For most families, we are now in the midst of the most expensive time of the year. In addition to the regular family expenses like gas and cable, the end of the year means there are gifts to buy, meals to cook, and often trips to take. All these extra expenses can really put families in a pinch at a time when money is already tight. If you are looking at the last few weeks of the year and wondering how to get what you need without adding any debt, there are some things you can do to make your holiday meals as affordable as possible.
Here are some great tips for making memorable holiday meals that cut cost but not quality.
1. Plan Ahead
Planning is one of the best ways to stretch your food dollar all year round and when it comes to holiday meals, the need to plan cannot be overstated. Planning ahead allows you to do things like buying two turkeys when they go on sale before Thanksgiving, one for the big day and one to freeze for Christmas dinner or for making soup and stew all winter long. Make a holiday menu shopping list that includes everything you will need for all holiday events. This ensures you can take advantage of things as they go on sale even though you won’t need them for a month or more.
2. Practice Portion Control
In this case, what is good for the waistline is also good for the wallet. Most Thanksgiving dinners result in a ton of leftovers. Most of us dutifully pack the remains of the meal up with the intention of eating it over the following week but very little of what we save ends up anywhere but the garbage. This year, take a little time to figure out how much food you really need and avoid the temptation to buy more than you need and cook more than will get eaten.
3. Make it Homemade
There is no question that the holiday season is hectic and many of us feel like there simply isn’t enough time to take care of everything ourselves. However, when it comes to holiday meal planning, you can save some serious money if you make things yourself instead of buying pre-made or boxed items. Stuffing made from the heels of bread loaves and mashed potatoes made from potatoes you peeled and chopped make take longer but they are just as good as the store bought kind at a fraction of the price.
4. Keep it Simple and Seasonal
While you may be tempted to make three different kinds of salad, four different varieties of potatoes, and a different pie for every person, simple menus make it easier to keep costs down. Stick to tried and true traditional recipes that everyone loves and the whole family will be satisfied even if they don’t have their favorite kind of pie. Search for locally grown seasonal produce and you can cut costs even further. There are many farmers markets open in the winter here in Arizona where you can buy locally grown season fruits and vegetables as well as Arizona-made meat and dairy products for your holiday meals.