lasagnaAh, the holidays. You bleed money for weeks while you shop for gifts. Then Christmas dinner rolls around and you find yourself turning your pockets inside-out and finding two nickles and some lint. Are you dreading paying for that giant, extravagant ham? That budget-busting prime rib? Isn't there a cheaper way to celebrate?

Of course there is! But it might require a total re-think on what Christmas dinner looks like. Traditionally there's a big, pricey hunk'o'meat at the center. There's your biggest expense. But what if you moved the meat from the center to the sides? The budget-friendly Christmas dinner can be satisfying and even decadent if you use meat as a flavoring or garnish rather than the centerpiece -- we promise! Check out these ideas.

Make a special lasagna, like this butternut squash and hazelnut lasagna. Or splurge just a little on good Italian sausage and add it to a more traditional recipe. By the way, you don't have to use "no boil" pasta. You can just use regular pasta and skip the boiling. Bonus -- add fresh basil leaves to the top after you finish baking and ta-da! Christmas colors.

Make homemade pizza! If you've never made your own pizza from scratch, this is a fun dish for everyone in the family to make together. The Internet is filled with pizza crust recipes but, ahem, many grocery stores sell pre-made dough, too (and pizza sauce). Everyone gets to do their own custom toppings and it's an unexpected, festive dinner that brings the whole family together. Tip: pre-bake your crust for about 10 minutes before adding your toppings so you don't end up with a soggy crust. And if you don't have a pizza stone, just use your cookie sheet covered in cornmeal.

Looking for sides? These apple cider green beans with bacon put a fresh holiday spin on a frugal dish. Apple cider gives these green beans a special zing, and bacon is a relatively inexpensive way to add a decadent touch! Check out Sanura William's posts on Frugivore Magazine for other easy-on-the-wallet recipes.

What's for dessert? Christmas cookies, of course! You probably have some favorites, but I found some fun desserts via Jolene Sugarbaker's Trailer Park Christmas. The eggnog cookies look tasty. And if you're in the mood for something frugal and campy, check out Jolene's lime green gelatin surprise. After all, laughs are free, and that's the best thing you can serve for Christmas dinner!

Are you looking to trim the Christmas dinner budget this year? What are your tips?

 

Image via tenaciousme/Flickr