Hello and welcome back! It’s one of my favorite times of the year — the holiday season. As the junior matriarch of my family, I am always the one who plans the family gatherings. Aside from my own pod, whom I cook for daily, I have to account for my entire family this time of year. It’s a task to behold as we are large and growing rapidly, but a task that I enjoy and hold dear to my heart. As a matter of fact, my feelings would be hurt if someone else was called upon to plan the holiday galas.
With just my pod, it can be quite expensive to feed them daily so you know expenses can get out of hand quickly with the inclusion of the entire family. Normally we do a potluck, but occasionally my husband and I decide to serve our families on our dime. Just a little background on his side of the family: he is the youngest of fifteen children so you already know our food bill for just one dinner including both families is a little over $1000, but it is so worth every penny, because I love them all. I would like to share with you some tips I have learned over the years to make sure that we don’t exceed our spending limit.
- Get a headcount. By tallying your guests early, you can get a head start on shopping and menu planning. This will save you tons of cash as it will help curb over-spending. A good rule of thumb that I use is to prepare food for an additional five people, as you will have stragglers or those that won’t R.S.V.P. and show up for dinner. If you don’t have extra unaccounted for people to attend, you will just have some tasty leftovers.
- Start shopping immediately. If you are not a couponista like me, then you will want to start shopping as early as possible. Throughout the month of November, grocery stores run weekly sales on Thanksgiving items. During your regular shopping trip, be on the lookout for items you know you will need for that Thanksgiving feast. If you are a savvy shopper you can catch some of the canned goods at rock bottom prices during the year so throw an extra two or three cans in your cart and put them back for Thanksgiving. By the time Thanksgiving rolls around, you will have everything you need and you won’t have to do any last minute shopping.
- Check the bottom of your receipts. Have you ever looked at the bottom of your receipt or received Catalina coupons from the cash register? If so, check them out. One year, while shopping at Winn Dixie, I received a Catalina coupon for a free turkey, if I spent $200 during a designated time in the month of November. I know you are thinking why would I want to spend $200 just to get a free turkey? Well in my case it was a no brainier, because $200 is a light grocery trip for me and there was no stipulation as to before or after coupons, so my coupons whittled that $200 down to less than $50. That year we had turkey for Thanksgiving and Christmas. SCOOOORE!
- Shop ethnic supermarkets. I know we all have our favorite supermarket chain, but think outside the box. Many ethnic supermarkets are fantastic places for cheaper produce, grains, nuts, herbs and spices. For an extra added bonus, if you can move past turkey for your meat, ethnic grocers carry many meats and poultry that are fresher by far than your local big name supermarket. I heard from a friend that they also make sure they have the best deals on their business energy often. Perhaps they use websites such as Usave to compare quotes?
- Shop your own pantry. Before you go to the grocery store, look at what you already have. Often times we have a can of cream of mushroom soup, breadcrumbs and other Thanksgiving friendly ingredients on hand collecting dust.
- Buy seasonally. In the summer months, everyone loves peach cobbler and that’s fine, because peaches are in season. But in November, you will pay triple for fresh peaches. In November apples, squash, pears, broccoli and potatoes are in season, plentiful and cheap. Plan your meal with that in mind. For a list of other options in your geographical area visit epicurious.com’s Seasonal Ingredient Map
- Skip unpopular “traditional” dishes. For year’s I used to make green bean casserole just because my grandmother made it. I wanted to preserve some of that traditional Thanksgiving dinner I used to eat when growing up. The kicker is that none of my children ate it nor did my husband. That dish alone was a colossal waste of money. Unless you have a brood to feed and you know they will eat it, skip those pricier dishes that end up in the garbage.
- Get tricky. Okay, please don’t tell my family, but I use smaller plates. This tricks them into thinking they are eating more just because the plate is full.
- Who says Thanksgiving has to be on Thursday? Honestly at my age every day is a day of thanksgiving. Seriously, do you have family coming from out of town? If so hold off on that feast until Saturday. That way you can catch the day-after Thanksgiving bins at the supermarket. The left over Thanksgiving themed items will be deeply discounted.
- Eat out. If you’re a small party — think two or three people– it could be cheaper for you to dine out. Plenty of restaurants and diners offer holiday specials that can cost you less per plate than it would if you cooked a feast yourself. And who doesn’t like letting someone else prepare the meal?
Now that I have shared these tips, who is going to invite me and my family to dinner?
Your Money Make-Up Artist