Holiday Entertaining on a Budget

Once again it’s that time of year. The Christmas season can be overwhelming, especially when it feels like the number one holiday destination for family and friends is your dining room. The pressure of putting together an enjoyable evening can have a strain not only emotionally but on your pocketbook as well. In the following article, we’ll share some tips with you that will take a load off of your mind, not your bank account.

A little preparation can go a long way in a presentation. The task of arranging a successful evening begins at your local grocery store. We recommend purchasing ingredients for an easy-to-make appetizer, dinner course, and dessert that you can prepare ahead of time and keep in your refrigerator until guests arrive. Here are a couple of easy recipes we have tried with outstanding results:

Appetizer – Shrimp Spread on Crackers

Ingredients Needed:
1 Container Soft Cream Cheese – $3
1 Can Small Shrimp – $4
1 Jar Seafood Sauce – $2
1 Package of Rice Crackers – $2

Combine cream cheese, drained shrimp, and seafood sauce in a large bowl and mix until it has an even consistency. Transfer to a serving bowl, cover with saran wrap, and place in refrigerator.

Dinner – Pork Tenderloin with Mushroom Sauce

Ingredients Needed:
1 Pork Tenderloin Cut – $7
1 Can Mushroom Soup – $1
1 Bag Frozen Green Beans – $3
2 Packages of Scalloped Potatoes- $4

As guests arrive, put the pork tenderloin in an oven-safe pan and cover it with a can of mushroom soup. Place in oven and bake at 400 degrees for approximately 30 minutes, or until juices run clear. Prepare side dishes by following the instructions on the packaging. After the pork has cooked, allow it to rest for 5 minutes out of the oven, then cut it into thick slices, transferring to a serving tray.

Dessert – Chocolate Mint Pudding

Ingredients Needed:
1 Package Chocolate Instant Pudding – $1
1 Can Whipped Cream – $3
1 Dash Mint Extract
1 Pinch of Hot Chocolate Mix

Prepare pudding according to instructions on the packaging, adding a dash of mint extract while mixing. Transfer to wine or martini glasses, and spray whipped cream on top. Sprinkle the top with a hot chocolate mix for appearance. This can be done ahead of time and left in your refrigerator.

For table decoration, stock up on holiday-scented candles at your local dollar store. Eating by candlelight in a pine-scented dining room adds a special touch to your meal, while only costing you $3. If you have access to evergreen trees, take some cuttings and use them as a festive table ornament.

That will take care of the stomachs of your guests, but what about entertainment? We suggest purchasing half a bottle of wine per guest, depending on your company. This should be served with the appetizer, as well as with dinner. A good quality bottle can be purchased for $7, if you are unsure ask the attendant at your liquor shop.

There is no better way to unwind and socialize this time of year than around a fire. If you have access to a gas or wood-burning fireplace, start a fire and seat your guests to relax after dinner with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate. Use the leftover whipped cream from dessert as a topping to add a touch of class to an ordinary cup of homebrew. If you don’t have a fireplace, check your local TV listings. A lot of providers offer a holiday channel of a recorded fireplace accompanied by classic Christmas music.

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