How To

Easter Dinner on a Budget

With a big family dinner, colored eggs, and overflowing candy baskets, Easter can be a surprisingly expensive foodie holiday.

This year, consumers will spend $44.34 on Easter food and another $20.35 on candy, according to the National Retail Federation. That’s about $6 more than last year, in large part due to rising food prices. Luckily, grocery tracking sites say key ingredients, like ham, are often at their cheapest this time of year, thanks to lots of supermarket sales. Plus, eggs are both inexpensive and versatile.

We asked chefs and foodie bloggers for their best bargain Easter recipes, including ideas to creatively rework holiday leftovers. Here are seven to try:

Shepherd’s Pie

Leftover lamb, potatoes and veggies can be reconfigured into this popular dish, says Charlene Corn of “Char’s Kitchen.” To make, mash the potatoes with butter and milk if needed, then set aside. In a large frying pan, sauté minced carrots, celery, onion and garlic with olive oil until carrots are nice and soft. Add the leftover meat, minced. When mixture is warm through, add one to two tablespoons flour and mix in. Add one and a half cups fresh chopped tomatoes and a quarter cup milk or cream. Cook all together for 10 minutes, and then dish into separate bowls or one big casserole dish. Top with mashed potatoes.

Ham and Potato Casserole

Chef Peter Davis of Henrietta’s Table in Cambridge, Mass., prepares this dinner casserole as a second take on baked ham. It uses two pounds of leftover ham slices, plus four sliced Yukon Gold potatoes, and a half-pound of shredded cheddar cheese. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a casserole dish, place an even layer of baked ham, followed by a layer of potato slices, and a layer of cheese. Repeat until the dish is full. Season a quart of cream with salt and pepper, and pour over the layered dish. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for an hour. Remove foil and bake another 30 minutes until the top browns.

Blue Cheese and Bacon Deviled Eggs

Colored eggs needn’t be eaten solo. A spokeswoman for recipe site eMeals.com suggests making them into deviled eggs with a kick. Halve six hardboiled eggs length wise. Remove yolk and mash with a fork. Add two tablespoons crumbled blue cheese, a quarter-cup mayonnaise, a half-teaspoon Dijon mustard, and an eighth of a teaspoon each of garlic powder and white pepper. Spoon back into egg whites. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon.

Chocolate Bunny Lava Cakes

If there’s anything left in the Easter basket, melt down the bunny and other chocolate pieces for use in these chocolate lava bunny cakes and other cocoa-focused recipes. (On chocolate overload? Foodies suggest shaving the chocolate and freezing it for later use.)

Ham Fried Rice

Dice leftover ham and sauté it with veggies for a seasonal take on fried rice. Corn makes hers by sautéing carrot, celery, green onions and diced garlic in butter until tender. Set the veggies aside. Warm diced ham in the same dish and set aside.
 “At this point you can scramble an egg if you like that, and have thawed or fresh peas ready,” she says. Cook rice as usual, and then mix in a teaspoon of soy sauce, a half-teaspoon Worcestershire sauce and the other ingredients. (Frugal Foodie has made a similar version that also includes any leftover pineapple slices from the ham. If you like Hawaiian pizza, this is a must-try.)

Ham Mac-N-Cheese

Mix diced leftover ham into your favorite macaroni and cheese recipe. You can also sneak it into these Easter leftover recipes, such as grilled cheese and vegetable soup.

My Darling Bunny cocktail

Leftover Peeps become a garnish for this cocktail from “The Cocktail Guru” Jonathan Pogash. Mix three ounces Prosecco with three-quarters of an ounce of carrot juice, a quarter-ounce of honey and an ounce Clementine juice. (Frugal Foodie subbed in more easily obtainable orange juice, which tasted just fine.) Shake in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a glass. Garnish with a Peep on the side.

Frugal Foodie is a journalist based in New York City who spends her days writing about personal finance and obsessing about what she’ll have for dinner. Chat with her on Twitter through @MintFoodie.