7 Tips for Cooking Holiday Meals on a Budget

Woman Preparing a Holiday Feast: Placing a Turkey in the Oven

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  • Make delicious meals and save money by substituting certain ingredients, buying generic or store brands, and using digital coupons.
  • Purchase fresh fruits and vegetables that are “in season.”
  • Stick to your list when grocery shopping; avoid “impulse” buys.

Whether your holiday meals include turkey or tofu, immediate family or virtual gatherings, below are seven tips for cooking delicious meals without busting your budget.

1. Create your menu in advance and prioritize. Don’t wing it when it comes to preparing meals for the holidays. Jot down the dishes you are planning to make and the ingredients you will need. Look over your list carefully. Do you need to make all those side dishes or can you eliminate one? Check your pantry to see what you have already and make a list of the items you need. Don’t “impulse” buy at the supermarket. It’s easy to get distracted with sales and other food or ingredients that you really don’t need.  

2. Focus on dishes that appeal to everyone. If there are any dietary restrictions, such as those who are gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, allergic to certain foods or ingredients, etc., prepare a meal that everyone can eat rather than separate dishes catering to different dietary needs. The cost of making additional dishes can add up quickly.  Not only can this help you save money, but no one will feel excluded from the foods they cannot eat nor accidentally eat a dish that has an ingredient they may be allergic to.

3. Dress up ordinary dishes. Turn an average dish into a special dish by simply adding an ingredient or spice. For example, turn steamed carrots into Moroccan carrots by adding spices such as cumin and cinnamon or add fresh garlic, garlic salt and scallions to mashed potatoes. These inexpensive ways of turning ordinary dishes into extraordinary holiday-themed dishes will have everyone asking for seconds…maybe even thirds!  

4. Buy generic or store-brand ingredients when possible. When shopping, skip the brand names and go for the less expensive generic or store brands. Compare the labels; there is usually very little or virtually no difference with certain name brands and you can potentially save 30-60 percent.

5. Purchase produce in season. When you buy fruits and vegetables that are “in season,” not only do they taste great, but the prices are usually reduced because of the larger supply at that time. According to The Penny Hoarder, fruits and vegetables that are “in season” in autumn and winter include beets, winter squash, pineapples and pears, among many more.

6. Check out coupons. Check out digital coupons to save money on your groceries. You can go online and print out coupons or download one of several apps to your phone. Using digital coupons also saves you time since you are no longer clipping coupons the old-fashioned way. 

7. Substitute some ingredients. When planning your menus for the holidays, look at what cheaper ingredients you may be able to substitute to save money especially since the cost for all the ingredients in a holiday meal can really add up. Some foods are usually more expensive such as certain nuts. For example, according to the Today Show, one ounce of pine nuts costs $1.44, whereas one ounce of almonds is about 42 cents. If you can substitute certain ingredients, you can save money, the dish will be just as delicious, and no one will know the difference. 

And here is one more tip: don’t forget to check your credit score during the holidays at CreditSesame.com and visit our blog for additional money-saving ideas!

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be relied on as financial advice.

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