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Stretching the Holiday Food Budget

Stretching the Holiday Food Budget

 

          As the holiday season approaches, many of us have holiday parties and gatherings to plan, which means we face the daunting task of keeping our family traditions without breaking our budget. Saving money does not have to mean missing out on all the fun. With some creativity and planning ahead, you can still make this season fun and memorable.

 

1.     Establish your budget and how much you can afford to spend. Design a menu around your budget and what is seasonal or on sale at the grocery store. Preparing a comprehensive list of ingredients for family dinners, desserts and party foods will allow you to mark things off as they're bought.

 

2.     Keep a grocery list so you’re less likely to make an impulse purchase. A list should also prevent you from making extra trips to the store. Stick to your list for added savings, but stay flexible if you encounter a sale.

3.     Plan ahead for how to use leftovers. We lose money when we toss food because it spoiled. If leftovers go bad because they’re left out too long, we’re putting money into the garbage can.

4.     Use coupons! In most cases, grocery stores have great sales on holiday staples like turkeys and hams. Their goal is to get you into the store with the hope that you will purchase lots of other products that are not on sale. Use this to your advantage, but only buy items you need. Check for online coupons as well. Start with the website of the store where you shop or of products you use. Shopping on double or triple coupon days can save you a lot of money.

5.     Buy in bulk. If the price is right and the larger size fits your criteria, go for it! Prices can be deceiving, so pay attention to unit prices to ensure you are getting the best deal. Bigger is not always cheaper. Make sure you will use the food while it is still good.

6.     Save on store brands. Buy generic and you could save up to 40 percent a year on your grocery bill. In taste tests, most consumers cannot identify the difference between generic and store brands.

7.     Ask for help with meal preparation if you are hosting a holiday gathering. Contact everyone on your holiday guest list and see who can bring a dish to share. Guests traveling from out of town may not be able to bring perishable items, but they can grab some non-perishables on their way in.

 

8.     Include a variety of meatless dishes — these are often cheaper and, as a bonus, generally healthier, too.

          From the Food Network, the following recipe combines low cost and great flavor for your guests and family.

Twice-Baked Mashed Potatoes

 

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

          4 russet potatoes

          1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing

1/2 cup milk

3 green onions, chopped

3/4 cup grated Cheddar

Salt and black pepper

 

Directions:

          Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

          Bake the potatoes until tender, 1 hour. Let cool enough to handle, and then scoop out the flesh into a medium bowl.

          Warm the butter and milk together in the microwave until the butter is just melted and the milk is warm. Add half the butter and milk to the potatoes and mash well with a potato masher or fork. Add the green onions and 1/2 cup Cheddar, and blend well with the potato masher, adding more of the remaining milk and butter if too dry. Season with salt and pepper.

          Reduce the oven to 350 degrees F. Spoon the potatoes into a greased 1 1/2-quart baking dish and bake 15 minutes. Add the remaining 1/4 cup Cheddar on top and bake an additional 15 minutes. Serve.

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