Last updated on February 12th, 2019 at 10:47 am
Is money tight this holiday season? Learn how to stretch your Christmas food budget so you can spend less on Christmas dinner and more on the other things that matter.
Christmas right around the corner and if you’re like me, you’re already looking at your budget and wondering how you’re going to make it all work—Tree! Decorations! Travel! Gifts! And of course, food! Today I’m going to help you out with one of those things—stretching your Christmas food budget. You’ll be able to create a wonderful meal for your family while saving money so you can have another present or two from Santa under the tree!
The biggest key to staying within your Christmas budget is to get organized. Heading into your local grocery store without a plan of what you are making and how much you need to buy to make it is a recipe for budget disaster.
Start by creating your guest list. If possible keep the guest list small to help lessen the strain on the budget. Gather all of your recipes and make note of the ingredients and quantities you’ll need. Make sure to “shop” your own cabinets—you may have ingredients you need already on hand.
Before you go shopping, however, make sure to keep these next few tips in mind.
Ask Guests to Bring a Dish or a Drink
Guests are often happy to bring a dish to a large gathering like Christmas brunch or dinner. Reach out to your most responsible guests and ask if they’d like to bring anything. Cousin Betsy can bring her famous roasted potatoes? Great! Check it off your list. Make sure your guest knows how many people will be attending your dinner so they can bring the right amount for everyone.
If you feel uncomfortable asking a guest to bring a dish, you can always see if they have an extra bottle of wine lying around that they could bring. They often do, and may stop at the store if they don’t—no one wants to show up to a party empty-handed.
Choose a Different Cut of Meat
Prime Rib is a top pick for Christmas dinner, but it’s price tag is enough to break the bank. Instead, choose a tougher cut of meat, like a top sirloin or even a brisket. Cooking tougher cuts of meat correctly can yield a tender roast that will make everyone around the Christmas table smile!
Use Foods that Stretch the Budget
Unlike Thanksgiving, there aren’t a lot of “traditional” foods for Christmas. I did an informal survey on my Facebook page and a lot of people have some sort of roast, but that’s where the similarities end. Christmas proteins ranged from roasts to turkeys to hams to tofu. Sides included the traditional Thanksgiving sides, but also a lot of ethnic food—Mexican, Indian, Chinese. Lots of people had specific family traditions, like a baked pineapple, crab, or pasta. Some people didn’t have Christmas dinner at all, and preferred brunch or, my particular favorite, an entire day of snacking on appetizers.
Because your guests might not have the same expectations as Thanksgiving, you can stretch your budget by using foods that don’t break the bank. Potatoes, pasta, and rice go a long way on a small budget and make good sides for a roast, as mentioned above. Dessert can be simple — no need to make or buy a fancy buche de noel, an apple pie or little mince pies will do just fine. More than anything, skip fancy dishes with a long list of ingredients (especially ingredients you don’t use in your everyday cooking) — stick with simple, home-cooked recipes and everyone will go back for seconds.
Consider Fewer Dishes but Larger Quantities
Likewise, choose to make fewer dishes this year but in larger quantities. No one will miss a dish they never knew was going to be there, and buying fewer ingredients overall will make your budget go a lot further.
Choose One Signature Drink
Instead of opening up your bar cabinet to your guests, serve a signature Christmas drink. Classic egg nog is a great pick, or hot buttered rum will warm your guests from the inside out. Wine is always a solid choice as well, or a nice crisp cider.
You could also skip the drinks altogether—but where’s the fun in that?
Your local store will undoubtedly have a lot of great Christmas food deals. Buy a local paper and check the circulars, visit their website, get a rewards card, download their app, and sign up for emails and even text messages. Coupons and specials come in a lot of forms these days—make sure you’re seeing as many as possible! Also make sure you’re looking for manufacturer’s coupons as well, though buying the store brand is often a less expensive choice.
If you’re a Raley’s shopper (if you live close to one, you should be!), use your Something Extra rewards card to earn cash back on your Christmas purchases. You’ll make back a percentage of what you spend, saving you even more money in the long run.
Use Curbside Pick Up
I’m usually a go-into-the-store-and-shop kind of girl. I walk our twins in our stroller to our local Raley’s two or three times a week (though not as much in the winter — brr!) and fill the bottom of our stroller with groceries. I visit with the people who work there — everyone knows and loves the boys!
But shopping for Christmas on a budget is different. If your local store offers it, try curbside pick-up, like Raley’s eCart! You can sit at your computer, list in hand, and make sure you get everything you need the first time. I find it a lot easier to stick to my budget when I’m not wandering the aisles, looking for what I need.
And curb-side pick-up is convenient if you’re super busy—and who isn’t during this Christmas season?
Decorate with Natural Elements
You don’t have to spend a fortune to decorate for Christmas dinner. You don’t need fancy china, expensive glassware, and Santa and all his reindeer at the center of the table.
Stick to simple, natural elements like pine cones, a bit of greenery, burlap, and simple white taper candles are perfect for setting a holiday mood. And let’s be real, your guests aren’t there for the decor — they are there for the company and the good food! (And the presents. Ha!)
Use Your Leftovers
Thanksgiving leftovers often get all the glory, but Christmas leftovers make great next-day fare, too! A nice French dip using leftover rolls, roast, and cheese? Delish!
I hope you’ve found these ideas helpful for stretching your Thanksgiving budget. How do you pinch pennies around the holidays? Leave me any tips I missed in the comments!