Feast on a Budget

Holiday on a Dime

How to Create a Feast on A Budget

Big family meals. Tables laden with food. Drinks flowing. Money being spent. It’s holiday season and a time for celebrating. But the holidays can be a stressful time if you are on a strict budget. When you are living very carefully on the money that you have, extra expenses can really be a struggle. There are some who go all-out on Thanksgiving and don’t really care to spend extra on this once-a-year occasions but remember that if you are putting money on a credit card to pay for your expenses you will regret it later on. You don’t want to be paying for your Thanksgiving meal in February. The best way to tackle the large expenses of the holiday season is to put aside money for holidays all year round. I have an “envelope” for holiday expenses which I try to fill every month. But even with saving, money is finite and holidays are expensive. So….

feast

7 tips to save a dime on your big holiday feasts:

  1. Serve soup. Starting a meal with a nice soup is a good way to fill up on something cheap and festive. You want your family and guests to fill up on the cheaper items first so that you can skimp on the more expensive stuff. Don’t get carried away and make a fancy, expensive soup with lots of ingredients! A simple cream of potato or zucchini soup is fitting start to an elegant meal but a very cheap and filling dish. Soup can also be easily frozen as leftovers (see #7).
  2. Serve bread and dips. A yummy (homemade) bread or rolls is a good, filling way to start the meal. Any plain bread recipe can be elevated with the addition of some roasted garlic or herbs. A simple tehina or hummus dip (can be homemade) to dip the bread in will get the meal started.
  3. Lighten up the sides. Many traditional side dishes are based on pretty cheap items- sweet potatoes, potatoes, stuffing etc. Cut down on the margarine, butter, salt and oil to make the vegetables less heavy. The cost savings may be minimal but the lighter version will be easier to swallow and will encourage guests to eat more of these vegetables. A light lettuce or tomato salad is another easy, cheap side dish.
  4. Shop around for the turkey and other main dishes. While it not exactly practical to shop around for the best deal on each ingredient- especially if you are cooking all week!- pick the most expensive or most used ingredient and find a deal on that. For thanksgiving, this will probably be the Turkey. If you save $1 dollar a pound on a ten-pound turkey, you will save $10. That is worth driving a little extra for! Keep an eye out for grocery stores offering coupons or deals on other more expensive ingredients like nuts, throughout the week.
  5. Cut down on drinks. Soda, punch, and juice add expense to your meal. Consider serving water or a homemade lemonade or sumac juice to cut down on costs and make your meal a little healthier. Some lemon slices or fresh mint in a pitcher of water make a festive addition to your table with very little cost.
  6. Sweet potato vs. pecan? While it may not be worth it for you to cut down on all expensive ingredients or dishes (Thanksgiving is one time a year, after all!) it may be worth it to cut down on the more expensive dishes on the menu. A smaller piece of pecan pie can be served next to a larger slice of sweet potato pie. The more expensive the ingredient- the more sparingly it should be used.
  7. Leftovers! It goes without saying (but we are saying it anyways)- save leftovers. Take the time after your exhausting day to properly pack up and fridge or freeze leftovers. Don’t leave all food to be eaten the next day. Freeze some dishes to keep for those days when supper is just not happening. Instead of ordering pizza, pull some leftovers out and you will be grateful you took the time to freeze it!

Do you have any tips to cut down on expenses for the big meal? Share on Twitter or leave a comment below!

If you need to save a dime while planning a meal you probably need to save more when grocery shopping. This one shopping hack will save you money at the grocery checkout.

Do you have your holiday list done?

Holiday Budgeting Fun!

I’m being sarcastic. There is nothing fun about trying to fit the joy of the holiday season into a meager, or any, budget. I’m Jewish so I am super lucky to have less expectations upon me this time of year. But I still have Hannuka and I still have people in my life that I am expected to gift. Examples include: postman, garbageman etc. The biggest one for me is my Kid’s teachers. Its expected to give them a holiday gift and I certainly do not want to be the parent who doesn’t deliver! The things we do for our kids!

Lists, lists and more lists. Are you finished with all your lists? And most importantly, your HOLIDAY LIST.

I don’t mean the gifts you are going to buy for people. I mean the amounts that you are willing/able to spend. Money is tight in our household these days so we are setting pretty strict limits on what we are going to spend this holiday season. Thank goodness my kids are young and don’t expect much! What I do is figure out the amount that I can spend this year. I look at what I have in my “Holiday” account and figure out approximately what will be added from now until then.

How Much Money are You Spending?

How Much Money do You have Saved?

Then I take the following things into account:

  1. Gifts- who I am I buying for this year?
  2. Tips- who expects them? Who do I want to show appreciation for? What is the standard for teacher’s gifts?
  3. Parties- I am throwing any this year? How much will that run me?
  4. Extras- doughnuts, hot cocoa, peppermint bark… the list goes on. Which seasonal items do we think we are going to purchase?

Then I allocate the amount that I have by all the “obligations” I have. Maybe this year I won’t make a party. Maybe I will but on a really tight budget. Maybe our “extras” will be pretty skimpy this year. Is there anything I can DIY?

I set a dollar price on gifts. As all the stores come out with their sales and catalogs I look at each one and see what fits into my price range. if I find a great deal, then I either have more to spend on that person or more for another person. For example, my budget for my son is $10 this year (I told you money is tight!). He really wants playmobile. I check all the deal sites and set up an Amazon price alert. As soon as the price drops under $10- I will purchase it and hide it! If I spend less- great! If the price never drops- I will have to see if I saved money elsewhere to buy him what he wants. If I don’t have that extra money he will have to do with something else. (It better go down in price!)

Its Not About the Gifts

We are trying to raise our kids to enjoy and appreciate the holidays BESIDES for the gifts they receive. Gifts are MOST ASSUREDLY NOT the center of our holiday season. Of course, they are getting a gift- I am not going to deprive them of that totally. But the gift that they will receive will be within our budget- as modest as it may be. I would not be doing them any favors to raise them to focus overly on gifts or to put our (and therefore their) financial future in jeopardy to go into debt to buy them a present!

 

Of course, its easy for me to wax lyrical about saving money on gifts. Its not as important to me as it is to other people. Budgeting is about choosing what is important to us. We choose what is our important to us based on our culture and social group.