The holiday season is a time of celebrating, and eating, together. Christmas offers an excellent opportunity to share time with family and friends, but if you aren’t careful, hosting the meal can cost a bundle. However, there are simple things you can do now, a few weeks before Christmas, to make sure you can offer a delicious, yet frugal meal.
1. Take advantage of the sales. Many grocery stores offer ham deals. They might offer a free ham when you buy $50 or more in groceries or $20 in free groceries if you buy $100 in gift cards at the store. Either one of these deals can save you $15 to $20, especially if you were already planning on buying groceries for the week or you were buying the gift cards, perhaps for presents.
2. Plan your meal around low cost foods. A 10 lb. bag of potatoes can be bought for anywhere from $2 to $10, depending on your location and the sales. A big bowl of mashed potatoes can help fill your guests as well as save you money. Sweet potatoes are also a low cost option. Looking for a dessert? Why not try a favorite of the original tightwad, Amy Dacyczyn–apple crisp. Simply peel and dice apples, mix together equal parts of flour, butter, oatmeal, and brown sugar, and sprinkle over the diced apples in the pan. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes at 350 until the apples are soft and the topping is melted, and you have a delicious, seasonal, low cost dessert.
3. Skip the premade food. As much as possible, skip the prepaid meals and desserts. You will pay 50 to 100% more than you would pay for the same food that you make yourself. If you don’t want to spend the entire morning of Christmas cooking, consider using your slow cooker for some of the side dishes. Another way to take a shortcut is to follow Rachael Ray’s Holiday Entertaining in 60 Minutes  menu. You will still save over buying premade food and not have to spend the whole day in the kitchen.
4. Consider having a potluck holiday dinner. Another alternative is to ask your guests to bring their favorite dish to pass. The guests are assured they will have a dish they like (which can be important for families with fussy young children), and you will have a few less dishes to prepare.
5. Don’t cook too much food. Every year we tease my mom that she cooks for an army. After the meal is over, there are at least as many leftovers as the amount of food we just ate. Sure, leftovers are nice the day or two after the holiday, but if you are looking at saving cost, don’t buy double the amount of food you need just to have leftovers (that despite best intentions often eventually get tossed out).
Christmas can be a time to reconnect with family and friends as well as eat delicious foods. If you have the pleasure of hosting, there is no reason to ruin your budget.
What is your favorite way to save when hosting a holiday dinner?
(Photo: ilmungo )