Best budget finger foods and cocktails for holiday parties

Want to throw a party but you're on a budget? Stress no more

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Top 3 booze and food recipes for your budget party planning.

Even on a budget, holiday parties can be thrown and enjoyed. Think of creative ways to make food stretch even further, as well as your booze! For wine, why not go with a selection like Black Box Riesling for the sweet lovers and Black Box Cabernet Sauvignon for the red lovers? Each box holds the equivalent of four bottles of wine and at around $20 to $25 a box — a considerable bargain for delicious taste! (Not to mention it makes entertaining easier for those of us on a budget!) Looking for a sparkly/bubbly option that is also inexpensive? Pick up a bottle of Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut — a delicious cava that is only $12 a bottle.

If you would like to make a cocktail/drink/punch instead of just wine, try one of these two recipes:

Peach sangria

Serves 8


  • 3-1/4 cups chilled Black Box Riesling wine (3-1/4 cups is the equivalent of one 750 milliter bottle)
  • 2 to 3 cups cold peach nectar (bottled, store-bought peach nectar, or your own peach purée)
  • 1/2 cup cold peach vodka (keep in freezer)
  • 1/2 cup to 1 cup club soda
  • 2 cups sliced peaches, frozen
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries, frozen
  • 1 cup blueberries, frozen
  • 1 cup raspberries, frozen
  • 1 Golden Delicious apple, thinly sliced


  1. Wash and slice the peaches and strawberries (or use store-bought, frozen fruit).
  2. Pat dry and place the peaches, strawberries, blueberries and raspberries on a cookie sheet.
  3. Place in the freezer to freeze.
  4. Once they are frozen, you can place the fruit in a resealable freezer bag.
  5. In a large pitcher, place the apple slices on the bottom, then add the peach nectar, wine, vodka and club soda. Add the frozen fruit to the mixture, stir, serve and enjoy!

Sweet sugared cranberry cava drink

Serves 6-8


  • 1 bottle cava, Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut
  • 1 bag of cranberries
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar (that you run through the blender or food processor to make it extra-fine, for rolling cranberries)


For the sugared cranberries:

  1. In a saucepan, combine 2 cups of sugar and 2 cups of water to make a simple syrup.
  2. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then remove from the heat.
  3. Add the cranberries and stir, then put the mixture into a bowl.
  4. Cover and refrigerate overnight or all day.
  5. Remove from the refrigerator and pour the liquid into a jar to use as a sweetener for drinks. (Use a colander for this, then remove the liquid from the cranberries.)
  6. In a pie plate, roll the cranberries through 1 cup of sugar.
  7. Place on a cookie sheet to harden for a couple of hours, then store in an airtight container.

For the cranberry cava drink:

  1. Place 1 teaspoon of cranberry steeping liquid at the bottom of a Champagne flute. Add the cava, then top with 2 or 3 sugared cranberries.

Booze is bought, now what about the finger foods? For a party dip, make this Ranch Cheese Vegetable Dip. Using only 1-1/2 teaspoons of the Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix allows you to purchase one packet, and use it for several parties! When you use low-fat (or fat-free) cottage cheese and cream cheese, this dip becomes even healthier! It is the perfect dip to serve for parties, last minute guests, football parties, etc.

Ranch cheese vegetable dip

Serves 10-12


  • 12 ounces low-fat or fat-free cottage cheese
  • 8 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Hidden Valley Original Ranch Salad dressing and seasoning mix
  • 2 bell peppers (1 red, 1 green) stemmed and hollowed out
  • Crackers and vegetables for dipping


  1. Mix the cottage cheese, cream cheese and seasoning mix together until well blended.
  2. Taste and add more seasoning mix, if desired.
  3. Fill the hollowed out peppers with the dip and serve with crackers and small carrots, celery and cherry tomatoes.

You can make a box of puff pastry stretch and serve ample appetizers to your hungry crowd. Make these delicious guava pastelitos (Cuban guava pastries) that are super yummy and simple to make.

Guava pastries (pastelitos de guayaba)

Makes 8


  • 2 sheets puff pastry, thawed and rolled out
  • 8 long or 16 smaller slices of guava paste (available on the international aisle at your grocery store)
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water
  • Sugar for sprinkling on top


  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Roll out each sheet of puff pastry and cut into 4 equal squares. In the center of each square, place the guava paste.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the cream cheese and sugar. Dollop the cream cheese mixture (optional) on top of the guava paste.
  4. Fold the end of each square over the filling and press to close with your fingers. Make 3 slits/openings down the center of each pastry with a knife.
  5. Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.
  6. Make an egg wash with the beaten egg and water, then brush on top of the pastry.
  7. Sprinkle the tops with sugar and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden. Enjoy!

Cinnamon sugar twists

Makes 8-10


  • 1 package puff pastry, thawed
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter


  1. Roll out the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. Brush the melted butter on top.
  2. Mix the cinnamon and sugar together then sprinkle on top of the pastry.
  3. Using a knife or a pizza cutter, cut into strips, whatever size you desire. Dredge the strips in the cinnamon sugar mixture to get both sides, then twist and lay on the parchment-lined baking sheet.
  4. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes.
  5. You can serve these simply, just stick them in a Mason jar and your guests will love them!
  6. You can also serve this with a chocolate ganache for a dipping sauce or even a cream sauce.
  7. To make it savory, you could add Parmesan cheese and garlic salt, then proceed with the directions.

More budget entertaining ideas

Wines on a budget
Holiday decorating on a budget
Best ways to plan a party on a budget

Aimee Fortney is “Not the Perfect Cook.” Retiring at age 31 as a bilingual political consultant, Aimee is now a cookbook author, blogger, recipe developer and inspirational food lover, who lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and daughter. Aimee can be seen on Nashville’s WSMV and you can read her blogs, recipes and funny, “Not the Perfect Cook” adventures as she strives to keep families out of the drive thru, cooking at home (on a budget) on her website, and follow her on twitter, @aimeefortney.