I have been reading various internet articles about how to plan a frugal holiday meal and some of the tips offered are something I would not consider frugal or desirable. So, I thought I'd share how I plan a frugal yet TASTY homestyle holiday FEAST, one that you can enjoy without having to starve yourself for weeks ahead just to be able to afford it.
A meal plan is VITAL for a holiday meal so that you know what you need to buy, you don't plan too many similar dishes, and you don't forget anything! I try to utilize foods that are free to me (husband gets a turkey from his employer, we have canned or frozen garden produce, etc.), inexpensive (sales, made from ingredients I already have), and things that I can use in more than one holiday dish, ex. cranberries. I cook from scratch, so the plan also helps me to plan my time wisely i.e. what can be made ahead. I found this handy printable at www.cleanmama.net along with even more handy tips!
I also plan the meal based on typical sale prices, portions, and KNOWN recipes.
- MANY items go on sale for a few weeks before the holiday. Watch for those sales! Know what you will typically need and get those things when they are on sale. A big tip: some stores mark fresh turkeys down to extremely low prices right after Thanksgiving, so it's a good idea to grab one THEN and freeze it for Christmas dinner!
- Unless you want a lot of leftovers, you had better be aware of how many portions you'll need. Don't buy a 20 lb. turkey to feed a family gathering of six people unless you plan for a lot of turkey leftover meals or plan to freeze the extra. Do the same with side dishes and desserts. Trust me, I'm well known for cooking way too much food! Family WILL get tired of eating the same leftovers for days afterward! A general rule of thumb is 1 lb. of turkey or ham per person if you want ZERO leftovers, 2 lb. if you plan on leftovers. I found a chart on www.goodhousekeeping.com for other foods as well, although it looks to me to be one of those "zero leftovers" meals.
- Holidays are not a time to try to impress with a recipe you have never tried to make. Do yourself a favor, save yourself a lot of frustration, and just don't.