Two fantastic menus for a budget-friendly Christmas feast

Whether you're planning a formal affair or a laid-back braai, here are easy recipes to create a memorable meal without spending a fortune

15 December 2020 - 08:30
Who would believe a fantastic festive spread like this could be budget-friendly?
Who would believe a fantastic festive spread like this could be budget-friendly?
Image: Sunday Times Food archives


We're taken our inspiration from France and Italy for this classic sit down Christmas meal that offers a little panache on a budget.


Starter: Festive Caprese salad "wreath".

Mains: French-style stuffed roast chicken with gravy and/or sausages roasted with wine and grapes.

Sides: Crispy paper-thin roasted potatoes with herbs and roasted Brussel sprouts, baby onion and corn salad.

Dessert: Sweet berry pancake stack.


Make a little of an expensive ingredient go a long way

While a classic Caprese salad is heavy on fresh mozzarella — which can be pricey — this thrifty "wreath" version makes a little cheese go a long way by adding affordable greens to the mix along with the traditional basil and tomatoes.

The same can be said of the dessert —it's got all the tantalising flavours of a berry cheesecake, but uses half as much cream cheese.

Elevate everyday fare

The centrepiece of a festive feast tends to be a giant turkey or a pricey cut of roasted meat, but everyday proteins can be worthy of being the star of your celebration.

We've "dressed up" an affordable roast chicken by stuffing it French-style (just under the skin of the breast) with a mix of spinach and feta. This keeps the bird deliciously succulent and tender.

The humble sausage, meanwhile has been give the gourmet treatment by being roasted with sparkling wine and grapes. Buy the best quality sausages you can afford — be they lamb, beef or pork — or use plant-based ones to turn this into a vegetarian main.

Hero seasonal produce

Fruits and vegetables tend to be cheaper when they're in season, so make the most of them, as we've done by including grapes in the main course and berries in the dessert.

Let food double as table decor

Featuring all the colours of Christmas, our festive Caprese salad "wreath" looks almost too good to eat. This first course is so pretty it could double as the centrepiece of your festive table, which will save you shelling out for fresh flowers. 

Take a culinary cue from Mexico for a colourful festive feast.
Take a culinary cue from Mexico for a colourful festive feast.
Image: Sunday Times Food archives


Mexican food is all about bold flavours, vibrant colours and communal platters that offer great value for money. With a main course cooked over the coals, this menu takes the feast outside making it perfect for a celebration in sunny SA.


Starter: Mexican-style prawn cocktail platter with Bloody Mary sauce.

Main: Mixed fajita party platter with bean salsa and guacamole.

Sides: Baby marrow and corn salad with granadilla vinaigrette and fennel and apple coleslaw.

Dessert: Mexican tres leche cake.


Impress with less

A prawn platter may seem like an expensive option, but allowing one king prawn per person creates a sense of luxury. You could also replace them with smaller peeled prawns, which are a cheaper choice. The dish will be just as good as the Bloody Mary sauce is the star of this starter.

In the same way, the mixed fajita platter is a pocket-friendly way to treat your guests to pricey rump steak. The beef is served as a trio of proteins along with more affordable pork steaks and chicken thighs, so you will need less than if you were serving it solo.

Stretch out pricey proteins

Proteins tend to be the most expensive part of a meal, so make them go further by padding the dish with other ingredients.

Our mixed fajita platter is a great example. Thinly slicing the pork, rump and chicken means a little goes a long way, especially when it is tumbled into a tortilla together with roasted peppers, bean salsa and guacamole.

Pick dishes for double duty

Save the cost of having to prepare a separate dish for vegetarians by being smart with your selection of sides. Beyond being a great complement to the meaty fajitas, our baby marrow and corn salad with granadilla vinaigrette makes a delicious filling for tortillas.

Additional reporting by Toni Jaye Singer.