Several weeks back, I read about a holiday dilemma written by a family who was seeking a solution from a popular advice columnist. The problem was this family hosted the Christmas meal at their home every year but was trying to eliminate family members because the families were growing in numbers and they wanted to reduce the expense. The hosting family felt like they just couldn’t afford to feed everyone. As I thought about this problem, I wondered how I would feel if I were asked not to show up to the traditional family Christmas gathering. I would not like it! So you don’t have this same predicament here are some cost saving tips for keeping the holiday meal cost down:
Watch for sales in your grocery store; buy items now if they can be frozen. If you find a good deal on fresh vegetables some can be purchased now and blanched and frozen for later. Usually fresh, unpeeled, unwashed, unpackaged vegetables are a better buy. Compare fresh vs. frozen for the best price.
Don’t forget about coupons. You can find them at the grocery store, magazines, local paper, and online. Use caution when using coupons; the store brand product may be a better price than the national brand even with a coupon. Shopping early enough helps you take advantage of store savings.
Ask family members to bring something. When my family gathers for the Thanksgiving meal the person hosting the meal prepares the turkey, ham and a few other side dishes. Each family will bring something with them, beverage, dessert, vegetables, salad, snacks or paper goods (napkins, plates, cups).If guests ask what they can bring, don’t tell them nothing.They want to contribute so let them help defray the cost of the meal.
Take inventory in your pantry. Don’t wait until you are preparing the meal to realize you forgot to pick up an ingredient. Make a list and shop early to make sure you have all you need to prepare the meal. This will eliminate several trips to the grocery store. Planning ahead will also eliminate your making a quick run to a more expensive store, one of the few open on Christmas morning or borrowing from your neighbor at the last minute.
Don’t cook more food than you can eat. Make sure you don’t over do it cooking more than you and guests can eat. Limiting the size and variety of side dishes will save money and time. If you have lots of food left over you will have a hard time using the leftovers before they go bad.
Shop alone and don’t shop when you are hungry. I spend a lot more money when my husband or girls shop with me. If I shop hungry the sight and smell of the food prompts me to buy more.
Buy in bulk whenever it is practical to save on cost per ounce and pound. Just be sure you can use it all before it goes out of date or spoils.
Be flexible to take advantage of in-store specials. Check your store ads and flyers for money saving specials.
I know of one family that assesses each family member a fee to off set the cost of the Thanksgiving feast. If you use this plan just make sure everyone knows ahead of time there will be a charge and how much.
Christmas gatherings should be a time for families to relax and enjoy each other. The more you can prepare ahead time will help prevent stress and free up time for visiting with the ones you love.
For additional information on food shopping contact the LSU AgCenter at 318/251-5134 or visit the food and health section on the LSU AgCenter website: www.lsu.agcenter.com