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One of the best parts of the holidays is the food, even if you’re the one cooking. You may love spending time in the kitchen, serving up delectable dishes and hanging out with friends and family. But what about those bills? The good news is that it’s easy to reduce your spending on holiday meals without sacrificing the celebratory mood of the season.
Leftovers are a given for holiday meals, but they don’t always get eaten. Try cooking for the exact number of guests you plan on having, and ask everyone to bring a small dish to share. The combination of a sit-down meal and potluck lets everyone share their favorite dishes—while you still have the pleasure of hosting.
If you shop for holiday foods every year, there’s a good chance you have some staples buried in your cupboards. If you plan to bake, check your existing supplies and build recipes around them instead of running out to buy large quantities of ingredients to make a new dish.
Almost everyone wants a turkey this time of year. That means grocery stores are willing to charge big bucks, unless you order ahead of time. Shop around and find out when and where you’ll get the best deal. Your main dish can cost you a lot of money, so it’s a great place to start saving.
You can save money by focusing on seasonal ingredients, like root vegetables and gourds. Simple side dishes like roasted potatoes and yams pair well with your main dish—and cost you less than more elaborate options. If you have a large family or guest list that includes individuals with different tastes or dietary needs, you can try making individual servings in ramekins. It’s often just as easy to make two small plates of macaroni and cheese as it is to make a giant batch only a few people will eat.
The rule of thumb for holiday meals is to remember it’s about spending time with people. Your guests won’t notice if your side dish of potatoes doesn’t have an exact mixture of 17 different herbs. Often, one will do just fine. With some advance planning and communication with your guests, you can stay on budget and have a great meal.