Christmas Dinner for the Whole Family for Under $50

Yum! 17

lasagnaThis weekend I was given a challenge: Cook at Christmas dinner that would feed a family of five for under $50. I accepted! And I knew immediately what the key to this mission would be. I had to move MEAT from a starring role to a supporting role in the meal.

Meat tends to be the most expensive ingredient in a dinner. So I decided to use something high-quality and special, but just use less of it. My family likes lamb for Christmas, so I thought, why not make a Christmas lasagna with ground lamb instead of the usual beef? Of course, if your family isn't into lamb you could use Italian sausage (YUM!) or just ground beef. Here's what else I made for our under-$50 meal.


  • Spinach salad with slivered almonds and blackberries
  • Christmas lamb lasagna
  • Gingerbread cake with vanilla ice cream

Grocery bill:

  • 1/2 pound butter $2.64
  • 32 ounces of ricotta, $7.62
  • 1 ball fresh mozzarella $2.44
  • 32 ounces pasta sauce $1.82
  • 1 pound ground lamb $8.08
  • About 1/4 cup blanched and slivered almonds $1.07
  • 1 lemon $0.60
  • 1 bunch of spinach $2.17
  • 1 small cup of blackberries $4.95
  • 1 bunch parsley $1.60
  • 1 quart vanilla ice cream $5.14
  • 1 box lasagna $3.00
  • Corn syrup $2.00
  • Total: $43.13


  • Flour, bulk spices (ginger, cloves, cinnamon), honey, and olive oil from my pantry.
  • Milk and egg from my refrigerator.

So yeah, I saved some money here by having a lot of these ingredients already in my pantry. I also saved by purchasing almost everything at my local food coop. A lot of these ingredients were organic -- but I figure I pay close to conventional grocery prices for those organic foods at the coop. I'll be interested to hear how those prices compare with the same foods at your stores.

For the salad I bought a whole head of spinach instead of bagged spinach. It's a little more work to deal with, but bagged spinach costs almost twice as much! I saved by buying just a tiny bag of almonds from the bulk aisle. That left enough to splurge on the berries, which make the salad extra special. Then I saved even more money by making my own dressing -- or actually, directing my son in making our dressing.

Lemon Honey Salad Dressing

  • Juice from 1 lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1-2 tablespoons honey, by taste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil or other light salad oil

Put all ingredients in clean, empty jam jar. Close lid tightly and shake vigorously. I used only half of this dressing for the salad, so now I have more for another salad later this week.

I made a gingerbread cake based on a recipe from one of my favorite books, Laurie Colwin's More Home Cooking. It's made with an expensive British import, Lyle's Golden Syrup. But you can swap in corn syrup to make it more economical, and I really hope Laurie isn't rolling in her grave at that suggestion. If anything, the cake is sweeter that way. This gingerbread is much softer and delicious than that sheet rock usually used for building gingerbread houses. I love eating it and baking it -- and that's a lot coming from someone who hates holiday baking. Serve with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream and it's the perfect dessert.

gingerbread cake

Gingerbread Cake, adapted from Laurie Colwin's recipe in More Home Cooking


  • 9 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cups corn syrup
  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/ 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch round cake tin.

2. Melt butter with corn syrup.

3. Sift together dry ingredients.

4. Pour syrup and butter onto dry ingredients and mix well.

5. Add beaten egg and milk. Beat well.

6. Pour into cake tin and bake about 55 minutes until middle is just set. Cool cake in tin for 10 minutes before turning out.

How much do you think you'll spend on your family's Christmas dinner this year?


Images via Adriana Velez

baking, christmas, comfort food, drinks, family meals, holidays, italian, recipes


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butte... butterflyfreak

We'll probably keep it simple with a roast chicken and potato soup. That's what we made a couple years ago when we hosted Christmas and it was a rousing success. Our guests brought sides and desserts.

kelti... kelticmom

I am only spending about $60.00 Ham, black eyed peas, homemade macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, homemade yeast rolls and pumpkin pie. Good ol' Southern cooking!

nonmember avatar Danielle

You could do a very fancy dinner for 5 for under $50 using sale prices that has almost no prep work.
Here is an example meal at Publix using all the sales from this week:

6lb preseasoned standing rib roast - $27
2 bags Ore-Ida steam and mash potatoes - $2.71 (Buy One, Get One Free)
1 pkg Publix brand cream cheese - $0.91
1 pkg Parkay margarine (has 4 sticks, only using 1) - $1.20 after Yellow Ad coupon
1 small carton sour cream - $1 or under
1 small jar prepared horseradish - $3 or under
2 bags Bird's Eye steamfresh preseasoned vegetables (I love the garlic Peas with Mushrooms) - $2 for 2 bags (50% off this week)
3 small cans Pillsbury crescent rolls - $3 for all
2 bags of brown and serve rolls - $2 for all
1 bag Publix brand salad kit - $3.99
Marie Callender's Pie from freezer section - $4, using Yellow Ad coupon

Cook rib roast according to package directions, until medium rare.

Stir together carton of sour cream and 1/2 jar of horseradish, add more if you prefer a spicier sauce. Serve with rib roast.
Microwave bags of potatoes, mash with 1 stick of melted butter and 8 oz softened cream cheese. Add milk, if necessary to thin potatoes. Season with salt and pepper.
Microwave steamfresh vegetables.
Bake or reheat rolls, according to directions.
Stir salad kit together.
Thaw pie and serve.

Total - under $49 and an almost no prep work, fancy dinner.

Shelly Johns

I'm only cooking Ham and green beans and my mom is making rice dressing.. I am NOT going all out this year like I usually... I'm just too tired! lol

Shelly Johns

Oh and gluten free/organic cornbread for my 6 yr old.. that's about the ONLY thing he will eat right now.

Saphi... SaphiraJFire

We will have ham with pinnaple and homemade augratin potatoes with greenbeans. It cost less than $20. not to mention I made homemade pecan pie frozen ready to go and cookies and also rumballs. still under $20. 

I think it willl be good. and I guess I shop better haha

jessi... jessicasmom1

I have ham, scalloped poatoes, green beans, dinner rolls and pumpkin pie for family of 5 for 20 bucks 

Brend... BrendaLeeMomOf3

I was going to say this is crazy just picked up a 11 lb ham for under 10$, the potatoes were $1 (normal 3) green beans canned $1 (get two),  throw in rolls (not for our family) $4 and pie $5 you have dinner for $22-24.

Why would you cook pasta Christmas dinner when you can have Ham, much better for you and not all carbs.

count... countrygirlkat

I never spend $50 on one meal for a family of five, yikes!  We ended up eating Christmas meals away from home because of a family emergency but I would be able to do ham, potatoes and green bean casserole and roles for all maybe $20.00 for the five of us. 

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