Save vs. Spend: Holiday Groceries
The holiday season is a time for indulgence! To help you enjoy feasting to the fullest with family, here are grocery shopping solutions that keep budgets in mind, with some foods that save a few dollars and other luxurious ingredients that are well worth the spend.
Save Some Money
You can make multiple side dishes out of winter’s plentiful root vegetables—sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, celeriac (celery root) and more. Whether mashed, roasted or steamed, these budget-friendly vegetables need little more than butter, salt and pepper to satisfy a crowd. Root vegetables’ sweetness makes them an ideal pairing with everything from roasts to fish.
Tip: For a fresh and crunchy salad, simply grate carrots, celeriac, beets and parsnips (or whatever root combination you like) into a bowl, and toss with olive oil, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt and pepper. For something heartier, try our Herbed Turnip Mash with Caramelized Onions.
2. Mandarins and clementines
These smaller, sweeter relatives of the standard oranges are found in abundance at grocery stores around the yuletide season, and they typically go on sale. Buy these fruits by the box, which is more economical than purchasing them loose. These candy-like citrus fruits make refreshing snacks, and they’re also versatile for entertaining: Add them to fruit-and-cheese platters, toss peeled segments into a leafy salad, or serve whole fruits alongside cookies and squares for an easy dessert.
Tip: Get even more out of in-season clementines by juicing them and stirring up our Pomegranate-Clementine Negroni.
3. Pork tenderloin
Pork tenderloin is an affordable choice when you’re feeding a small group. It’s simple to cook, and there are endless ways to prepare it. Stuffing the tenderloin makes this economical meat look just as festive and impressive as any other roast. Try our Cranberry Pork Tenderloin with Port Sauce, or come up with your own combination of stuffing ingredients, such as walnut and apple or quinoa and raisins.
Tip: Searing pork tenderloin on all sides in a cast-iron pan before roasting gives it a mouth-watering golden hue.
4. Romaine lettuce
Crisp and crunchy, romaine lettuce is a hard-working leafy green that’s perfect for entertaining. It can become a big caesar salad mixed with homemade or store-bought dressing. (Bonus: Its leaves are sturdy enough to be tossed with light vinaigrette a few hours before serving without wilting.) Romaine can also be slipped into BLT sandwiches for a simple brunch or used instead of bread or tortillas to wrap leftovers like roast beef, turkey or even meat loaf. Other brunch-worthy fillings: hummus and veggies or smoked salmon and cream cheese.
Tip: You can also cook romaine lettuce: Cut a head in half lengthwise and sauté, cut-side down, in olive oil in a hot skillet, turning once. Sprinkle with salt and pepper or shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.
5. Store-baked bread
A simple loaf of bread baked in-store fills the bill for a variety of holiday functions. Slice and serve with cheese and olives for drop-in guests. For a quick side dish, serve it toasted, rubbed with a garlic clove, drizzled with olive oil and dusted with sea salt. Cubed, it forms the foundation of a sweet bread pudding or a savoury egg strata with cheese. And, of course, leftover bread can be set aside for stuffing or processed into breadcrumbs.
Tip: Fresh bread freezes beautifully. Simply defrost it in the fridge and pop slices in the toaster before serving.
Worth the Spend
1. Turkey, prime rib or salmon
’Tis the season to indulge in mouth-watering prime rib roast, juicy turkey or whole salmon. Not only do impressive roasts take centre stage on the table, but they also continue to give the next day (and beyond) with lots of leftovers. When preparing big showstoppers like these, you’ll want to get the cooking times right. Consult our roasting guide to take out the guesswork.
Tip: A pre-stuffed turkey saves on prep time when you’re cooking multiple elements for a feast. Just be sure to follow the directions carefully to reach the proper internal temperature.
Macadamia nuts, pine nuts, pistachios and cashews are likely among the pricier items by weight on your grocery list, but they are crowd-pleasers. The money-saving trick is to combine richer varieties, like macadamias and pistachios, with less expensive nuts, such as peanuts and sunflower seeds. Or try mixing them with other ingredients, like dried cranberries, pretzels or candy-coated chocolate. Pre-made party mix or our Sweet & Spicy Nuts is great for snacking by the fire or for adding to a cheese platter for extra texture. Nuts can also be tossed into almost any salad to make it even more special.
Tip: To give raw nuts and seeds a crispier texture and enhance their flavour, spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet, and bake at 350°F (180°C) for five to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Or use a skillet, and toast nuts and seeds on your stovetop over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally so they don’t stick and burn.
Whether you opt for a creamy delicacy from Quebec, a luxurious European hard cheese or a soft and spreadable goat cheese, you can’t go wrong stocking up on a variety of exquisite cheeses for the holiday season. Consider serving a cheese course at the end of a meal—it’s a welcome treat for those not partaking in dessert. A cheese platter made up of soft, hard, tangy, mild and strong options is an occasion in itself at cocktail hour. Plus, cold weather makes fondue or raclette a delicious meal to enjoy with friends.
Tip: Leftover bits of cheese can be shredded (and mixed) for gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches or to create a gratin-style topping for a baked casserole. Hard rinds can be added to soup to enrich the flavour.
This cured Italian ham’s rich and salty flavour is worth the expense for a special occasion. Try it wrapped around sliced melon for a traditional Italian-style appetizer or in these Zucchini & Prosciutto Roll-Ups for a savoury option. Add a few slices to your stuffing to give it a delicious boost: Prosciutto, pear and walnuts taste great in pork tenderloin, or stuff a turkey with prosciutto, sourdough bread, fennel and pine nuts.
Tip: There are actually two types of prosciutto: cured and cooked. The cured version has the dark, dry appearance that’s similar to salami (and is most commonly called for in recipes); the cooked one looks much like deli-style ham (and can be used the same way) and is often called prosciutto “cotto” or “cooked prosciutto.”
5. Whipping cream
Ready-made canned whipped cream is economical and quick, but investing in a carton of real whipping cream means you can create a decadent treat to add a special touch to holiday dishes. Whip it to top desserts, hot chocolates or specialty coffees; turn almost any soup—such as our Cream of Mushroom Soup into a creamy delight; or add a velvety texture to your sauces and gravies by whisking in a splash just before serving.
Tip: While beating whipping cream for a dessert topping, add maple syrup, ground ginger or orange zest to make it extra flavourful.