Planning For Exceptional Holidays

The holidays are coming! In the US, that's Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. They're going to be exceptional in more ways than one.

On the plus side, more family and friends will be able to gather for celebrating. On the frustrating side, nearly everything will be more expensive.

Beef has gone up 17.6% since last year, with an expected rise to 20%. Poultry hasn't been nearly that severe, but you'll see those prices up too. The USDA says that smaller turkeys will be harder to find. That's probably due to the backlog of processing, allowing birds to grow bigger.

That's bad news for me since I prefer to cook smaller birds. Not that a big bird would go to waste, but it's harder to keep a bigger bird moist.

If you've been smart, you've kept up with the pace of higher prices with careful, long term stocking. October/November have traditionally been the months when grocery stores do major price drops on common ingredients like seasonings, fats, flour, and sugar, but I think we'll be hard pressed to see them this year.

Most of us will suck it up and buy anyway, so it's important to get the best value for your money.

So what's the best value for your food dollar?

Poultry is still the cheapest route. If you've got a small family. There's nothing wrong with roasting a large chicken. I have empty-nester friends who do just that in lieu of turkey.

Hint: For a really moist chicken, salt bird, and leave uncovered in the fridge for up to 24 hours. The salt draws the moisture out and leaves a nice dry skin for roasting.

Go all out with side dishes, but opt for the ones in season. Brussels sprouts, potatoes, cauliflower, carrots, and spinach are in season.

Make an extra effort with desserts. Pumpkin, apple, key lime pies, cakes, cookies, and puddings.

If you're having company, ask each guest to bring a side dish, dessert, or appetizer.

Go Ethnic: In Italian households, it's common to serve a giant pan of lasagna. In Latin American countries, it's tamales, posole, and barbacoa. In Sweden, it's smorgasbord (which is what we do every New Year's Eve).

I know we like to glue ourselves to the traditional foods we had as kids, but it's okay to expand your horizons. If you can't bring yourself to break tradition for a major holiday, try Christmas or New Year's Eves. You might be surprised at the response.

Now if you must have beef, spend the money on a good rib roast. There are loads of recipes on the internet, but I'll share the one I use with great success on next week's blog.

Pork is harder to cook because hogs today have much less fat than their ancestors. Less fat means less flavor. Pork is excellent in the slow cooker or instant pot though. With these methods you have more control with fats.


  • For the least expensive holiday meat, opt for chicken.
  • Complement the chicken with seasonal vegetables as side dishes.
  • Make from scratch, cookies, pies, and cakes.
  • If you're having company, ask guests to bring a side dish, dessert, or appetizer.
  • Be bold. Try ethnic dishes as the main course.

What kind of foods are you planning to make this holiday season? Have you ever tried making something different for a main feast?

Christmas Gift Previews

I have a sneaking suspicion people are going to want more practical gifts this year. Good bets are gifts they can use at home as we continue our pandemic homebody lifestyle. Think spa equipment, small kitchen appliances, garden tools and seeds, and comfort items for sleeping and relaxing. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

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Angela Brown said…
We've been slowly moving to less traditional foods for the holidays and really enjoying it. I think a homemade lasagna would be a fun cooking experience with my kiddo.

Christmas gifts are going to lean towards college dorm life prep sice kiddo is heading to Texas State next fall.

Times...they are a-changing. :-)
Lynn said…
I found a 12-1/2 lb. Butterball turkey at Target for twelve bucks last week, so I bought it. That's cheaper than what I paid per pound for our turkey last year, so keep an eye out for the birds in unconventional places.

We're actually planning to save having our traditional Thanksgiving dinner until our kid can come home, probably sometime in the middle of December. It will be a welcome-home surprise for her.

I didn't want to make two turkey dinners, so I suggest to my guy that we have a BBQ for Thanksgiving. We're planning to make ribs, potato salad and corn on the cob. It will be a little weird, but I think a nice change, too.
Maria Zannini said…
Angela: OMG! Danielle is going to college already!! I still see her as a little kid. Wow! Dorms are always an investment since they provide literally nothing. I still remember the pictures Greg sent me of his dorm. It reminded me of a clean prison. LOL! All cement blocks and long narrow beds.
Maria Zannini said…
Lynn: BBQ is a great idea. We did that one warm New Year's Day. I'm glad K. is coming home for a visit.

I like to buy two turkeys if they're on sale. I usually make one for Thanksgiving and then surprise Greg with a big turkey dinner sometime in April or May. I bought one that was 15 pounds. Still searching for a smaller one.