TRUCKEE, Calif. - Though it may be the most wonderful time of the year, the holiday grocery bill often ends up looking less than wonderful.
With moms, dads, aunts, uncles, grandparents, in-laws and cousins going in and out of your home, kids on break and friends swinging by for holiday dinners, your pantry must weather the winter storm. Unfortunately, your wallet faces the same harsh conditions.
Luckily, prepping for the holidays doesn't have to mean blowing your budget on food and drink. Follow these four easy tips for a surefire way to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year in the most frugal way.
Avoid pre-made temptations
Generally, the closer a food is to being ready to eat, the more costly it will be. Pass up the packaged pies, roasted meats, jugs of eggnog, boxes of cookies and pre-made cheese balls and instead, save money by whipping these up at home.
By investing in basic ingredients that can be used for multiple recipes, you can hone in on your kitchen skills and save a hefty amount of dough in the long run.
Plan your meals now
Now's the perfect time to map out holiday meals. Meal planning is a simple way to save money and time in the kitchen, prepare balanced dinners and best of all during the holiday season, reduce stress. Cut down on grocery store runs and say good-bye to impulse spending.
Meal planning is simple and should be used all year long. First, make a list of foods your family likes. Then, designate a meal to a day, check your pantry for what you already have and make a shopping list of what you need for the week. By keeping your home-cooked meals organized, you're less likely to overspend at the store and more likely to keep your budget, time and family's nutrition in line.
Make a grocery list
Planning is key to saving money. Think of your grocery trip as a road trip, and your shopping list is your map - an essential item for any trek. Don't let impulses and eye-catching store displays lead you astray from your mission. By having a tangible shopping list, whether on paper or on your phone, you have a constant reminder of your necessities vs. your wants.
Shop fresh for seasonal produce
Winter veggies are ripe for the taking right now, so take advantage of the best tasting and best priced gifts of Mother Nature. From squash to cabbage to beets to broccoli, there are plenty of seasonal produce options up for grabs. In-season means overstocked, which means better pricing for consumers. Otherwise, check out the frozen produce aisle for the less bountiful produce.
Make the happy holiday season even happier this year by being a savvy buyer. Your moms, dads, aunts, uncles, grandparents, in-laws, cousins, kids, friends and wallet will be glad you did.
- Sheri Alzeerah is a journalist and freelance writer for www.foodonthetable.com.