One of the areas many people overspend is in their Holiday Event planning, which meals like Thanksgiving Dinner, Holiday Parties, Christmas Brunch/Dinner and even New Years Eve celebrations. I want to give you some tools to help cut your costs of entertaining your friends and family by half.
If you have ideas and tips you do to save money, please share them in the comments.
Meal Plan Around Store Sales
Just like you meal plan your families weekly dinners, you should also do a meal plan for your holiday meals. Write out a list of all the dishes you would like to make according to what is on sale in the store. The further ahead you begin to plan, the more options you will have and the better prices you will find.
:: Meat. The first thing I determine is the meat, since it is usually the most expensive part of the meal. Decide if you will cook a whole turkey, a turkey breast or opt for a pre-cooked ham. My decision is always based upon which cut of meat is the best price. Then I move on to the side dishes.
:: Side Dishes. Just like the main course of meat, I plan all side dishes around what I find on sale. Frequently attendees will ask me what they can bring. I usually ask for items that I have either forgotten last minute, or items I didn’t find on sale but would still like to serve. This helps me keep my costs way down when serving a large group. Most of the ingredients to make holiday side dishes are all on sale now. So, stock up now for anything you will make now or closer to Christmas.
:: Desserts. The easiest of all courses for me to save on are desserts. I can usually find lots of ingredients very inexpensively by pairing coupons with sale items. This time of year lots of baking items have coupons and go on sale. This is a great way to save big and even get lots of items for free.
Plan a Kitchen Prep Day
One of the best ways to save not only money, but time, is to plan a Kitchen Prep Day a week or more before your guests are scheduled to come. I usually use this time to plan out my entire meal and even think through step by step how the perfect day would go.
First, according to what I have purchased on sale, I determine all the dishes and recipes that can be made ahead of time, so that my time in the kitchen is limited. I double check all recipes and cross-check them with my ingredients on-hand. I make my final grocery trip and get started.
Usually my Prep Day includes items like rolls, casseroles, cookies and cakes, because they freeze well. I prefer to make pies a day ahead, because they don’t freeze well. I even think through things that need to be chopped, or measured out. I write out a prep list, and include one for the actual event day.
Since most items I am making can be frozen, I can do this as far as three or four weeks in advance. Like you, I prefer to spend my time with my family, not in the kitchen preparing. So, by just doing a little advanced prep work, I can make my holiday just as enjoyable as everyone visiting, simply by planning ahead.
Saving on Potluck Meals
Often I will get invited to a family meal and everyone chips in to help the host by bringing a dish. I am usually the first to chime in, because it gives me the most options for dishes to bring. Once I know what the hostess is serving, I checkout my stock of food in the pantry, freezer and fridge and determine what I will bring according to what I already have on hand.
For instance, every year around the holidays I opt to make a Sweet Potato Casserole or Hashbrown Potato Casserole if a side dish is needed. I know from experience these items are always on sale, but I usually have most of the ingredients on hand.
Or, if they need a dessert, I will bring brownies, since I usually have 5-10 boxes I got free over the previous weeks from stocking up. For the holidays I usually add a fun twist like adding peppermint or drizzling caramel on top to make them special.