Big Holiday Meals on a Budget!

imgp8302Now that we’ve gotten through with Halloween, we can start focusing on Thanksgiving and Christmas. That means two big family dinners, and most likely, countless other get togethers, potlucks, and shared meals.

Here are a few tips on how to prepare some healthy meals and stay on budget!

Ask for help! Everyone has a dish that they excel at making. Ask friends and family to bring their best dish. It will make everyone feel included and cut down on your budget. Each Thanksgiving, my parents make a turkey, rolls, stuffing and potatoes (I make the gravy as soon as my mom pulls the the turkey out of the roasting pan to rest!). Our guests bring all sorts of other awesome dishes. We all end up stuffing ourselves and taking home tons of leftovers. But the best part is trying all of the great, different dishes! Just make sure that everyone tells you what they are bringing.. You may just end up with 10 green bean casseroles!

Make a Budget and stick to it Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses! If you can’t afford everything that you think you need, just do with what you can afford. Trust me, you don’t NEED 5 different types of dessert!

Shop at discount stores. You all know my love of 99 Cents Only and Grocery Outlet by now, so I shouldn’t have to remind you, but don’t forget to shop at discount stores too! You’ll find all kinds of deals! I love starting my weekly shopping trip at 99 Cents Only. While they don’t accept coupons, I frequently find great deals on produce from name brands like Dole, Del Monte, Foxy, Driscolls, and Earthbound Organics! Check your local stores websites to see what’s on sale before you leave home.

Stretch your budget with low cost items. Potatoes are usually very inexpensive, so stretch your menu with a tasty, filling potato dish. Despite their bad reputation as being full of carbs, potatoes are also high in vitamin c, potassium, vitamin B6, and manganese. Roasted spuds tossed in olive oil and fresh herbs- YUM! Other inexpensive foods this time of year are apples. Apple crisp is one of my favorite dishes. I’ll be posting the recipe later this week!

Don’t forget your coupons! Starting in the next week or so, printable coupon sites (like the ones listed here) and coupon inserts will be peppered with coupons for holiday feast foods. Canned soups, french fried onions, stuffing, pantry staples. And don’t forget rebate/couponing apps (like these) too! You will be saving money left, right, and center!

Prepare food that is in season.  For the fall, that means root veggies, gourds (yeah, that includes pumpkins!), apples, dark leafy greens (think kale, etc.), and for those in warmer climates oranges and pomegranates! Buy meat that is on sale (typically turkey, ham, and prime rib). Tons of baking supplies and pantry staples go on sale in the fall and winter too. Stock up when prices are low- most pantry staples have a long shelf life. It will help you stretch your budget through the spring.

Bake/cook from scratch! Not only is home made food more cost effective and healthier than pre-packaged foods. Bonus- home made baked goods like bread and cookies always taste better, right? Here is my go to beer bread recipe and my families favorite cookie recipe

 

My favorite: Use what you have on hand!  Before you hit up the stores, write out your menu for these special occasions. Make a list of  ingredients needed for the recipes and check your pantry.  You’d be surprised what you may already have.

 

I’d love to hear your tips for saving money on food this holiday season!

 

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Great gifts for kids that won’t break the bank (or your sanity)

DSCN9862It’s that time of year, when friends and relatives start asking you and your kids the dreaded question.. The Holiday gift question.

First of all, if you don’t have kids, please do your friends WITH kids a favor: Skip the toys that make noise/require batteries. Many a night I was woken by a phantom toy mysteriously going off. This Stupid Fisher Price Dog was the main culprit.

This year, we’re skipping all the “hot” toys. Why? Well, we don’t have cable, so Lil’ Man doesn’t really know about what toys everyone else has or wants. We mostly watch PBS and Netflix. I’m trying to get away from “stuff”. We have so many toys and stuffed animals. We don’t need a lot more stuff. I’m asking for more “experience” type gifts. Here are a few things that are always welcome in any household:

  • Groupon/living social/Amazon Local discounted vouchers or gift cards to places that  kids love to go, but can be a little pricey. For us, that’s Urban Jungle, Kid Ventures, Boomers, bowling. Zoo tickets, movie tickets, and museum passes are great options as well!
  • If you have a vacation planned, ask for gift cards. We have a friend who takes their family to Disney World each year, and she asks her family to buy the kids Disney gift cards to help offset the cost of their vacation (bonus- Disney GC can be used almost anywhere in the park- food, gift shop, even admission!).
  • Accessories for toys or games the kids already have. We always need more train tracks for our Thomas the Tank Engine trains. Most kids could always use more pretend food (we like these and these from Melissa and Doug).
  • Gift baskets that include experiences: I know I keep going back to experiences, but kids and families love to do stuff together. Movie baskets that contain popcorn, candy, redbox codes or GC for redbox is always a big hit here. We’ve given pizza night baskets that contain the fixins for a pizza (boboli crust, toppings, sauce) and a board game. Use your imagination!
  • IOU’s/GC for dates or time with the kids: Lil’ Man and I have a special date every week. We go out to eat and do an activity together. Maybe you have a little in your life that you’d like to spend more time with? Give them the gift a a date! Ice cream feeding the ducks, exploring nature- all of these things are inexpensive for you and mean a lot to a kid.
  • Craft supplies. The most popular gifts we’ve both give and received have been treasure boxes (usually a decorative cardboard box from Michael’s) full of craft supplies. Dollar Tree has a great selection of craft kits, glitter glue, stickers, feathers, pom poms, construction paper, water color paint, acrylic paints. Add in some wooden cut outs from Michaels (.50 or less EACH), and a few paint brushes and the kids will have fun for hours. The best part: for less than $20, they’ve got a cool box and tons of stuff to keep them busy and unplugged!
  • Monthly Subscription Boxes: Kids love to get mail. Monthly subscription boxes like Kiwi Crate, Little Passports, Green Kid Crafts are a great option for kids to get a little something fun in the mail each month- and monthly subscription boxes aren’t that expensive! Adults love them too! BirchBox (makeup), UrthBox (snacks), and Dollar Shave Club (razors and shaving accessories for men and women) are all popular options!