Dec 21, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

Can’t go home to celebrate? Fear not. You can create the perfect Christmas meal in your dorm or student apartment without a problem. Even if you’re going home, but want to celebrate with your university pals before you leave, you can do it. All it takes is a little planning, a little patience, and a lot of Christmas spirit. 

So, put on your favorite apron, google some recipes, stock up, and get cooking. 

Here are our five strategies for creating the perfect Christmas dinner at school:

1.  Think about what you want and establish a budget.

OK, so that’s two tips, but they’re both important.

Preparing and cooking a meal for all of your friends could be an expensive task—or an affordable one. Find out how much each person is willing to chip in, plan a menu together, and figure out where you’re willing to compromise.

Are there things you can cross off your list that no one will eat anyway? Or things that you can more easily—and more tastily—make from scratch?

Get out your scratch pads and start making lists. Start scanning the newspaper flyers, to see what bargains you can get and when.

If you plan ahead, divide tasks, and keep your spending to a comfortable minimum, you’ll be able to have a delicious—and rewarding—Christmas feast.

2. Pick chicken instead of turkey.

Don’t break the bank. Make a chicken.

Determine how much meat you’ll need based on the number of meat-eaters invited. While turkey is traditional, chicken is fine.

Consider buying from a local butcher, where you know you can get high quality meat. If you can’t, or don’t live in an area with a local butcher, your local grocery store should have something that will suffice.

Keep in mind you can also buy individual chicken breasts or a small chicken from your local butcher, too.

Another plus for the butcher? They’ll have cooking tips and suggestions for you.

3. Potatoes, carrots, and parsnips are your veggies of choice.

Potatoes are easy, plentiful, and inexpensive. Roast them in bite-size chunks. Peel them, cut them, and boil them for 10 minutes first. Drain them. Then, put them in a pre-heated roasting pan with oil at about 400 degrees. Roast for 20 minutes, flip them, and roast for another 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to your heart’s content.

Carrots and parsnips also fall into the easy, plentiful, and inexpensive category. They’re also beautiful—and good for you to boot.

Peel them, cut them in half, and slice into long strips. In a roasting pan, drizzle with oil and maybe even a little bit of honey. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, checking every five minutes or so.

4. Ask the guests to bring dessert.

Figure out the bakers and chocolatiers in your group and delegate this task to someone else.

Chocolate truffles are an easy fix here—they’re delicious, inexpensive, and simple to make. For 40-50 truffles, you’ll spend less than $10 on ingredients. You’ll need about 1.5 dozen digestive cookies, also known as “digestive biscuits,” six heaping tablespoons of cocoa mix, and one can of condensed milk.

Mash up the digestives until their crumbly, add six tablespoons of the cocoa powder, and the entire can of milk. Stir and chill for about a half hour.

Add a few more tablespoons of cocoa in a bowl, and after the mixture is chilled, scoop it out by teaspoon. Roll each in your palm until it’s in the shape of a small ball. Roll each truffle in the cocoa powder and set aside.

Voila! You have made dessert.

5. Decorate and prepare.

This is another strategy with multiple tips—they’re just too good to pass up.

Consider organizing a Secret Santa, where each of your guests is randomly responsible for one other guest’s gift. Make a rule where you spend $10 or less.

For some fun with decorating, a few strands of lights can go a long way. Paper lanterns are another fun option for easy lighting.

Don’t have a Christmas tree? Don’t sweat it. Make your own washi-tape Christmas tree and knock yourself out. Or just make one on the wall.

Print out photos of you and your friends and hang them up around your space.

Don’t forget the Christmas music!

Are you in the Yuletide spirit? We hope so. Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Enjoy it all and know that you can bring that festive spirit to your student living situation easily, inexpensively, and with lots of light and love.






Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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