Make this season feel extra special without breaking the bank with these delicious homemade recipes.

Jessica Ball, M.S., RD
December 13, 2020
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Welcome to Thrifty. A weekly column where assistant nutrition editor and registered dietitian, Jessica Ball, keeps it real on how to grocery shop on a budget, make healthy meals for one or two, and make earth-friendly choices without overhauling your entire life.

Believe it or not, the holiday season is here. Many of us are trying to make the holidays extra special this year, but may have a more limited budget in the wake of 2020. Making these holiday foods from scratch can help you create something delicious and special, while helping you save money. Whether it's a decadent Christmas cookie or a homemade veggie side, cooking these foods yourself also allows you to eat healthier and accommodate any dietary restrictions you need to account for. This year has been full of uncertainty, but one thing is for sure: these homemade holiday goodies are sure to wow everyone around your table even if it's just you and the people you live with.

Slow-Cooker Hot Cider with Brandy

6 Holiday Foods You Should Be Making, Not Buying

Whatever your celebration looks like this year, these homemade foods are sure to kick things up a notch.

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1. Cookies

As soon as December rolls around, this is pretty much a given. There are so many kinds of Christmas and holiday cookies that are perfect for any celebration. Baking is a great activity for everyone in your family, kids and adults alike. It can even reduce some stress, so sign us up. Some of my favorites, like Stained Glass Sugar Cookies and Snickerdoodle Thumbprints can even be made in advance to save you time. Does it get much cuter than Mini Gingerbread House Cookies? I say probably not. As a bonus, you can make boxes full of homemade cookies as a safe gift for neighbors, friends and family outside of your household for a fraction of the price of store bought cookies.

2. Latkes

We are in the midst of Hanukkah. Anyone who celebrates this holiday knows that a Hanukkah dinner is made better with homemade latkes. Our Crispy Potato Latkes rely on pantry ingredients like potatoes, onions and shallots as well as ingredients you probably have if you are celebrating, like whole-wheat matzo. This helps you save money while making a delicious, fresh tasting latke everyone will love. To mix things up, try making them in the waffle maker!

3. Appetizers

Making appetizers, even if it's just for your family, may seem like a lot of work, but it doesn't have to. We have a variety of 3-ingredient appetizers that come together quickly and easily, and come in flavors to satisfy any craving. They also are great because they are individually portioned so people can serve themselves without touching each other's food, if you're worried about germs.

Another great appetizer option is to make a charcuterie board. We have lots of ideas for easy, mouth-watering spreads, like a Caprese Candy Cane Board and a Vegan Charcuterie Board for you plant-based peeps. To make it more social-distancing-friendly, you can even serve individual portions in a jar and call it "Jarcuterie".

roasted honeynut squash on plate

4. Veggie Sides

Boost your veggie intake this holiday season with these delicious homemade vegetable side dishes. In some cases, frozen works just as well as fresh to make your dish even more affordable. Simple sides like Hasselback Potatoes with Cheese and Roasted Honeynut Squash taste extravagant, while taking less than 15 minutes of active time. With all of the rich food associated with the holidays, even a Balsamic Berry Vinaigrette Winter Salad is a welcome fresh side to brighten up your meal.

5. Prime Rib

Prime rib is a holiday classic, but it can feel intimidating to make yourself. Lucky for us all, we have the Perfect Prime Rib recipe that calls for only five ingredients and walks you through how to cook a juicy, flavorful and foolproof roast. Though it may take some time, making your holiday main yourself will save you money, help you control the flavor and ingredients and might even be the start of a new holiday tradition. Not a meat eater? We have a recipe for Vegan Cauliflower Steaks with Mushroom Gravy that is a perfect plant-based stand in.

Cranberry Prosecco Cocktail

6. Cocktails

Here at EatingWell, our holiday focus is on eating, drinking and being merry. Make your at-home celebration feel fancy by making festive holiday cocktails. I am a sucker for anything bubbly, so I will definitely be enjoying our Cranberry-Prosecco Cocktail. For something easy that can simmer while you cook, try out Slow-Cooker Hot Cider with Brandy. When you make cocktails at home, you save money compared to going out to the bars or buying premixed versions, and you can accommodate dietary restrictions without sacrificing flavor. Our Spiked Vegan Eggnog is proof.

Even during the season of celebration, it is a good idea to take a break from booze every now and again. Work in some of our delectable mocktails like Cranberry-Orange Punch and Fizzy Rosemary Cider to skip the alcohol without missing out on flavor.

Bottom Line

We all deserve a joyful holiday and end of the year, especially after the year we have had. To make your celebration feel extra special without breaking the bank, try making some of these homemade holiday foods. Whether it's a simple 3-ingredient appetizer or a full on prime rib, you can cook from scratch to meet all of your holiday food and drink needs. Making these foods and drinks yourself will save you money, help you customize flavors and control the nutrition compared to store bought versions or takeout. If you need me from now until January 1st, I'll be in the kitchen.