High/Low is a strategy that is used in a lot of places. It is essentially about mixing the cheap and frugal with a couple of high end items. In fashion, that translates into wearing an expensive jacket with cheap leggings and a black top which are all paired with pricy ankle boots. High low fashion can also mean mixing a thrift store little black dress with real pearls and your best red heels. You get the idea.
The same strategy can be used to save money on your upcoming holiday meal. Traditions aside, it is a great frugal strategy to mix a couple of pricy menu items with less expensive ones to create a magical, yet frugal meal.
In our case, that means serving prime rib, lobster and pasta along with additional cheap sides and shrimp cocktail for a frankly pricy appetizer. For the prime rib, my partner stalks the circulars and store emails to find the best price per pound. This season, the right cut of beef went on sale just a few days after Thanksgiving so we pounced. I carefully repackaged and froze the pricy cut of meal for our Christmas meal. For the lobster and shrimp, I am honestly the nicest person in the world to our local grocery store butchers. I call them by their names, ask after their families, inquire if they are getting ANY time off to enjoy the holidays and throughout the year, we swap recipes and tips. I am genuine about this and it pays off in many ways. First, nobody can save you money like a butcher with their tips and heads up on upcoming specials and second, I honestly like these people. We speak the same, frugal language. So, come the holidays, when lobster tails and shrimp go on sale I get a discrete heads up from my local butchers and buy when they say. I don’t buy fresh lobster because they are very expensive and for me, it is too emotionally painful to kill and prepare. What can I say, I’m both squeamish and a bit of a hypocrite that way. And I’ve bought cooked, frozen shrimp many times and nobody has been able to tell the difference. It is cheaper by far. I also serve my special alfredo pasta which is cheap to make because my dad’s recipe has always used sour cream instead of heavy cream. Other cheap sides include the traditional mashed potatoes and root vegetables which change from year to year. I’ve done carrots, turnips, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, it just depends on what looks freshest and has the best price at the grocery store when I do my holiday shopping. Since all the breads and rolls I serve are lovingly made from scratch, I spend practically no money there either. Deserts are also low cost, the only moderately pricy ingredient is actually the heavy cream I buy which is needed to make our cherished family chocolate mousse. I pick up a big bags of chocolate chips as this item goes on sale so I always have it on hand. Apples for the apple pie are dirt cheap this time of year and making a pie crust, literally for pennies, is my jam. My daughter likes to bring the wine (she gets a great discount on upscale wines at work) so we are set on alcohol. What can I say? We do it up right but we definitely go high/low.
My BFF likes to mix it up by serving a costly crown beef roast mixed with cheap but tasty roasted and glazed carrots and Yorkshire pudding which costs next to nothing to make but tastes amazing because she mastered the recipe years ago. Because I use a ton of butter in my baking this time of year, I buy what I need over a few months, a sale at a time, and freeze it right in the packages it comes in. This way I spread the pain of buying a lot of butter over a reasonable amount of time. I also hit the dollar store for cheap baking items such as sweetened, condensed milk, canned pineapple, coconut flakes, sprinkles, etc. An additional benefit of hitting the dollar store for these items is that the packaging is usually smaller so there is no leftovers (or money) to waste. Thanks to my year-long chicken strategy, I always have plenty of chicken stock in my freezer so I never have to waste money on organic chicken stock, I simply defrost my own. I use it for everything from additional liquid for gravy to basting to making root vegetable glazes. Some chef on the food network recommended keeping a pot of stock simmering on the stove on the days you cook mega-holiday meals and I have found that is not a bad strategy. I simply cool and refreeze what I don’t use. And I generally buy a generously sized bag of cranberries and use them for sauce, in muffins, scones and other baked goods. They are cheap this time of year and add a lovely tang to baked goods. Plus, nothing says the holidays like those ruby red cranberries do.
After our meal, I discretely collect all the lobster and shrimp shells and freeze them for when I want to make seafood stock. Those shells are gold when it comes to adding depth of flavor to seafood stock which I find to be rather expensive to buy off the shelf. I don’t need it very often but am always glad when I have the ingredients to make it myself or a jar already made in my freezer.
We waste nothing. Happy Frugal Holidays!