Tips for Low Cost Holiday Meal

Submitted by UNL Extension Educator, Susan Hansen.

Holiday meals are a special time for family and friends to get together.  For some, it is that one time of year that a special food is made or purchased.  For others, it may be a traditional menu that is served each year and rarely, if ever, changed.  Whatever the situation, the cost for holiday meals and get-togethers can be surprising.  Take a look at places to reduce your costs yet still enjoy family and friends this holiday season.

Consider making less food.  Many holiday meals have lots of food on the table.  While it is nice to have the diversity of flavors and food choices, does there need to be three meat choices when one or two will be just as enjoyable?  Meat is usually the most expensive part of the meal, consider reducing the number of meat choices or reduce the amount prepared.

Check the sale ads for your local grocery store.  Turkeys become much cheaper around Thanksgiving and on into December.  A whole turkey is less expensive per serving than buying separate pieces of turkey.

Healthier alternatives can be less costly.  If you are serving pie for dessert, consider serving pumpkin pie or a fruit-based pie without a top crust as an alternative to pecan or French silk pie.  Not only are pumpkin and fruit based pies usually cheaper, they are more nutritious.  Yes, pie can be a part of a healthy diet – it is one of those once in awhile foods.

Make the food yourself.  The more work you do, the less the food costs.  The more boxes and cans you open, the more expensive the item per serving.  However, you do need to consider your time, skills and equipment when making a choice of using convenience foods or making from scratch.

Have a plan for leftovers.  When a meal is finished, take the time to put the food in containers so they are ready to use for another meal.  Put food away promptly after a meal.  Perishable food should not sit out for more than two hours.

The cost of beverages can add up quickly.  The cheapest choice is tap water.  Serve water as the main choice with meals.  Other beverages can be offered after the meal.  Some beverages are full of empty calories so let your guests fill up on delicious, nutritious foods rather than not so healthy beverages.

Do you really need to buy the fancy holiday paper products – napkins, paper towels, cups?  If you enjoy using them, that’s great.  But if you are needing to cut costs somewhere with holiday entertaining, look at the disposable products you buy.  Holiday cloth napkins or glass bowls that can be used from year to year may be a good investment as well as being better for the environment.  Plan ahead for next year by purchasing these items after the holiday season when prices are cut in half or lower.

Determine what YOUR family wants to do to celebrate this holiday season.  There isn’t just one right answer for celebrating the special days.  The important thing is to communicate as a family and to consider your family’s wants, needs and resources when making a good decision.

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