Cool Ideas

Stretch Your Holiday Food Budget

‘Tis the season to prepare decadent feasts with all the trimmings for a table full of your closest family and friends. And since traditional holiday fare doesn’t come cheap, it’s likely you’ll need to be tightening your belt as everyone else is loosening theirs. Read on for holiday meal planning tips that will leave a little something left over for the New Year.

  • Make it a potluck. The easiest way to keep costs down is to cook less food. Turn your holiday dinner into a potluck and assign each guest a dish to bring. Keep the main course for yourself to cook, and then divvy up the sides and desserts. Make sure you have all the bases covered, from mashed potatoes to pumpkin pie. If you have any guests who don’t like to cook, ask them to bring a bottle of wine. For added fun, ask your guests to bring copies of their dish’s recipe to share.
  • Choose your meals wisely. Sure, you’re dying to try that rosemary-crusted rack of lamb recipe, but is it really in your budget? Take inventory of the ingredients you already have in your kitchen, and try to plan your meals around that. This will majorly cut down on food expenses when you go shopping for your meals. Also avoid recipes with a long list of ingredients, and instead opt for a simpler dish.
  • Minimize your meat dishes. Meat will likely be the most expensive ingredient in any meal. Cut down on meat dishes and you’ll save a bundle. Proteins like beans offer a filling alternative at a lower cost, and there are plenty of inexpensive side dishes that your guests will gobble up!
  • Buy in bulk. As long as it makes sense, buy in bulk to save money. Things like paper towels, canned goods, and frozen items offer a long shelf life, so it’s great to take advantage of a good sale. However, be careful not to be lured in by a good sale on something you don’t need. And definitely never buy perishables in a larger quantity than you need.
  • Hunt for coupons. Coupons are any shopper’s Number One savings asset. Go to sites like CoolSavings.com, where you can sign up for free printable grocery coupons. It’s the easy way to get your hands on name brand coupons, and they even offer recipes that could come in handy this holiday season.
  • Eat your leftovers. This one might seem obvious, until it’s the fifth straight night of turkey and you’d rather just order a pizza. Look for recipes and ideas to keep your leftovers interesting and appetizing. Freeze what you can, so you can give yourself a break and also have ready-made meals on hand. For leftovers you are going to eat right away, package them in meal-sized portions. Tip: While you shouldn't re-freeze turkey that's already been frozen, a fresh bird's leftovers can safely be consigned to the freezer. Ham can be frozen for up to two weeks.
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