You might have all the gifts bought and wrapped, but now the parties and celebrations are in full swing. I don’t know about you, but at this point finding the cash, the creativity and the time to pour into a dish is enough to put me over the edge.

You might have all the gifts bought and wrapped, but now the parties and celebrations are in full swing. I don’t know about you, but at this point finding the cash, the creativity and the time to pour into a dish is enough to put me over the edge.

Not this year! With help from the personal cookbook of one of my favorite frugalistas, I’ve devised a foolproof list of go-to items. The best part is that the majority of ingredients are likely to be in your holiday-stocked cupboards already. Creating swanky, easy and affordable holiday hors d’oeuvres is as simple as reading on.

Blue Cheese Spread: This favorite of mine leaves me feeling like I’m bringing something fancy, but it actually couldn’t be easier. Take a tub of crumbled blue cheese, a handful of chopped dried cranberries, a handful of chopped pecans and combine with a heaping tablespoon of mayonnaise. Serve this delectable spread with your favorite cracker and get ready to field the compliments.

Cream cheese and hot pepper jelly: In a time of financial crunch, you can’t beat a two-ingredient home run. Grab that extra block of cream cheese and cover with a jar of jalapeño jelly. (It’s always good to have these on hand for last minute guests.) This spicy-sweet-creamy combination works with almost any cracker or chip, so dig in.

Baked Brie: Sounds like too much work, right? Wrong. “The three ingredients involved imply lots of kitchen slaving,” says creator Lauren Yanez of Colorado Springs. “But they go together in a snap!” Place a small round of brie on top of several layers of puff pastry. Spread lots of whole-grain mustard all over the brie and then fold the puff pastry over, squeezing at the top for a messy-flower look. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes and serve with crackers.

Spinach Dip: I know this seems like a lot of work, but when you think about it, it’s very simple and frugal. Following directions on a package of Knorr vegetable soup mix, you’ll find you only need a few ingredients from your fridge and a round-shaped bread. This party favorite is sure to please both guests and your pocketbook.

Pepper Bowls: When time is of the essence and you must bring a store-bought dip, consider dressing up the serving dish. Yanez uses hollowed out red and green peppers as bowls over the holidays for a truly festive look. “Just cut the tops off and add your favorite dips inside,” says Yanez. “It’s just that little something special that makes the difference.”


Molly Logan Anderson is a freelance writer who lives in the western suburbs of Chicago with her husband, Mike, three kids and black lab. Join Molly on her family’s journey of living a frugal life and making financial freedom their reality.