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The Christmas holidays are a great time of the year to celebrate love and peace on earth, but a terrible time for your wallet. Between parties, presents, and trips, your finances can be put in a strain.
There are plenty of strategies to help you save money on presents and while traveling. But people tend to forget that preparing the Christmas dinner can get very expensive. How to make a delicious meal without spending a small fortune?
The key to healthy finances is to stick to a budget, and this case is no exception. Lots of work has to be done in advance before scanning your items at the supermarket’s cashier.
But don’t panic! It won’t take much time and effort. Follow the plan and get ready to prepare a frugal but delightful celebration for your loved ones.
Savvy Tips to Save on Holiday Meals
1. Set a budget & stick to it.
Set a budget and do some planning before you exit your house and head to the grocery store. Stick to your list, and avoid being tempted with all the candy, treats, and décor strategically placed around the store.
2. Do a Pantry Inventory to Use What You Have
After setting the budget amount, take inventory so that you don’t pay for unnecessary items. You probably have some seasonal ingredients in your pantries such as sugar, baking soda or baking powder, olive oil, salt, pepper and some popular spices like cloves, basil, paprika, etc.
Check for dairy products and produce on your fridge, and see if you have some frozen chicken or ham on your freezer.
Plan your menu based on what you already have in stock and just buy what is you need.
3. Shop Early
Choosing an early date to go grocery shopping will help you avoid crowds and get the best ingredients.
Don’t put yourself in a situation where you are forced to buy the items left by others. You want first dibs!
Early shopping will also let you play a little bit more with your budget. Stocking up on non-perishables months in advance can give you more freedom to splurge on other stuff.
4. Choose Simple Recipes
Choose simple recipes that are tasty and look beautiful. Consider preparing dishes that the attendants enjoy as well as new recipes that you think they might enjoy.
Go for the ones that include ingredients in season, which will be less expensive, like pumpkins, sweet potatoes, spinach, cranberries, winter squash, oranges, pears, broccoli, and mushrooms.
5. Compare Prices
Now is the time to look at the grocery store ads to compare prices. You can go through the printed ads, or you can compare online, whichever works best for you.
There can be two possible scenarios. One is that you find everything you need at one store; the other is that you will have to visit one or two to get the most out of your money.
Don’t go overboard and make more than three stops just to save just a few bucks. You’ll waste gas and a ton of precious time and energy.
After you plan your purchases, head to the supermarket. Arm yourself with your coupons and loyalty rewards to save even more. Smart shopping is the best!
6. Be Flexible
Be just a little bit flexible with your list. If an item is on sale and you can make alterations in the recipe, being sure no one will notice, swap ahead.
And avoid wasting food! Store everything properly. Freeze leftovers for future dinners or repurpose them and make a new recipe.
Other ways to save:
- Instead of hosting a dinner consisting exclusively of dishes you cooked, make it a potluck. Be in charge of preparing the main course and ask your guests to bring their favorite side dishes or dessert.
- Another great way to slash down costs is to ask your attendees to bring their alcoholic beverage of choice. Take advantage of the old BYOB.
- Prepare a menu consisting mostly of greens, which are much more affordable than protein, or swap turkey for chicken.
- It might not seem like it, but cooking from scratch is much more affordable than buying food from the deli at the supermarket. It will take you longer to have everything set for the evening, but you will save some much-needed cash. You get to stock up on plenty of ingredients. And of course, remember that cooking, by yourself or with others, can help build beautiful memories and strengthen bonds.
- Buy generic ingredients and/or at discount stores to save on things like baking supplies, spices, and seasoning.
- If the only way for you to stick to your budget is to downsize the guest list, then do it, and leave the guilt aside. You don’t want to go into debt or dig into your savings to treat the people you love to a fun time. If they genuinely care for you, they certainly won’t allow it and will understand.
Now that you know what to do to save on your holiday dinner, let’s see some budget-friendly recipes! There are plenty of menu suggestions and money-saving tips online.
For example, Food.com suggests swapping certain ingredients or dishes. Instead of serving beef wellington, go for a beef pot pie with vegetables, a side of caramelized butternut squash, and a winter fruit salad with poppy seed dressing.
Skip the crown roast of pork and prepare pork tenderloin with a side of creamy mashed cauliflower and bacon-walnut green beans.
If you were planning on a seafood menu, swap the high-priced whole lobster for shrimp scampi, Cesar salad, and garlic bread.
They all sound delicious, right?
Cheapskatecook.com recommends yummy vegetarian dishes like slow cooker beef bourguignon, spaghetti squash lasagna, tomato soup, macaroni and cheese, cheesy lentil pie, turkey quinoa pumpkin soup, among others.
You could also go for more traditional recipes like green bean casserole, turkey breast stuffed with kale and sausage, old-fashioned glazed ham, prime rib, and roasted sage potatoes, potatoes au gratin and sweet potato casserole.
There is definitely something for everyone here.
Overspending is not mandatory when it comes to eating deliciously and enjoying the holidays with loved ones. It’s easy to save if you do your homework before the spending frenzy.
Treat yourself and your family and friends to an incredible time. Let it be kept in your heart and mind as a beautiful memory, not a stressful moment that will drag a financial consequence throughout the following year. Happy holidays!