Tips and tricks for holiday entertaining on a budget

The holidays are here, but entertaining doesn't have to blow your budget.

Creative thinking and a little planning can go a long way toward throwing an amazing and affordable holiday party. With these tips and tricks from Publix, your guests will never know you've been fabulously frugal.

Simple and seasonal

One of the best ways to keep your budget in check is to choose recipes with simple, seasonal ingredients. This includes root vegetables such as sweet potatoes, rutabagas and turnips, greens such as kale, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, as well as winter citrus such as grapefruit, oranges and lemons.

Aprons Simple Meals offers pre-planned meals that have been created by chefs and tested by everyday cooks. All of the recipes feature ingredients that are readily available at Publix, so you all your shopping can be done in one stop. Several of the recipes even have accompanying videos, which are a great resource for novice cooks.

Do brunch or cocktails

To cut costs, instead of serving an elaborate holiday dinner, opt for an alternative party menu.

Dessert and cocktail parties are chic this season and less expensive than traditional parties with full meals. You also can plan a cozy brunch, with affordable but filling ingredients. If a potluck is part of the plan, up the ante and instead ask guests to bring their favorite cocktail instead of food.

For a house punch, offer this non-alcoholic apple pie punch, with brandy on the side. No matching cocktail glasses? No problem. Mix and match what you have on hand.

For desserts, let Publix handle it.

Entertaining bakery platters come in a variety of styles and flavors, such as gourmet cookies, European specialties and fresh fruit tarts. Custom cakes also can be made to order. If homemade is what you prefer, try one of the Aprons Simple Meals trios, irresistible desserts or salted caramel popcorn cones.

Menu planning made easy

If you've decided on a main dish for your party, but don't know where to begin choosing side dishes, Publix Aprons Recipes offers several pre-planned pairings of recipes that work well together.

Check out these starters, which would work just as well at a bowl game as a holiday party, and these options for feel good sides include two savory and one sweet recipe.

A simple search for "party" in the Publix recipe database returns an array of easy-to-make recipes. The five-star-reviewed party hors d'oeuvres is a pre-planned trio of mini stuffed peppers, teriyaki pork bites and black-eyed pea salsa.

The best part about these Aprons recipes is that all the ingredients are listed together, so planning your shopping trip is a cinch. You can even save them on the Publix app, where you can find buy-one-get-one deals and discounts, and check them off as you shop.

Presentation counts

Your home has been decorated with detailed attention. Shouldn't the presentation of your food match that flair?

For large buffets, use dishes of varying heights so the food won't feel as crowded.

Well-placed candles and holiday greenery can add a festive touch to the table. If your table is spacious, wrap small boxes to look like presents and display them with poinsettias for a big impact.

Strategic placement of food on serving tables is a great cost-saving measure. A trick for buffet-style tables is to put the least expensive food at the head of the table, and the most expensive at the end. Guests are likely to serve themselves heavily at the front of the table, and scoop smaller servings as their plates get full.

If planning and presentation isn't your strong suit, Aprons Event Planning at Publix can handle all the details – from the food and guest list to flowers and displays.

Bring nature inside

Layer nature into your holiday decor by using sprigs of greenery cut from your yard.

The leaves of magnolia trees, abundant in the South, can make beautiful holiday wreaths. Small birch limbs can transform into beautiful tablescapes.

Simple jars filled with branches or colorful berries are elegant and festive. In-season citrus can be dried for ornaments or studded with cloves and hung as pomanders. Cinnamon sticks tied in a bunch will look pretty and smell wonderful when paired with candles and evergreens clipped from the yard.

Pick up pine cones and give them a festive treatment with red or silver spray paint, or keep them natural and weave them into a rustic holiday wreath.

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