5 Holiday Meals That'll Break the Bank

By: Alison Cooper

Prime rib is delicious, but it definitely isn't cheap. See some international holiday foods pictures.
David Prince/FoodPix/Getty Images

Hosting a holiday meal is never easy -- between the cooking, cleaning, decorating and family drama, it's a wonder people actually volunteer for the job. But beyond the physical and mental stress that holiday dinners dish out, your bank account can also take a beating. While it's true that most guests do bring a dish or contribute to the meal in some way, the host is usually on the hook for a pretty hefty sum.

That said, some festive feasts are easier on your wallet than others. Those who are a bit short on cash might want to offer their services for a Fourth of July barbecue, for example, instead of Thanksgiving dinner. But some holiday meals will put you in the poorhouse every time, no matter how you slice it. And with global food prices up 68 percent from 2006b to 2011, it doesn't look like things are going to get cheaper anytime soon.

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So, the next time you're splitting up the holiday hosting duties with your family, here are five meals you should steer clear of if you don't want to spend a fortune.

5: French Christmas

Any meal that features oysters, caviar and Champagne in the same course is guaranteed to break the bank.
Any meal that features oysters, caviar and Champagne in the same course is guaranteed to break the bank.
Rita Maas/FoodPix/Getty Images

There are all sorts of variations on the traditional French Christmas Eve meal, known as le réveillon (the "wake-up" meal) since it's typically eaten after midnight mass. But if you do this spread right, it's going to cost you big-time. This feast includes course after course of foie gras, oysters and other seafood, chestnuts, escargots, duck, caviar, pastries and sweets and, of course, fine French wine and Champagne. We're sure you could figure out how to cut expenses, but then you'd miss out on many of the exceptional ingredients -- and that's the whole point of this celebratory meal.

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4: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving dinner, with the big bird and all the trimmings, is never an inexpensive undertaking, no matter how frugal you are -- and it seems to get worse every year. In 2011, the cost of a turkey-day dinner for 10 was up 13 percent from the previous year, which was the biggest increase in two decades. And you might want to consider using apples for dessert instead of the old standby pumpkin pie: Pumpkin prices were up 16 percent from 2010 to 2011.

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3: Standing Rib Roast

A standing rib roast is the centerpiece of many family holiday dinners, but beef prices are at an all-time high and not expected to come down any time soon. So if you're pinching pennies or serving a large number of people, you might want to think twice before you buy an expensive cut like a rib roast, which was $15 to $20 a pound from Fresh Direct grocery delivery service in November 2011. Caterers recommend two-thirds to three-quarters of a pound of beef per person, so you'll end up carving out a big chunk of your budget.

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2: Easter Lamb

We think any food that looks like a king's crown probably requires a king's treasury to afford.
We think any food that looks like a king's crown probably requires a king's treasury to afford.
Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock

Lamb is a traditional Easter meal in many countries, but lamb prices have been going through the roof lately. In November 2011, Fresh Direct grocery delivery service was selling rack of lamb for $28 a pound and boneless leg of lamb for $13 a pound. The cost is going to be especially steep around Easter and Christmas, when almost a third of all lamb is purchased, according to USA Today. But if money is tight, don't worry about not being able to afford Easter dinner -- just skip the lamb and go for a ham.

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1: Feast of Seven Fishes

If you're cooking on a budget, seafood is definitely something to avoid -- so you're really up the creek if you're in charge of the Feast of Seven Fishes, a traditional Italian Christmas Eve meal that often involves up to 13 courses, each of which features fish or seafood. After loading your cart with lobster ($11 a pound from Fresh Direct in November 2011), clams, anchovies, mussels, cod, shrimp, scallops ($24 per pound) and more for this gargantuan banquet, you'll still need to scrape together enough cash for a few desserts and the rest of the components of the meal.

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Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Blaisdell, Shannon. "An Illustrated Guide to Beef Roasts." Cook's Illustrated. November/December 2002. (Nov. 9, 2011) ttp://www.cooksillustrated.com/images/document/howto/ND02_BeefRoasts.pdf
  • Blaney, Betsy. "Lamb Prices at Record High Due to High Demand, Low Supply." USA Today. April 22, 2011. (Nov. 9, 2011) http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/food/2011-04-22-lamb-prices-demand.htm
  • Expatica. "French Christmas: It's all About the Food." Dec. 12, 2006. (Nov. 9, 2011) http://www.expatica.com/fr/leisure/dining_cuisine/french-christmas-its-all-about-the-food--35242.html
  • Kagan, Sarah. "Mario Batali's Feast of the Seven Fishes." Epicurious. (Nov. 9, 2011) http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/holidays/christmas/batalisevenfishes
  • Pleven, Liam. "Beef Prices Continue Their Bull Run." The Wall Street Journal. Nov. 3, 2011. (Nov. 9, 2011) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204621904577014063962856108.html
  • Skidmore, Sarah. "Pass the Pie: Canned Pumpkin Shortage is Over." USA Today. Sept. 27, 2010. (Nov. 11, 2011) http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/food/2010-09-27-pumpkin-shortage-over_N.htm
  • Wilson, Jeff. "Thanksgiving Dinner Will Cost More This Year." Bloomberg News. Nov. 11, 2011. (Nov. 11, 2011) http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/11/10/BUE11LT6B6.DTL
  • Yorung, Dale. "Pumpkin Prices Spike This Year." ABC 30. Oct. 18, 2011. (Nov. 11, 2011) http://abclocal.go.com/kfsn/story?section=news/ag_watch&id=8395547