The holiday season is just around the corner. If you are hosting a holiday dinner, now is the time to start preparing. I know it’s tough to think about this early, but planning ahead will help you save time and money. Waiting until the last minute can cause you to go overboard with your spending and, gasp, pay full price! Here are 10 tips to help you create a budget friendly holiday dinner.
1. Set a budget - How much can you afford to spend on the holiday meal? Depending on how many guests you are hosting, buying the food for a large group can get expensive. Set a realistic budget for yourself and try not to go over it.
2. Create your menu - Take some time to decide what you plan to serve. Are you cooking the whole meal or will family members bring a dish? If your guests are bringing something, do you know what they will bring? Make sure to contact family members early enough so everyone knows what their responsibilities are. If you are looking for some budget friendly holiday meals, take a look at some ideas here.
3. Make a shopping list- Now that you have your menu, it’s time to decide what you need. Take a look at the ingredients you will need for each dish and write down what you need to buy. Chances are you will probably have some items on hand, so you can start setting those aside (see tip #6). If you do not have the necessary ingredients on hand, add those items to your shopping list.
4. Watch the sale ads -Take a look at your grocery ad and start comparing what is on sale (match your coupons to the sale items for even more savings) and what you need from your shopping list. Try to buy a little bit each week so you are not stuck overpaying the week of the holiday. This tip can go a long way to help you budget. Spending $20-$30 over 5-6 weeks isn't nearly as bad as spending $120-$180 at once.
5. Buy the store brand - Using the store brand for cooking is a great way to save money any time of the year but it can add up to big savings during the holiday season. Don’t be afraid to try this tip to help save money in your holiday food budget.
6. Keep everything in one place- If you are buying a few items each week to prepare for your holiday meals, keep them in a separate place so you and/or your family members don’t get tempted to eat it beforehand. You wouldn’t want to start cooking and realize half your ingredients are gone!
7. Freeze what you can- Once you have your necessary ingredients, start reviewing your menu. Is there anything you and make ahead of time and freeze? This is a great way to cut down on the amount of work you need to do on the actual day your guests will arrive. My mom makes this baked potato salad recipe that freezes very well and is always a big hit. Her tip is to stir it in the last 15-20 minutes so everything blends together.
8. Make your own table decorations - No need to buy expensive themed items to make your house more festive for the season. Try creating your own! Better yet - did your child create something for the holiday at school? Use this as a centerpiece for something different. My grandma used a paper mache turkey my dad made in kindergarten as her centerpiece for Thanksgiving for years! Women's Day has some creative ideas here and here. All You magazine also has some great ideas here and here.
9. Clean ahead of time - Will you be using your good china for the holiday meal or your holiday-themed cloth napkins? Chances are you use these once a year so they probably need to be washed. Are there other tasks like this in your kitchen? Make a list of everything that needs to be done and add a few of these little jobs to your calendar each day. You don’t want to spend the night before trying to clean and cook, you will be exhausted and in no mood to enjoy the holiday. Breaking the tasks down into smaller steps you can do each day will save you time and energy.
10. Start preparing for next year- It’s hard to think about, but once the holiday is over, start shopping for next year to find the best deals. You can usually find holiday themed items like napkins, paper plates, cups and other decorative items 75%-90% after the holiday. Shop the sale racks and put those items away to be used next year.
These tips can help you get a head start on your holiday plans to make sure you stay within your budget. Do you have a favorite frugal holiday tip? If so, I’d love to hear it! Please feel free to leave a comment with your favorite tip.
Jenny Kerr is the creator of The Jenny Pincher and savings expert for the single girl. Visit The Jenny Pincher to learn more.
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