach jam

Pickle tray with a variety of homemade pickles

Homemade yogurt mixed with herbs to make a dip for veggies

Breadsticks with marinara sauce

Pineapple cream cheese dip

Homemade pizza dough (form these into mini-pizzas)

White chocolate cereal mix

Fully loaded deviled eggs

Mexican bean dip (I cook the bean from scratch the day before, and use freeze-dried cilantro instead of fresh)

Chocolate truffles

Creamy potato quiche (adapt this to muffin tins for cute little mini-quiches)

Ham and cheese dip

Tzatiki dip

Candied citrus peel

Garlic roasted pumpkin seeds

Holiday dinner recipes


Serve these alongside your turkey or ham.  Also remember that with the addition of bacon or a topping of breadcrumbs and cheese, nearly any vegetable that you have canned or frozen becomes a little bit fancier! Don’t forget simple yet delicious foods like mashed potatoes and salads.

Carrot apple salad

Pumpkin gnocchi

Pasta with sunflower seed pesto

Honey garlic green beans

Wheat berry pilaf

Honey roasted vegetables

Cranberry apple relish

Whole wheat dinner rolls

Easy white dinner rolls


Pumpkin pie

Apple crisp

Cherry cobbler

Merlot pears over ice cream

Classic Christmas Cake

Honey cookies

Oatmeal bar cookies with homemade jam

Christmas cookies from the pantry

7 Layer Cookies

Also check out this full holiday menu HERE – many of these items can be adapted to use pantry-based ingredients.

The most important ingredient

If you can’t afford the fanciest of dinners this year, don’t despair.  Roast a chicken instead of a turkey, or make some homemade stuffing baked with drumsticks.  Don’t focus so much on the finery of the season – focus on the reason.

The most important element of your holiday dinner is sharing time with the ones you love. Celebrate the peace and beauty of the day.

Picture of Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3), an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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  • Thank you for all of the recipe links!

    Last year we splurged on a fabulous organic turkey from a local farmer. It was truly amazing–so much more flavorful than a storebought bird– BUT my young son wouldn’t touch it, and our guests bailed at the last minute. My elderly mom and I had turkey potpies, turkey this, turkey that, as leftovers and freezer meals for several weeks. (Tasty, but tedious after awhile even for frugal minded folks like us.)

    So this year, we had already decided on simple dishes that we all enjoy. Your lovely list is a nice find! Thanks again. 🙂

  • This is one we found that could easily be made with primarily pantry items–i.e. dried peppers, mushrooms vs fresh. Would be a great one for people lucky enough to have their own eggs and milk too. ttp://

  • My mom was born in 1920. She told me that turkey wasn’t really served at 2 holidays in a row then-it kind of morphed after the 1950’s. They had duck, goose, ham, chicken, or a roasted pork butt; with plenty of soup, cooked vegetables, canned pears, and lovely pies. If her older brothers were fortunate in hunting, my grandmother would make frog legs as a treat. We are a German family on her side, so New Years Day always started with bockwurst and sauerkraut for good luck. It was served with tons of creamy mashed potatoes, spinach with sliced hard boiled eggs in vinegar, and hot rolls. Funny how tv and major advertisors have changed family traditions.

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