Easy Solutions for Staying on Budget during the Holidays

admin / November 5, 2009

If you’re on a budget, November and December can be your downfall. There are the gifts to buy, the office party, the dinners, the parties to host. If you haven’t already locked yourself in the closet waiting for January 1st to roll around, sit down, take a deep breath and hopefully these tips will make it all a breeze.

Dilemma #1 Too Many Leftovers

Leftovers are Good
I wouldn’t consider any holiday meal a success without leftovers. So don’t think of them as money wasters. Consider them your answer to a quick and easy meal. Two words we all want to hear post Thanksgiving Day.
Turkey-apart from turkey sandwiches, you can make turkey burritos, tacos. Turkey shepherd’s pie (also ideal for using up those mashed potatoes).
Or a turkey wrap…but don’t use a tortilla, instead use an actual slice of turkey as the wrap. Layer with mayo, mustard, lettuce and roll. And here’s a way to use up the leftover stuffing, pile it on a slice of turkey, roll, pour leftover gravy on top and heat through.
Stuffing- In my house the stuffing doesn’t stay around that long. And yes, I’ll make my confession here; I’m the person who takes a nibble or two every time I stop by the fridge. If you should find yourself with lots of it, buy some portabella mushrooms and fill them with the stuffing. And you can even use it to fill chicken breasts and pork chops.
Veggies-Mash together and roll into patties, then roll in egg wash, coat with seasoned breadcrumbs and sauté until golden brown. Children love these especially if you serve them with ‘special holiday sauce’ aka ketchup.

Dilemma #2 Hosting a Holiday Party
If you’re neither a gourmet cook or have a huge budget, here are some ideas-

Host a Wine and Cheese Party
There’s only one place I ever buy cheese in bulk and that’s a warehouse store. I’ve done some comparison-shopping and you can’t beat them for both selection and prices when it comes to cheese. If you don’t have a membership, maybe a family member, friend, or co-worker does and will let you shop with them. Pick out three or maybe four varieties. Make sure there is something for everyone’s taste. Sharp and mild cheddar, Gouda, even a mozzarella.

Have a Brunch- Brunch, or basically jazzed up breakfast items don’t cost as much as those needed for a formal sit down dinner. Fruit juice, muffins, cheeses, sausages, eggs, a couple of casseroles, maybe a cake, pie, or just a fruit platter.

Have a Progressive Dinner- I remember back to my days at university when I lived in an apartment with three other roommates. It was a popular spot for students and the owners held lots of social events so we all got to know one another. One event was a progressive dinner. Three apartments were matched up and had to arrange a progressive dinner party. The first one would host the appetizer, the next one the main entrée, the next the dessert and drinks. We went from one apartment to the next eating our way through the evening. You can do the same thing with your friends or family. It’s also the ideal time of the year for this type of dinner because you get to see how everyone’s decorated his or her house. And the bottom line…you don’t have to pay for the whole fun evening.

Dilemma #3-Contributing to the Office Party
I know lots of people just stop by their local store and pick up a meat or cheese platter, but they can be pricey. They’re easy to put together yourself and this is where the trick of knowing how to present foods can really save you a penny or two. When I took cooking classes half of the grade was decided by how I presented the food at the end of the lesson. And you don’t have to be a gourmet cook to make food look great. Cheese and meats can be given a holiday look by using holiday cookie cutters can be used on cheeses and cold cuts. Another idea is to put a few sprigs of herbs on the platter; rosemary and thyme look very festive. Remember when everyone used to bring a cheese ball to a party? They’re back in fashion, but during the holidays they can be rolled in parsley and paprika to give them the look of the season. Even brownie and cakes that have originated in a box can look really fancy if you use some imagination. Maybe make appetizer sized pieces, or once again cut them out with holiday themed cutters. And how about a fruit platter with a dip. However, don’t serve it in a bowl, but try a scooped out orange or a pomegranate.