If it's your turn to host a holiday dinner for your family and friends, the economy may have you stressing the task. With rising grocery prices, buying a Thanksgiving feast or Christmas dinner on a budget may seem impossible.
However, some great ways exist to beat the high prices and host a holiday dinner that doesn't break the bank. Keep reading to learn the best tips for hosting a holiday dinner that will wow your guests while staying on budget.
Create a Meal Plan
The first step to a successful budget holiday meal is meal planning. Planning the meal includes deciding what dishes you want to make, but it also includes determining how much of each dish you need to make. Knowing your guest list can help you decide how much food you should be providing.
If you're hosting a smaller gathering, you don't need to make every dish you can think of. Stick to the staples of the meal to keep your cost down. Consider only having one main dish and no more than four side dishes.
Stay traditional with a side dish of mashed potatoes or cranberry sauce, which will often be on sale this time of year. Combining this with one or two desserts will give you a well-rounded meal for about six people without having too much food.
If you're hosting a larger dinner, decide if you want a lot of smaller dishes or larger portions of fewer dishes. If you're doing a large variety of courses, consider hosting the dinner party in multiple courses. This will take the pressure off of you when trying to have every dish hot and ready simultaneously.
Don't Pass on Store-Made Items
When hosting a large family meal, there can be a lot of pressure to make everything from scratch. However, if you're trying to make a large meal on a budget, there's no shame in opting for a few store-made items when shopping.
Many stores will offer a large variety of holiday favorites that are ready to eat or need simple prep. Opting for these will help keep your grocery list shorter, saving you money. Plus, you'll save time and sanity.
Instead of baking an apple pie from scratch, grabbing a pre-made one and warming it up in the oven is okay. It's more cost-effective to buy a single pie than to try to pay for every ingredient it takes to make one yourself.
So many people prefer to go to one store, grab everything they need, and go home. However, that can actually end up costing you more money than if you shop around. If possible, plan ahead and shop at multiple grocery stores to get the most bang for your buck.
Store coupons are often specific to one grocery store and can make items much cheaper at one store than another. Plus, stores like Aldi and other discount grocers typically offer staple items that are less expensive than their competitors. Take advantage of sales around town to cut costs when you can.
Sit down and make a list of all items you need to purchase. Then compare prices for them at the different stores in your town. If you see that Brussels sprouts are more affordable at the store across town, it may be worth the drive. Make a shopping list for each store based on who has the best price on each. This will help you find good deals that you may have missed if you only went to one store.
Consider Hosting a Potluck
No one said your holiday meal has to be traditional. Opting for a potluck-style meal can help spread the cost of the food throughout the guest list. There are a few different ways to approach this idea.
You can make the entree and desserts and have everyone else bring a dish with them. Or you can create a list of all the foods, drinks, and other supplies needed and let family members choose what they can provide.
A potluck dinner can be a fun way to try new recipes when your friends and family bring their favorite dishes. Plus, it will let you spend less time cooking and save money on the dinner bill. A lot of money goes into holiday dinners, but spreading that cost around the dinner table with a potluck can help make you feel less burdened.
Too often, hosts forget to factor in the cost of drinks for a holiday party. If you have guests who enjoy drinking at family gatherings, don't forget to budget for this. There's no shame in asking everyone to bring their own drinks if beverages are added expenses you can't afford. However, there are some ways to budget and still keep the drinks flowing.
If you're opting for wine, remember that boxed wine is usually more affordable than bottled. Boxed wine used to be something everyone avoided as much as possible, but there are some great options that are both budget-friendly and taste great. You can also buy wine at stores like Trader Joe's, which have super affordable options.
Another great option is big-batch drinks. Making pitchers of sangria or mulled wine can help you save money and still provide a delicious alcoholic beverage to go with your main course. If you have non-drinkers in attendance, consider lemonade or iced tea instead of canned beverages to save some money.
Shop Ahead If Possible
While some items need to be purchased as close to the event as possible, many items on your list can be purchased in advance. Buying food when it's on sale can help lower the overall cost of your dinner.
Keep an eye on sales papers in the weeks leading up to your big meal so you aren't buying the entire meal the week of. Different elements of your holiday meals will go on sale throughout the holiday season, allowing you to make sure you get the best price possible.
Opting for frozen food when possible is a great way to do this. Frozen vegetables are a great way to save money and spread out the cost of purchasing your produce over time. You can also typically buy a frozen turkey as long as you plan ahead and begin the thawing process with plenty of time.
Earn Cash Back
If you're placing grocery pickup or delivery orders, save even more money on your holiday meal by using the Comrade Browser Extension to earn cash back on your groceries. While shopping online, the Comrade Browse Extension will give you product recommendations that match what you're shopping for. When you visit these recommendations, you earn cash back. Now, preparing for a trip to the grocery store can actually save you money.
Cash back helps lower the total cost of your holiday meals. There's no need to go into credit card debt for a meal this holiday season. This is already an expensive time of year, so don't break the budget when you host Thanksgiving dinner. Your guests will still be appreciative of all the work you put into hosting a holiday.