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When it comes to planning for the holidays, it’s easy to overlook how quickly all the little purchases and gifts add up and affect our holiday budgets. There’s the feasts, the holiday parties, the cookie exchanges and the homemade gifts for teachers or neighbors, among other things.
On top of our monetary budgets, many of us also face caloric considerations during the holidays. How many cookies and sweet treats have we eaten today? This week? This month?
Luckily, it is entirely possible to make healthy choices and eat well throughout the holiday season — without spending too much of your hard-earned money. These strategies and ideas will help you better manage the cash in your wallet (along with your daily calorie intake) as you prepare for your holiday meals and goodies.
SETTING A BUDGET AS THE HOST
If you’re hosting the holiday feast, creating a realistic budget beforehand will help you stay on track. Whether you’ve never hosted before or you’re worried about how to keep it all within your regular grocery budget, there are a number of things you can do to keep the overall holiday meal costs down.
- Coupons: Thanksgiving dinner is sometimes known as the “most couponable feast of the year.” You can find coupons for popular holiday ingredients in newspapers, on major coupon websites and even on manufacturer’s websites. When you can combine the coupons with the sale prices that grocery stores offer during the weeks leading up to the holidays, you can dramatically reduce the cost of your ingredients and your overall feast.
- Store Ads: Grocery stores usually do a great job of marking down the most popular and common ingredients for traditional holiday feasts. If you can, wait until the week of the feast to buy the majority of ingredients, as prices on common ingredients and the main meats will be lowest during this time.
- Overall Feast Budget: A good rule for the host of the feast to follow is $5 per person. This means that a meal for 6 people will have a budget of $30, $60 for 12 people and $120 for 24 people.
Before you balk at this kind of a budget, it’s very possible to plan a simple, well-rounded and tasty feast for these dollar amounts. Keep in mind that the host should not bear the entire cost of the holiday feast. Aunt Betty will bring the pie everyone loves, grandma will make her world famous dinner rolls and your cousin who just got home from culinary school might want to bring her new signature soup or appetizer. If your guests don’t offer, it’s certainly not taboo to ask them to bring along a side dish or dessert.
SETTING A BUDGET AS A GUEST
If you will be a guest attending this year’s feast, it’s still a wonderful idea to set a cash
budget for the item(s) that you’ll be bringing to the meal. But just because you don’t have the additional costs of hosting, doesn’t mean you should spend whatever you want on your contribution.
Appetizers or homemade pies can be whipped up for as little as $3–$5 and homemade bread or dinner rolls are possible to prepare for less than $2. A simple and fresh side dish can range from $5–$10, depending on the number of servings you’re making.
Here are a few ideas for healthy, budget-friendly holiday dishes:
- Parmesan Smashed Potatoes
- Garlic Roasted Broccoli
- Green Beans with Garlic Aioli
- Simple Sweet Potato Casserole
- Balsamic Bacon Brussels Sprouts
- Caramelized Onion, Gruyere and Bacon Spread
Or to be the talk of the party, mix it up with one of these 16 low-calorie side dish ideas.
Watch the sale prices for your ingredients and clip any coupons that you’ll need, so you can create something fabulous and healthy for less. Making intentional choices about your menu and buying ingredients at the right time will help you save on holiday food, while eating well at the same time.