Skip to main content.

Share

The $20 Dinner Challenge

$20 Holiday Dinner Challenge
The holidays are a time for giving, sharing and spending time with your loved ones. Preparing festive dishes for your holiday table is not an easy task. But doing so on a small budget is a greater undertaking.

So is creating a three-course holiday meal for four people on a $20 budget possible? Absolutely! And we share our tips and recipes with you in our Savings Experiment: The $20 Dinner Challenge.


First, create a desired menu by browsing recipes on budget-friendly sites. I am a Francophile and my favorite site for easy French recipes with ingredients that are not hard to find is Chocolate and Zucchini. Some other great sites are All Recipes, Recipezaar and AOL Food. They offer delicious, easy-to-make meals, which could be prepared in kitchens of any size. Next, go through your nearby supermarkets' circulars to see if any of the items on your list are on sale. Do not rule out browsing the isles at your neighborhood's ethnic stores. You may find that certain ingredients will be much cheaper at these shops than at the supermarket. Finally, buy seasonal ingredients, because we all know that when supply goes up, prices go down.


My initial menu included a pumpkin soup, a roast turkey with gratin dauphinois (potato gratin), glazed baby carrots and a traditional apple pie for dessert. Here's the breakdown of the cost:


Turkey: $8.90 (with a $0.89 per lb special at Stop & Shop Supermarket)
Pie crust: $2 (a two for $4 special at Stop & Shop)
Cinnamon powder: $1.19 for a 1.4-oz jar at my local Chinese supermarket
Sour cream: $1.29 for a 16-oz container (special at Walbaum's Supermarket)
Garlic--$0.23 at my local Russian supermarket

Pumpkin--$3.49 for a 5 lb pumpkin at my local Kosher market

Chicken stock--$1.33 (special at Stop & Shop)
Whole milk: $0.89 at my local Russian supermarket
Idaho potatoes: $1.99 for a 5-lb bag at my local Chinese supermarket
Golden Delicious apples: $1.66 for 9 apples at 2.81 lbs (with a $0.59 per lb special at Stop & Shop)

Pack of peeled baby carrots: $2.49 (special at Walbaum's)


TOTAL: $25.46


Even with my cunning savings work, I was still $5.46 over budget. Therefore, I had to tweak the menu to create a palatable three-course meal that still stayed true to holiday flavors.


I decided to go with a hearty leek and potato soup instead of a pumpkin soup since the latter requires a pumpkin and chicken stock, which together, cost $4.82. Fresh pumpkins are harder to find in the month of December, and thus, they're more expensive. The leeks cost $2.17 for 2.2 lbs and I can use the left-over potatoes for the gratin dauphinois. This will result in a savings of $2.65; however, I will still be $2.81 over budget. I moved on to the entrée next.


Even with a discount, the smallest turkey at the supermarket weighs 10 lbs and costs $8.90. It will keep me over budget and might put my three guests into a food coma, so I decided to go with a 4-lb duck, which costs $7.59.

In my Ukrainian family, duck is always the bird of choice for the holidays. It's a smaller and more compact bird, so you won't have to buy more than you can eat. The meat is denser and fattier than that of the turkey and thus, more satisfying. The fat melts and bastes the bird by itself. That's the beauty of aquatic birds.


I was still $1.50 over budget, so I decided to create a mushroom sautee side dish--which perfectly complements the duck and the gratin dauphinois--instead of glazed baby carrots. That brought my total down to $20.68.


At just under a dollar over my $20 budget, I altered my dessert. Instead of the traditional apple pie, I created my favorite French dessert: apple compote. The hot compote--with a dollop of ice cream--makes a light and delectable finish to a robust meal. Here are my final calculations:


Fresh whole duck without the head: $7.59 for 4.22 lbs at my local Chinese supermarket
Sour cream: $1.29 for a 16-oz container (special at Walbaum's)
Garlic--$0.23 at my local Russian supermarket

Whole milk: $0.89 at my local Russian supermarket
Idaho potatoes: $1.99 for a 5-lb bag at my local Chinese supermarket

Golden Delicious apples: $1.66 for 9 apples at 2.81 lbs (with a $0.59 per lb special at Stop & Shop)
White mushrooms: $1.19 for an 8-oz package at my local Chinese supermarket
Large Spanish onion: $0.49 each at my local Chinese supermarket
Leeks: $2.17 for 2.2 lbs at my local Chinese supermarket
Turkey Hill Vanilla Bean ice cream--$1.99 (special at Stop & Shop)


TOTAL: $19.49


I came in $0.51 under budget and made a delicious, fulfilling holiday meal for four.


Comments - 0

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Thank you!
Watch your inbox for your first newsletter.

Follow Savings Experiment

Like Us on Facebook
Follow Us on Twitter