Holiday Survival Guide to Food: 5 Simple, Low-Cost Dishes

Party planning, bringing a tasty dish, maintaining some semblance of a healthy diet and not breaking your food budget – these are just some of the challenges that the holidays may bring! So below are five simple party dishes that are low-cost, healthy and easy to make! These dishes can be easily modified for school parties using simple presentation changes. Now you don’t need to stress out the next time you’re asked to bring a dish or host!

1. Festive Salad

Serve a large salad with your favorite pre-washed baby greens, adding halved cherry tomatoes, shredded carrots, candied walnuts or toasted hazelnuts, and dried cranberries. Make the candied walnuts yourself to save on cash. Just add a cup of walnuts, a quarter cup of sugar and a tablespoon of butter or healthy butter substitute to a non-stick pan over medium heat. Heat for five minutes, stirring frequently. Stir constantly when the sugar starts melting until the nuts are coated. Transfer immediately to parchment paper and separate quickly before the nuts stick together. Set out some other salad toppers like Canadian bacon (enlist the kids to cut it into small pieces with kitchen scissors), chopped low-sodium turkey breast, beans and fresh figs. Provide a couple different dressing options and let your guests help themselves.

2. Chicken Casserole

Use canned white meat chicken, lots of frozen veggies, low-sodium condensed cream of chicken soup, brown rice or whole-wheat pasta, and some low-sodium chicken broth to keep it moist. Mix in a bowl and cook in a casserole dish. This is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Search online for an easy recipe or try this easy chicken veggie casserole. Looking for more casserole ideas? Check out our crash course in making awesome casseroles.

3. Roasted Veggies and Potato Wedges

Forget the mashed potatoes (or leave it to someone else!). New potatoes come in a variety of beautiful colors and cook quickly. Simply cut in halves or quarters, drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven for 30 minutes at 400 degrees. Add some other veggies like carrots, zucchini and bell peppers with minced garlic to boost color, flavor and nutrition. Top with freshly ground black pepper, dried rosemary (or other herbs you have in stock) and salt for a delicious, easy side dish.

4. Simple Salmon Dishes

If you want to save money, buy frozen salmon. (Purchase smoked salmon at a membership grocery warehouse for the best pricing.) Make a stir-fry using vegetables like broccoli, snow peas and asparagus, and add flavor with ginger, garlic and soy sauce. Or try a smoked salmon platter with whole-wheat crackers, whipped light cream cheese, chives, red onion and capers.

5. Chili

Boost up the beans to save dollars and add fiber! To save even more money, mix cooked ground lean beef with chopped portabella mushrooms to bulk up your chili for less. Cook the finely chopped mushrooms with one teaspoon each of soy sauce and balsamic vinegar before adding them to the cooked meat. Mix well. Don’t worry if you have picky kiddos. The mushrooms won’t be identifiable but will increase the fiber. The mushrooms also bring out an umami (savory) flavor that will make your dish even more delicious! Now take a breath of fresh air because you got this holiday party thing down. You will save time and money, which we all need a little more of around the holiday season. Refer to this list whenever you need a party platter or dish in a flash without breaking the bank!


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