Are you hosting a crowd this holiday season? Having a bunch of family members over, whether it’s for Thanksgiving dinner or for a week at Christmastime, can be expensive – but it doesn’t have to be if you follow some of our advice!
For the big meal:
- Plan, plan, plan! Make a list of everything you’ll serve, from the main dish to side dishes, sauces, and desserts. Buy only the items on your list and don’t be tempted to pick up other tasty goodies.
- If you plan a few weeks ahead of time, you’ll have enough time to pick up items as they go on sale.
- Make it a potluck, or just ask for help with a few dishes. Decide what you’d like to make yourself, then email guests with a list of the other dishes you’d like to serve and ask them to help. Everyone knows it’s expensive to host a holiday gathering, so no one will mind chipping in.
- For your turkey or ham, watch for store promo deals. Some give a free turkey if you spend a certain amount in the weeks prior to Thanksgiving, some give store gift cards for transferring prescriptions to the store pharmacy, and others price match. Find the deal that works for you.
For other meals:
- Buy in bulk. Ask a friend with a warehouse club membership to let you tag along one day. You can buy ingredients for Thanksgiving dishes, cereal in bulk, multiple loaves of bread – everything you need to feed your crowd. Remember to stick to your list there too!
- If you want to serve expensive items like lobster or salmon, don’t use them as main dishes. Incorporate them into side dishes or appetizers and you won’t have to buy as much.
- Even if you prefer to do your family’s shopping at a higher-end grocery store, you’ll save a lot by shopping at a cheaper one while company is here. The only difference between many of the items you may need, like pasta, rice, or canned goods, is the price. Then go back to your preferred store when you have fewer mouths to feed.
- Use cheap ingredients like rice, noodles, or beans to bulk up soups and casseroles.
- When possible, substitute cheaper cuts of meat for expensive ones. Check out AllRecipes.com or FoodNetwork.com to find substitutes.
- Use leftovers from the big meal to make the next few meals. Use leftover Thanksgiving turkey to make pot pies, or make stew out of leftover beef and veggies. Have plenty of bread for sandwiches, too.
- For breakfast, have plenty of cereal, bagels, eggs, and milk. Plan to make one big breakfast while company is here, instead of a big breakfast every day.
- Sandwiches are cheap – lay out an assortment of bread, lunchmeat, and condiments so people can make their own lunches.
- Check out your city’s website or your area’s tourism site to find an event calendar filled with free things to do.
- Set out some board games. They’re a blast to play in big groups, and if they’re already sitting out, people will probably play them.
- Make a list of possible things to do ahead of time – museums, parks, the zoo – so you won’t have to rack your brain while you’re busy hosting. Everyone can choose what they’d like to do. Look for coupons or group discounts.
- Ask for help. Have people take turns with prep work and clean-up. Every so often, have kids stop to pick up for 5 minutes. Everyone will be happier with a little less chaos!
Most of all, don’t go crazy from stress and remember to enjoy what the holidays are really about – being thankful for the time you have with your family.