If you’re heading out to a friend or family members house for Christmas this year grab about $5 to take with you. That’s roughly the cost per person for a Thanksgiving feast for 10 including turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls, butter, peas, cranberries, carrots and celery, pumpkin pie, coffee and milk – with enough for leftovers. The national average for this year’s traditional holiday dinner is $49.04, down about .40 cents from last year, not a bad price for a meal healthier and more filling than fast food you could pick up for the same price.
But if you’re the one making the dinner you know the expenses add up – you’re going to be using your oven for hours, buying drinks and decorations, and washing dishes all afternoon. Take advantage of a few savvy ways to keep both the cost and the workload down.
Host a potluck
Communal holiday dinners are becoming more popular than ever and guests love to feel involved. Either let your invitees know up from that everyone it pitching in this year, or answer “yes” to the standard question “Can I bring anything?”
You don’t use that many specialty items to prepare holiday meals, so look for bulk sales at the grocery store or your nearest warehouse club. Things like butter, canned goods, snacks and alcohol can be much less expensive when purchased this way and with New Years on the way you’re bound to use up your supplies soon.
Use real tableware
Since none of us want to be in the kitchen washing up when we’re full and sleepy, it’s tempting to speed clean up with disposable tableware. But besides being bad for the environment these quick solutions are pricey, and really change the feel of your meal. Table settings packages are often on sale throughout the year so keep an eye out for patterns you like just for entertaining, or borrow from a friend or family member just for the day. And when guests offer to help clean up, take them up on it – it can be a fun time that will be over twice as fast.
Balance your dishes
Most of us like to experiment a little at the holidays but stick to one or two fanciful dishes that need expensive or unusual ingredients. Mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and green beans are inexpensive, filling and will be nicely offset by just one dish of sweet potato gnocchi.
Grocery stores usually start putting out Christmas goods just after Halloween but save the big sales for the week before the holiday. Before you head out to shop take a few minutes to scan the paper or websites for the store with the best deals in your neighborhood and don’t forget to check out a few grocery apps for in store coupons. Asking friends and neighbors if they’ve seen any deals is also a good way to stay up to date.
But unless you hear of some especially good buys, choose the one store than has the most good deals and forget running around to several stores. The money you waste on gas and the time and energy probably aren’t worth the few cents you’ll save.
Downsize the main dish
It’s such a tradition that we all want a little ham on the Christmas table but don’t be afraid to offer additional meat choices or fill out the spread with side dishes. Purchasing your ham frozen can also save you a third of the cost or more over fresh and will taste just the same.
You’ll always want to make a little extra for unexpected friends and leftovers but trying to guess whether you’re cooking for six people or sixteen is an exercise in frustration. You’ll end up overbuying and overcooking and good food will get wasted.
License: Creative Commons
License: Creative Commons image source
License: Creative Commons image source
Ken Wentz is a full-time student and part-time writer currently residing in Michigan. As a student, he is well-versed in the art of budgeting his money. For the best money saving tips, he often consults the blog of Deluca & Associates.