"A balanced diet is a Christmas cookie in each hand"
Christmas food doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, most of us could probably pay for our Christmas meals with our regular grocery money if we take a little time to plan ahead. It is so easy to go overboard buying rich foods for the holiday season only to end up with a few extra pounds. Having a limited budget helps us to eat less expensive foods and consume fewer sweets to avoid the extra weight gain from splurging too much for the holidays. You do not have to have a traditional Christmas. Don’t be afraid to be creative and try something different. Your family may even like it better!
If you include family members on the choice of foods, they will enjoy the meal even more. They can be involved by preparing a part of it as well.
Let’s talk about the Christmas food budget and ideas to cut down the costs. The two big questions are: how much time do you want to spend in the kitchen and how much money do you plan on spending?
Whatever your food budget is, it needs to be divided into the meals that it will cover. Typically, we divide ours in three for the Christmas eve meal, Christmas brunch and Christmas dinner. If people are hungry, they just snack during the day.
Let’s say that I have $20 for holiday meals for a family of 4.
I would spend it on:
$7.50 Christmas Eve Dinner
Soup and Bread
Gumbo and Rice, Potato Salad, Bread shaped like an alligator
$5.00 Christmas Breakfast
Omelets, Hash browns and Muffins
$7.50 Christmas Dinner
Freeze half of my Thanksgiving dinner and then add a salad and crisp for dessert from raspberries and rhubarb from our garden.
By knowing my budget ahead of time, I can look for the items I need on sale, or tweak my menu if other food items are on a great sale.
Here are some ideas of things you can do if money is tight:
Put food coloring in your drinking water if you want it to look festive.
Save half of your Thanksgiving dinner for Christmas. This makes it SO easy because you won’t have to be cooking a lot for Christmas. Plate ahead so people don’t realize you are using your leftovers and partial pies.
Buy an extra turkey on sale at Thanksgiving and save it for Christmas.
Have a potluck. This is honestly the best idea if you want the most bank for your buck, plus you get to visit with those you enjoy. By having everyone participate, it is cheaper for everyone.
Save parts of your dinners during the month of December and put them all out for a Christmas eve smorgasbord. You could have a pretty nice buffet.
Try making Povitica, a traditional Eastern European dessert that is like a cinnamon bread with the dough rolled very thin. It doesn’t cost a lot, but is a little more challenging to make. Make it earlier in December and freeze some for Christmas brunch. It is pretty classy without costing a lot.
Look into promotions at your pharmacy for free groceries if you have to buy a prescription. I did this one year. The prescription only cost about 7 dollars and I got a $25 gift card. Sometimes you can get it if you transfer a prescription as well.
Make a yule log for fun and have a special Christmas dessert instead of having a special Christmas meal.
Buy smaller packages or make less. Make half a recipe.
For low stress, make an inexpensive Italian dinner for the holiday with spaghetti for example. The red sauce is festive, a green bean casserole would be as well.
To make things fun, wrap up the courses or ingredients for your meal. Whatever someone picks, they have to make.
Make hamburgers or have pizza and buck tradition.
Order Chinese food. Many Chinese do not typically celebrate Christmas, so you won’t ruin their holiday because you want to order out.
If you are involved with a cookie exchange or get treats from friends, freeze the cookies and save them for Christmas Eve or Christmas day to have a large selection of desserts.
Make a wreath from bread dough.
“When what to my wondering eyes should appear?
But 10 extra pounds on hips, thighs and rear.”
For our Christmas brunch, we always have omelets. I can buy one or two slices of bacon or get bacon bits from the salad bar for under a dollar. I save bits of cheese, peppers, and onions the months before and use them in our omelets. Potatoes are cheap at Thanksgiving time and hash browns are easy to make. Muffins, cinnamon rolls, or coffee don’t cost much to make. Use leftover Halloween candy to decorate if you wish. You can even make half or one fourth of a recipe to save money. Many times you can find bakery items on a reduced rack at the store for a dollar.
If you traditionally have blueberry muffins, freeze blueberries in July when they are at rock bottom prices and save them for Christmas.
Use what you have or what is on sale. For example, if you don’t have blueberries for your muffins, make streusel muffins.