With the family coming over for the Christmas dinner, you’ll need a meal large enough to feed everyone, without going broke. But what are you going to cook? You want to make sure no one leaves hungry, but you can’t afford to feed a whole soccer team. It’s hard enough buying gifts for everyone during the holiday season. Add a Christmas dinner and you might feel as drained as your bank account. Don’t worry Mujeres, we’ve got 6 ways to help you host during the holidays without going broke, or worse, going into debt.
How many people are you feeding?
First and foremost, you need to know how many people will come to a holiday dinner. Knowing exactly how many people will come to dinner will help you plan your meal and prevent cooking too much. The last thing you want is to prepare a meal for 20 people when only 10 arrive. Sometimes people arrive late, but it will help to know when and where they plan to eat.
Many of us have relatives that split their holidays between mom’s family and dad’s family. Nobody wants to be rude and leave without eating. But, because they’ll probably eat at one house, they won’t eat as much when they come over. This is good for you because you won’t have to prepare as much food.
There’s always that a guest that never eats a big holiday meal. Usually because they ate so many snacks, they’re not as hungry anymore. They might put a little bit on their plate, but that’s just to avoid being hassled for not eating. When you really look at their plate, it’s more snack-sized proportions.
Kids? Hit or miss. They either eat enough to choke a small horse, or they barely eat a small bite. Kids are picky eaters; save your money and cook less.
Is anyone else bringing a dish?
Without asking, sometimes familia love to bring their own dish to dinner. They just can’t help themselves. They love to help, and they love to cook. A dangerous combination. But sometimes someone has a famous dish everyone asks them to bring for the holidays. One or two people bringing a dish could save you $20-$30 depending on the ingredients. If you love someone’s cooking, don’t be afraid to ask them.
Avoid name brand foods
According to Consumer Reports, store-brand, or off-brand, food and beverages can be 20 to 25 percent less than the name brand. In fact, a lot of the off-brand products are a higher quality than the name brands. You’re just paying for the prestige.
Some stores only carry named brand products. So, if you’re not sure where to go, here is a list of where to find some of the best grocery store prices in the U.S. Most of these stores will also have their own store brand products. Like the off brand, sometimes the store brand is better.
Buy produce that is in-season
Healthy produce is expensive. It’s more expensive when produce is considered “out of season”. Meaning that the fruit or vegetable is not in its peak growing season, so it is difficult to supply. With the lower supply it’s difficult to source a large amount of the produce, which in turn means that it will ship from farther away. These shipping costs will increase the price of the produce, sometimes twice as much as it was.
Finding food that are in-season can be a challenge. But here is guide to seasonal fruits and vegetables through the year.
Serve meals with lots of carbs
Carbs are inexpensive, and usually absorb the flavor of foods they’re cooked with. The same could be said for a lot of meats. Unless the right herbs and spices are used, it will not have a strong flavor on its own, except meat is much more expensive than carbs. If you serve meals with lots of carbs, less meat, and fresh vegetables, you could serve a delicious meal, save money, and still make sure no one leaves hungry.
Grow your own ingredients
You might not be able to grow enough food to feed the family year-round, but we can at least grow the right items to save us money when it matters.
If you have the yard space for it, you can grow a small number of fruits and vegetables, enough for a good holiday meal. Fresh produce can make a huge difference in how a meal tastes. Growing a small amount of produce could save you another 25 to 50 dollars depending on the produce type and how much you can grow.
One of the easiest things we can grow that takes minimal space are herbs and spices. It could require as little space as your windowsill. But fresh herbs can make a huge difference in your cooking. This is especially helpful when you don’t have the freshest ingredients. Growing herbs is much less complicated than most people think. Here’s a list of Christmas herbs that you could grow right in your windowsill.
Cooking for the holidays can be a huge undertaking. To make it easier on yourself, don’t cook too much food, compare prices between brands, ask for someone to bring another dish. Hosting large family dinners can add lots of stress. By following some of these guidelines you can have a full belly, and a full wallet.
If you’re not sure how to financially plan for the holidays, start by taking control of your own dinero; listen to our episode, How To Be In Control Of Your Finances. We’ll provide 6 tools to help put you in control of your own finances.