Don't Let Christmas Dinner Be a Budget-Buster
Many people worry about the expenses of the holidays. Individuals who are already pinching pennies and putting as much toward gifts as possible may want to keep holiday entertaining costs low. It's possible to do so without sacrificing quality.
Christmas dinner is something families look forward to each year. Some enjoy a roasted turkey; others turn to cultural foods. Others may eat a big meal both on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The hosts and hostesses who serve Christmas dinner often open their homes up to a number of guests to enjoy the meal. It's not uncommon to find 10 to 12 friends or family members gathered around the dining table -- and feeding all those people can get expensive.
One can expect to spend a hundred dollars or more on holiday foods depending on the menu items chosen; a large turkey alone can cost $25. If cocktails are part of the holiday equation, premium alcohol can run $20 to $30 per bottle. If finances are tight, a big Christmas dinner can certainly put a strain on the budget. To cut costs, consider these frugal tips.
* Shop the sales. Plan the menu in advance and comparison shop the non-perishable items. Stock up on the foods needed that can be stored in the pantry until preparation time. The closer a person shops to Christmas, the higher the prices on certain items may be.
* Choose lower-priced foods. Who says filet mignon has to be served on Christmas? As long as the food is tasty, guests will enjoy it. Consider menu items that can be bought in bulk (less expensive) and turned into delicious meals. A platter of chicken with lemon-butter sauce could win rave reviews over the tired turkey anyway.
* Don't overdo it. Party hosts often over-buy food thinking there will not be enough. After crackers and cheese, salad, appetizers, and some other courses, guests may be stuffed to the gills and only pick at the main meal. Scale back the courses and focus on one or two things.
* Fill guests up with vegetables. Starches, such as potatoes and rice, and many vegetables are inexpensive and filling. Serve a higher ratio of these foods to meats and poultry.
* Have a holiday pot luck. Hosts can ask guests to bring one food item with them to lessen the financial burden. Friends and family will be more than happy to pitch in.
* Consider store brands. Many store brand foods are equal in taste and quality to the brand name items ... but at lower costs. This is because store brands are not advertised and don't have to pay for publicity. This can help budget-conscious shoppers save a little at the check-out.
* Avoid pre-made foods. Convenience foods, like frozen appetizers or dips, often cost more per serving than if they are made at home from scratch. Scratch-cooking takes a little more time, but it is often more economical.
* Skip the meal, altogether. If conversation and mingling are more the speed of the gathering, host a cocktail party instead. Serve finger foods and one or two signature drinks. Less time around the table means more moments for merrymaking anyway.