Did the holiday season sneak up on you? Not to worry. These simple, unfussy recipes are affordable, easy and surprisingly decadent so you can pull together a meal worth celebrating.

Jessica Ball, M.S., R.D.
December 20, 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. 

Usually, I am known to go big on the holiday foods and celebrations. Roast two turkeys and make three pies? Try six different cookie recipes for a cookie swap? I’m on it… but this year, I really don’t have it in me. Not to mention, I live alone and with holiday celebrations being smaller, my fridge (and my stomach) can only hold so much. I knew this would be the year where I would have to embrace scaling back.

The holidays snuck up on a lot of us this year, myself included. Not to worry, there are still easy ways to make this season feel special with festive foods. Plus, you can make these without breaking the bank or exhausting yourself because, at the end of 2020, who needs it? We have an array of three-ingredient apps, cocktails and desserts and five-ingredient mains (I had to go up a few ingredients here, but it’s worth it) perfect for however you are celebrating with this year. Try these easy recipes to save your last-minute holiday menu.  

Super Simple Last-Minute Holiday Menu 

So, it’s crunch time. Don’t stress, we have cocktails, appetizers, mains and desserts that showcase just three ingredients so you can make an impressive and easy holiday meal. 

Cocktail 

Get the party (however big or small) started with these impressive and easy cocktail recipes. Fancy cocktails don’t have to have a really long list of ingredients. Whether you are in the mood for something bubbly like the Cranberry Mule or something creamy like the Kahlua-Caramel Spiked Eggnog, there is a festive 3-ingredient drink for every palate. If you are an apple cider lover, you are especially lucky. We have an array of 3-ingredient drinks showcasing apple cider, including our Apple Pie Mimosa and our Crisp Apple-Ginger Cocktail

Appetizers 

Nothing pairs better with your cocktail than a tasty snack. If you ask me, I think it’s totally fine to recycle appetizers you would have made for Friendsgiving, like our delicious Everything Bagel Cheese Ball and Pesto Stuffed Mushrooms. We also have several easy 3-ingredient appetizers with mouth watering flavor pairings like goat cheese and sundried tomato and blue cheese and fig. They're nice for gatherings because they are bite-sized and individually portioned, so there's less sharing germs as you share food. You’ll be the host or hostess with the most(est) without all the effort.

Main 

When in doubt, turn to chicken for an easy, delicious dish with minimal ingredients—in this case, 5 or fewer. Our recipes like Cranberry-Balsamic Chicken Thighs or our Creamy Chicken & Mushrooms scale it back while still making the most of holiday flavors. As a bonus, both are ready in 30 minutes or less. Or if you have a little extra time and are feeling up to the challenge, you could do a whole Spatchcock Turkey with Sage & Thyme. One of the things I love most about Christmas dinner is that there are no rules, at least in my family. For something fancy and unique, try our Prosciutto-Wrapped Scallops with Spinach. This recipe is great for a special meal if you need a break from poultry, and has only five ingredients. 

Dessert

Last but absolutely not least, no holiday meal is complete without a dessert. Contrary to popular belief, there are many ways to keep this course super simple. We have several 3-ingredient desserts like our Brûléed Blood Oranges with Yogurt & Cardamom and Dark Chocolate Truffles. I, for one, will be washing down my dinner with a Red Wine Ice Cream Float… and probably some cheese because that counts as dessert in my book too. 

Bottom Line

So, you procrastinated. Trust me, I get it. To be honest, I have found myself in the same boat this year. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a nice holiday meal that is also affordable and easy to make. These three-ingredient recipes and five-ingredient mains make grocery shopping simple and cooking a breeze so you can focus on celebrating instead of stressing in the kitchen. However your holidays look this year, we all deserve a little celebration to see off 2020.