Preparing Holiday Meals on a Budget

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Preparing Holiday Meals on a Budget

During the holiday season it can be difficult to stay on a budget. Not only are you spending money on gifts, but also potentially spending more on your gas and electric bills to heat your home. When it comes to the holiday meal, start by setting a budget of the amount you can afford to spend, and then turn to some creative ideas to stretch your budget and end up with a delicious meal for family and friends.

Saving Money When Preparing a Holiday Dinner

  • Focus on the food: It can be easy to overspend if you start buying items for decorations, so start by doing your food shopping. The decorations can wait, and it's actually quite easy to find creative and inexpensive decorative supplies at dollar stores, craft stores, and even the great outdoors. You can find tons of clever ideas for holiday table decorations online, or just go with a simple look that does not require many materials.

  • Find a deal on the meat: Look at weekly ads for low prices on a turkey, ham, roast, or another holiday main course. You can buy this several weeks ahead of time and freeze it until the week of the meal. You’ll need to plan ahead and remember to thaw the meat in your refrigerator for one full day for each four to five pounds your choice of meat weighs.

  • Prepare dishes from scratch: As much as possible, plan a menu that you can cook completely from scratch. Convenience foods like prepared piecrusts and pre-washed and chopped vegetables come at a cost. There are only a few convenience foods you should consider purchasing, including frozen vegetables and canned pumpkin puree for your pie.

  • Borrow supplies: Depending on how many guests you will have, you might not have enough tables, chairs, or dishes for everyone. Rather than buying or renting more, just ask around and find a friend who is going out of town for the holiday and can lend you some supplies. Mismatched dishes can create a rustic look, or you can use different sets at different tables if you are setting multiple tables.

  • Make it a potluck: If your budget is really tight, one way to make it work is to just cook the main dish and make the meal a potluck dinner. Guests will often offer to bring something, so take them up on these offers and assign each guest a specific side dish, appetizer, or dessert that will help complete your menu. If you are willing to be flexible, just assign a type of dish, like a potato side dish or vegetable side dish, and let your guests show off their favorite recipes.

Keeping things simple, sharing supplies and costs will be key to keeping your budget intact through the holidays.

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