With the holiday season quickly approaching, Americans are turning to an indulgent treat: seafood, particularly lobster. According to Google Trends data, terms like lobster mac and cheese (up 140%), lobster bisque (up 100%), and lobster tail (up 140%) recipes are all showing significant growth over the last 90 days.
While inflation and the rising cost of groceries have been a persistent stress, according to data by 210 Analytics, home cooks are still looking to impress for the holidays.
Since lobster is a great indulgence we have every year around the holidays, I know the holiday cost will be more than usual, but it's worth it," says Elaine Benoit of Dishes Delish. "People love lobster around the holidays because it's a celebration, and lobster makes it even more special."
How to Make Lobster More Affordable
Lobster is known for its delicate, sweet taste and texture. But it's also known for being prohibitively expensive. To cut down on the cost, avoiding buying whole, live lobster or lobster tails can be helpful. You can also select dishes that use lobster as an ingredient rather than the star of the show. This helps stretch the lobster meat further, like in recipes for lobster ravioli sauce or dips and casseroles.
Devy Dar from So Yummy Recipes says, "I love the Christmas season for food shopping, as all the goodies we love will be on sale." Planning ahead can be critical as well. "One of my favorites to buy is exotic seafood such as lobster and giant tiger prawns...I always make sure to buy them when they're in season."
If you live in a fishing community, you may be in luck. Buying directly from the fishermen is a strategy that has worked for Tiffany McCauley of The Gracious Pantry. "I live in Maine, and the only way to get cheap lobster is to be at the docks when the boats come in," she says.
Seafood Searches on the Rise
It's not just lobster that's on the rise. The topic 'seafood dishes' is up 70% over the last 90 days, with search terms like 'seafood recipes' increasing by 120%.
The tradition of eating seafood for Christmas has been around since medieval times. Christians abstained from eating warm-blooded animals on feast days and Fridays - and fish are cold-blooded. Over the years, the traditions have evolved. One of the most famous is 'The Feast of the Seven Fishes,' which Italians celebrate on Christmas Eve.
Fishing for a Bargain
And while lobster might be one of the most decadent holiday treats, there are more affordable ways to enjoy a seafood feast around the holidays.
An easy way to include fish in your festivities is to jump on the tinned fish trend (up 80% over the last year on Google Trends). Anna Hezel, Epicurious Senior Editor and author of Tin to Table, says that tinned fish is a fun and accessible way to add luxury to your table.
"You can buy a really beautifully crafted, hand-packed tin of sardines in amazing olive oil from Portugal for $6." And the quality is top-notch, she adds. "...You get to taste all the skill and tradition that's gone into preparing the fish without buying a plane ticket or paying for a restaurant meal."
You can also buy cheaper shellfish, crustaceans, and bivalves like mussels or clams. Mussels, in particular, are an affordable option because they're less expensive to farm. They also reproduce quickly, meaning you can get this seafood for around $5 per pound. Mussels are versatile and tend to take on the flavor of whatever they're cooked in, be it a white wine broth or spicy Spanish mussels with chorizo.
Buying frozen is also a great trick, as it's usually cheaper, according to The Spruce Eats. Typically, even the 'fresh' seafood at the seafood counter arrives frozen at the store anyway. Plus, it's convenient. It can go back into your freezer until you're ready to use it.
Finally, keep an eye out for the sale flyers and deals. If you've got the freezer storage space and the patience to wait for the bargain, you can often find great prices on different seafood and cut back on your entertaining costs this holiday season.
High grocery costs don't have to mean you miss out on some of your favorite holiday seafood indulgences this year. Creating a seafood feast is still possible by planning and buying ahead, getting creative with your recipes, and experimenting with new products. Based on the Google Trends data, Americans seem keen to explore having seafood on the menu for their holiday celebrations in 2023.
Hi, I'm Cara! I'm a food writer, journalist, and recipe developer. I'm obsessed good food, good wine, good cocktails and entertaining. I've picked up a few tips over the years, and love sharing them with others.