The holiday season often means spending, spending, and more spending, especially when it’s time to host a dinner party for family and friends. It seems that as soon as autumn strikes everyone goes through a gauntlet of holidays, starting with Halloween and closing with the New Year. Hosts around the globe are eager to impress guests with beautiful homes, delightful decor, and of course, a delicious dining experience.
Don’t panic! Getting caught in the rush and buying every item on display in the grocery store will leave you with an overstocked pantry and an empty wallet. Take a moment to breathe, and keep these tips in mind to keep control of your spending plan.
- Check the pantries: It’s easy to write down a recipe and take it to the store, but check your shelves first! Chances are you already have spices and other ingredients on your list. There’s no need to get more, just be thorough and check. You may find something already in your cabinets gives you a creative idea for an extra dish!
- Ask guests to bring a dish: It’s often considered common courtesy for guests to bring a dish to a holiday meal, so no one on the guest list should feel burdened by bringing a side or dessert to share. Most guests love to show off their culinary creativity or family recipe! As a bonus, knowing that guests are bringing food they love eases the host’s worries about the menu, so the host is less likely to overcompensate or spend heavily when preparing.
- Serve a drink mix instead of by-the-bottle: Most hosts are afraid of looking cheap by presenting wine with twist-off caps or liquor in plastic bottles. Use less expensive alternatives in a drink mix such as a punch, sangria, or of course, the classic eggnog. It will be so delicious guests will ask more about the ratio of ingredients than specific brand names. And remember, like with sides, chances are guests may bring their own wine, beer, or other drinks to share, so don’t feel compelled to go overboard to satisfy every single person attending. People are often understanding that their own tastes may not match the host’s. Just a few drink choices will suffice for most guests. Don’t overwhelm them with options. Also: a bag of ice may be cheap, but making your own is cheaper.
- Buy in bulk: Consider what items may fit grocery needs after the holidays. A recipe may only call for a certain amount of meat, produce, or another product, but if it’s a regular item on your grocery list or you know you’ll be able to use it after the holidays, try to find that bulk discount. Remember that most ingredients can be safely stored in your cabinet, refrigerator or freezer after the big meal. Many savvy consumers package leftovers to serve as lunches for the next week.
- Coupons and price comparisons: It’s almost a lost art and has mostly been replaced by store memberships, but couponing and price comparing are still proven ways to knock plenty of dollars off the final grocery bill. Coupons can be found in newspapers, online, or through special apps. Save time by planning ahead and knowing what stores you will visit and in what order. Ask your friends how they are saving. Most will be more than eager to share their tips and secrets.
- Don’t forget decorations and final touches: Simplistic decor has made a comeback in recent years, so don’t be afraid to keep decorations to a minimum. Online community groups, nearby thrift stores, and clearance stores are excellent sources for decorations on a budget, or simply use the ones you already have. There’s no need to buy the giant scented candle when the small one will do for the evening (although baking a fresh pie may create the desired effect, too). Those who really plan ahead can prepare for the next year by buying discounted decor after a holiday or season has passed.
- Entertainment doesn’t have to be a big budget affair: Movies, music, TV sports packages, and even board games are expensive these days. Free music streaming services such as Spotify, Pandora, or YouTube can provide the desired ambiance with premade playlists. For other types of entertainment, a puzzle, the TV, or coffee table book may keep your guests occupied. Leave a few inexpensive entertainment options within eyesight and see what draws the attention of your guests. Some guests may enjoy a simple magazine or newspaper, especially if the newspaper is full of ads for holiday sales.
Holidays aren’t meant to be stressful. Minimize that stress by lowering your grocery bill, and you’ll be able to focus on what’s truly important during the holidays: coming together with family and friends.