Eat Well, Spend Less: Frugal Holiday Desserts

This month in the Eat Well, Spend Less series we’re taking a look at the holiday season and keeping the budget under control. Here you’ll find advice for stocking your dessert table.

Have you ever noticed that desserts are often expensive? Let’s take cheesecake, for instance, all of those eggs and packages of cream cheese add up fast. Then try making cheesecake for a large group, like you would for a holiday celebration, and it’s easy to see how the cost can get out of hand.

However, you don’t have to skimp on flavor and style in the name of cheaper eats this season. Instead, look to the basics that are always easier on your pocketbook and better for you in the long run: seasonal produce and making it from scratch.

Cut Corners on Cost, Not Flavor

1. Bake from Scratch.
Baking from scratch will always be healthier than using preservative-laden convenience items in the stores. Plus, butter (or lard) and flour to make multiple pie crusts from scratch can save plenty of pennies over pre-made crusts or even the pre-made cookie crusts already in the pan.

2. Use Seasonal Produce.
Look for desserts that utilize fresh and local produce to give you that sweet treat. Bonus: Fruit desserts usually have less sugar in them as well, further reducing costs and increasing nutritional value. You’ll find that you can often make multiple pumpkin pies using just one pie pumpkin that you puree yourself. I know I can find pie pumpkins for $1-2 a piece. Add a homemade crust and you’re well on your way to a very frugal dessert option with 16-20 servings.

3. Limit Specialty Ingredients.
The most expensive items on the list for dessert ingredients are often those that aren’t available locally in mass abundance. Things like 30 servings of chocolate can add up quickly. Instead, use specialty ingredients like crystallized ginger or high-quality chocolate as accents to the dessert instead of the whole show.

4. Buy in Bulk.
If you know you’re going to be making dessert for the holidays, start stocking up when you can. If you take a look into my kitchen, you’d see 5 pecks of apples waiting for me to take care of them. While I won’t need 5 pecks for apple pies solely, my family is enjoying snacking on them, I made plans for applesauce, and the farmer I buy from was looking to unload the last of the season, so they were a fantastic deal. Apples for pennies. The same can be said for pears, persimmons or even flour and sugar. Bulk prices can help keep costs down across the board.

Delicious Dessert Ideas

::Easy Pumpkin Custard | goodLife {eats} (pictured above)
::Buttermilk Custard Pear Pie | Food for My Family
::Black-Bottom Maple Pumpkin Pie | Simple Bites
::Caramel-Roasted Pears | White on Rice Couple
::Spiced Apple Cookies | The Naptime Chef
::Pumpkin Pie Cookies | Bakers Royale
::Pumpkin Bread | Food for My Family
::Maple Pecan Baked Apples | Simple Bites

As always, you can check out what others are writing in the Eat Well, Spend Less series on keeping it frugal for the holiday season:


  1. Great ideas, I love cooking according to the seasons

  2. I am all for using seasonal produce and if I may add local produce.

    • Agree, Norma. I have certain farmers I visit every week, and I will continue to as long as they are there at the farmers market. Then I’ll patiently wait for the thaw to see them again in the spring.

  3. Great way to sweeten things up without robbing the bank, Shaina. I’ve got to try that pumpkin custard from Katie now. It’s calling to me.

  4. Creating sweet desserts every holiday season is one of the best thing I always love to make… I love the recipes from the links. I will try this pumpkin custard. I think this will taste good! Thank you for sharing…

  5. Our CSA has a “harvest bag” they offer to members and non-members. For $35 I received over FIFTY pounds of food, including 4 different kinds of squash, a cabbage too big for my fridge, 2 kinds of potatoes, beets, onions, pinto beans (Hello Turkey Chili, good to see you!), assorted herbs, apples and pears. At our farmer’s markets this is a fairly common practice. Not many people are aware that farms often offer these seasonal bags; they’re a great way to get fresh, local produce at an awesome price. Of course I now am the proud owner of no less than 14 squash. Good thing they keep!


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