Cooking for the Holidays Can Be Expensive - but It Doesn't Have to Be.

Nov 14, 2017

Cooking healthy for a holiday crowd can be expensive - but it doesn’t have to be.

“So, if we think about vegetables and that kind of thing, one thing we can do for sure is instead of doing fresh vegetables up here in the produce area, we could do canned vegetables or we could do frozen vegetables,” said Marshall nutritionist Mckayla Hart. “This time of year, typically those are a lot cheaper than buying fresh.”

Oscar Aguilar makes pupusas at Cafe Cimino in Sutton
Credit Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Hart stands in the produce aisle at the Walmart in Huntington.

“So here some green this is organic so that’s going to be, here are some right here - this is the WalMart brand - so this is Marketside it’s $2.48 for 12 that’s a fair price.”

Hart said there is a perception that eating healthy is expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Eating seasonally, cooking from scratch and meal prepping are all ways to keep costs down.

She begins looking for some canned green beans.

“K let’s see if we can find our green let’s see. This is 38oz for $1.64 - the other one was 12oz for $2.48 - and here’s too canned and fresh have the same vitamins and minerals so you know - a green bean is a green bean - it doesn’t matter if it’s canned or fresh.”

It’s not just about checking prices, Hart said, but also making sure you don’t get caught up in buying what you don’t need.

“The very first thing is you want to make a list. You want to make a plan for what you want for the meal and then write down all the ingredients and the dishes you want to have and then stick to the list.”

And one good way to have a list, is to make a menu.

The restaurant at Cafe Cimino is popular for providing some of the best fine dining in West Virginia. But according to chef Oscar Aguilar, eating well can be as simple as sticking with the staples.

Owner Tim Urbanic fixes an omelet at Cafe Cimino in Sutton
Credit Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

  “For example, you can go to the grocery store and get a whole chicken - it’s like six, seven dollars, and that’s enough for like four people or more,” Aguilar said. “And then get some sweet potatoes, mash sweet potatoes and green beans - you can get fresh green beans for like $2 a pound.”  

Aguilar said this menu, including a rice pudding dessert, would cost around $19 for a family of four - or just under $5 a meal.

He refiles through papers to consult a second menu.

Papusus cook on the stove at Cafe Cimino in Sutton
Credit Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

“Pork. Braising pork. Pork is definitely pretty cheap right now. And you can get like two pounds of pork for like five dollars. And then beets. You can get beets right now for a couple dollars...and kale.”

But beets and kale are not exactly classic West Virginia food. Will people actually eat that?

“Well one of the things you do to try to be healthy is you change your lifestyle,” owner Tim Urbanic said. “If you really can’t eat the beets then you probably don’t want to eat them. But if you don’t eat the beets just because you never thought about it or you never really had it in your menu planning this would be a good place to put it in.”

Credit Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Urbanic said it’s not just adding new things into your diet that will make the difference, but actually spending time in the kitchen making food from scratch. He said you might find not only appreciation for new tastes, but that returning to the kitchen, will make cooking an activity the whole family can do together.


Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Marshall Health, Charleston Area Medical Center and WVU Medicine.