Holiday Cooking On a Budget

Tampa Bay Network to End Hunger recognizes that one of the hardest times of the year to stay within your budget is the holiday season. You may need to purchase new attire for events, numerous gifts for loved ones, and pay hefty power bills to heat your home.

Spending too much on a fancy holiday meal that will be consumed in a matter of hours or days is not a good idea when money is tight. To stretch your budget and produce a delicious meal for family and friends, start by establishing a budget for the total amount you can afford to spend.

Importance of staying on budget

We are all aware that the holiday season can be especially difficult on our finances and can encourage us to go overboard in our efforts to celebrate fully.

How may the ghosts of Christmas Debts be effectively vanquished? How can you arrange this year’s events more cost-effectively, so they go well without breaking the bank?

Making arrangements for inexpensive Christmas meals is a positive step. Not only will your preparations help you avoid losing money this holiday season, but they will also keep you from becoming overwhelmed by everything else that has to be done.

How to Stay on Budget

We tend to spend more during the holiday season; we may buy things we can’t afford or go over the budget. The following tips will help you stay on the budget while shopping for holiday meals:

  1. Prepare a Budget.

Yep, it’s the very un-festive B word. The problem is, if you don’t tell your money where to go, it will undoubtedly go astray when you’re not looking.

Budgeting for Christmas is crucial; the earlier you do it, the better. Even though you presumably already have a grocery budget, you’ll want to raise it slightly to account for the extra costs associated with the holidays.

Consider the holiday gatherings you have hosted in the past to help make a preliminary estimation of costs for this year. To get an approximate estimate, look over your bank statements from the previous year to see what you spent.

  • Follow the List

By creating and adhering to a thorough, well-thought-out shopping list, you may avoid making impulsive purchases at the grocery store. Although there are numerous temptations on every aisle, having a list to refer to will help you restrain yourself and stick to your spending limit. They all add up no matter how good of a deal the additional dollars and cents seem to be.

  • Buy groceries in bulk.

If you are aware of the food preferences of your family members, plan ahead and purchase in bulk at your neighborhood warehouse club store.

If you buy a lot at once and stick with generic brands rather than name brands, you may find cheaper sodas, cooking oil, butter, milk, and other items. If the cola isn’t a name brand, nobody seems to notice or care! Same goes for all your holiday ingredients.

  • Feel free to alter recipes.

Finding new recipes to try our each holiday is super fun, but a pricey ingredient list might ruin your budget. Check for similar ingredients already in your own cabinet while creating your shopping list to prevent purchasing expensive ingredients you really don’t need.

 For instance, you may substitute margarine for shortening in a pie crust or water and salt for stock. If you have dried herbs that add a similar flavor, you may omit a few fresh herbs or replace them with what you already have.

  • To save money and have variety, use seasonal foods.

While there are fewer seasonal goods available in the winter than in the summer or spring, you may still get fantastic discounts on products that can be used in various ways.

Butternut, acorn, and spaghetti winter squash are substantial and flavorful and can typically be bought at a low price per pound. They can be included in many different meals. Try butternut squash soup as an appetizer. It’s a simple recipe – peel, chop, boil, and blend with your preferred seasonings. Simmering on your stove, it will create a warm and cozy welcome for your guests.

In southern regions, broccoli, beets, carrots, leafy lettuces, turnips, and brussels sprouts are also in season. Include the healthy, fresh, colorful veggies that are in season in your area.

  • Create dishes from scratch

 Create a menu that you can prepare entirely from scratch as much as feasible.

Convenience items such as pre-made pie crusts and pre-washed, pre-chopped veggies drive up costs. There are only a few convenience foods you ought to give yourself permission to splurge on, like canned pumpkin puree for your pie and frozen vegetables.

  • Utilize coupons

Around the holidays, stores promote coupons, so keep an eye out and snag those fliers to save cash.

Even easier than coupons, check to see if your go-to grocery store has an app that offers discounts for holiday dinners from your favorite stores.

It Takes a Village

If friends, relatives, or even your children volunteer to help with the holiday meal, say a resounding “YES.” Please don’t harbor the belief that you need to accomplish it all by yourself or that only you can do it right!

Allowing people to contribute to holiday meals lessens the financial strain on you. No one should expect you to pay for and prepare everything singlehandedly. Including others in the food preparation allows them to show off their traditional dishes and contribute to the festivities. A holiday Win-Win! 

Tampa Bay Network to End Hunger is especially grateful this holiday season to all of our members, volunteers and donors.

Special thanks to Nuevo en US, Steve Cuculich and Car Credit for the gift of your support of our hunger relief mission all year long.