Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner, which means it's time to uncinch your belt and prepare to eat. Of course, this also means that you need to get your kitchen and pantry ready for some serious cooking and prep. However, it doesn't have to mean spending a fortune at the grocery store. So, in the spirit of the season and saving money, below are six tips for feasting on a budget: Substitute Ingredients
TUTORIAL: Budgeting Basics
Using coupons is a great way to save money, and there is nothing wrong with using them. In fact, you can find a plethora of them not only in the Sunday paper but also online. This time is well spent as the savings can be upwards of $20 each week.
Purchase Sale Items in Bulk
Stock up on items when you find them at a good price - especially when it comes to dry or canned goods, or anything that has an extended shelf life. If you find a great deal on rice, beans, frozen foods, toiletries or paper items, load up. That way, you won't have to worry about running out for a while and the savings are substantial.
Find a Farmers' Market
If you have one in your area, a farmers' market can be a goldmine for your shopping budget. They usually carry better produce than at the grocery store, and offer significantly reduced prices. Farmers' markets also have hard to find items that your retail grocer may not offer, which can add variety to your diet and excitement to your menu. Perform a simple internet search to find a farmers' market near you, along with days and hours of operation.
You'll usually save money by purchasing food fresh and cooking it yourself, rather than buying ready-made alternatives - especially when it comes to cooking large meals. Though you may spend a little longer in the kitchen, you'll spend less money and end up with healthier and better tasting entrées as well. So, don't overlook the fresh fruits and veggies; take a little more time in the produce section and commit to preparing a few dishes from scratch. Your wallet and your health will be better off for it.
Substituting low-cost ingredients for their high-cost counterparts is another way to reduce your grocery bill, and it really pays off for big meals. Below are a few examples:
- Cottage Cheese for Ricotta. Are you cooking lasagna? Buy cottage cheese to use in place of ricotta.
- Dried Spices for Fresh. This can be a big money-saver, especially since your recipes will require less in the way of dried herbs as compared to fresh. In larger recipes, no one will ever know the difference.
- Tomato Paste for Tomato Sauce. Buy tomato paste instead of sauce. Then add water and season it yourself. This is a money saver and often tastes better than the pre-made versions.
- Turn Soups into Casseroles. This is not necessarily an ingredient substitute, but you can save money nonetheless. A perfect example is split pea soup. Once your soup is ready, add several cups of cooked rice to create a hearty and more filling casserole-like dish.
- Store Brands. If your recipe calls for a generic ingredient, such as pasta, rice or beans, purchase the store brand instead of the name brand. You will save money and your finished product will taste just as good.
Sometimes the most expensive part of your feast isn't even the food. It's the wine and alcohol that can really wreak havoc on your budget. But by being creative, you can prepare delicious holiday drinks like eggnog and mulled wine for not much money at all.
This works because the alcohol gets masked by sugar, spices and other ingredients, which means you can use the cheap generic brands and still serve holiday drinks that will be greatly appreciated by your guests. Another option is to purchase at least six bottles of wine at a time, which will usually get you a 10% discount at most grocery stores. Warehouse type stores like Costco also often have great deals on larger bottles of alcohol.
The Bottom Line
Preparing to feed friends and family doesn't have to be stressful or expensive as long as you start ahead of time to find the best deals and plan an affordable menu. Plus, even last-minute shopping can benefit from a quick online search for coupons at your grocery store and by substituting expensive ingredients for more affordable ones. So, don't throw caution to the wind and hurriedly buy the items you think you need. Instead, follow the tips above to prepare great-tasting and memorable feasts without breaking the bank.
EconomicsThe manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) is just what it describes – the price manufacturers recommend that retailers charge for their goods.
EconomicsCross elasticity of demand measures the quantity demanded of one good in response to a change in price of another.
Personal FinanceThe "iWatch" is a new player in the luxury watch world. But will it stand the test of time? Some points for collectors to ponder.
InvestingGrowing global demand for quinoa has impacted Bolivian farmers' way of life. Should the American consumer be wary of buying this product?
BudgetingThe excitement of welcoming your first child to your family shouldn't prevent you from making good cost-effective decisions.
BudgetingDating on a budget doesn't have to be boring. Try these 5 tips to find the best dates on a budget.
BudgetingBuying secondhand items is a great way to save money, but these seven kids items should not be bought used.
Stock AnalysisUnderstand the recent trends in the North American snacks market. Learn about the top two reasons why PepsiCo's snack division is crucial to its growth.
Personal FinanceWinter is coming. Which of these luxury threads is most worth the price (and how to distinguish true luxe from cheap imitations).
Stock AnalysisIf you want to buck the bear market trend by going long on consumer stocks, these three might be your best bets.
In microeconomics, utility represents a way to relate the amount of goods consumed to the amount of happiness or satisfaction ... Read Full Answer >>
There are many ways to achieve product differentiation, some more common than others. Horizontal Differentiation Horizontal ... Read Full Answer >>
Discretionary income is the money left over from your gross income each month after taking out taxes and paying for necessities. ... Read Full Answer >>
An original equipment manufacturer (OEM) is a company that manufactures a basic product or a component product, such as a ... Read Full Answer >>
Generally speaking, the retail sector is highly seasonal. Almost invariably, sales in the retail sector are highest in the ... Read Full Answer >>
A wide range of possible deductibles are available with health insurance plans, starting as low as a few hundred dollars ... Read Full Answer >>