Feeding Family and Friends: Holiday Meals on a Budget
How do you make sure the whole family (and all your friends!) are well-fed this holiday season without breaking the bank? Whether you have just a few people or a whole gang heading to your house, here are eight tips for hosting holiday meals on a budget.
Give yourself plenty of time in advance to strategize your menu and buy your ingredients. You’ll not only reduce stress and feel more in control, you’ll give yourself more time to comparison shop and take advantage of sales and coupons on food and party supplies. Make shopping lists of exactly what you need and stick to them to avoid impulse or unnecessary spending. You can also avoid temptation and save time by shopping online at PC Express and picking up your groceries when it’s convenient to you. Embrace meal planning to help your food budget stretch further.
Break with tradition
Don’t feel pressured to serve a traditional holiday meal if it’s a financial burden or you otherwise can’t manage it. Start new traditions: Go with a favourite comfort recipe, opt for a meatless meal or serve buffet-style instead of having a sit-down dinner. Change things up to make the gathering suit you and your budget. If you’re stressed out by trying to live up to unrealistic standards, you probably won’t enjoy yourself. An online search offers plenty of ideas for cheap holiday meals to feed a crowd.
Crock pots can be your friend! Besides allowing you to do much of the meal prep beforehand and giving you more time with your guests, many slow cooker recipes take advantage of inexpensive cuts of meat.
Set the scene
Attractive holiday table décor doesn’t have to be costly. Dress up everyday items such as drinking glasses or mason jars, or small buckets with greenery from your own yard. You can enhance them with ribbon and ornaments from your holiday collection. The addition of a simple grocery store bouquet may be all you need for some floral flair. Overlapping placemats down the centre of your table can stand in for a table runner and small battery-powered tea lights can add just the right amount of shine. Remember: Not everything has to match to make a perfect table setting. You’ll find lots of other inexpensive Christmas party ideas online, including free printables for name cards and menus. Try getting the kids involved to help create easy decorations, such as cut-paper snowflakes or popcorn and cranberry garlands.
Expect the unexpected
Don’t let drop-in or short-notice guests throw you off your game. Plan ahead by trying to keep your home a quick once-over away from being guest ready, with snacks and an entertaining playlist already on standby. Stock your pantry with bite-sized treats that you can whip together quickly, such as frozen hors d’oeuvres, cheese, crackers and charcuterie, or cookies and sweets, nuts and chocolate. Voila! Everything looks fancier served on small, attractive dishes or a nice serving board with some pretty cocktail picks. Plan ahead for larger meals by having ingredients on hand for a couple of tried-and-true recipes. Swing by your local Loblaw banner store for a chance to earn (or redeem) PC Optimum points on some of your essentials.
By asking guests to bring different components of the meal, you’ll save money, time and effort. What’s more, everyone’s sure to have a dish they enjoy. Guests are typically pleased to help and requests can extend beyond food to include drinks, tableware, chairs or anything else you might need for the event. Find out more about hosting a potluck dinner here.
People won’t mind if the potatoes are a bit burnt or the centerpiece falls over. In other words, don’t worry if not everything is perfect—your guests will be happy to spend time with good company and conversation. Simple is best and also happens to be easier on your wallet. Remember that holiday entertaining is more about connecting than impressing. Happy Holidays!
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