Labor Day signals the beginning of holidays, fall and winter entertaining, and family festivals. Budgets may be tight especially at this time of year—yet you may still want to celebrate with close family and friends; here are some tips and key ideas to help you keep costs in check.
Follow the grocery sale supplements to see the up and down of pricing. Think about stocking up on the bargains after a holiday. For example, following Thanksgiving, canned pumpkin, cranberries and other baking supplies may be reduced in price.
Shop Your Pantry
Take stock of what you might already have on hand and incorporate a meal out of that. Write down your meal plan, shop accordingly, and don’t be afraid to use the store brands of canned food.
Build a Buffet
Put sides, garnishes and bean and pasta salads at the beginning of the table so plates start filling before the more expensive meats show up at the end. Think about using small sausages in sauce, mini meatballs in a chafing dish or deviled eggs. These diminutive appetizers are quite filling and savory and help to curb appetite unlike sugary foods.
Seasonal fruits and vegetables are usually abundant and thus, lower in cost. Start from scratch with produce by buying whole pieces and cutting your own portions because anything cut, washed, and pre-bagged usually trumps saving money by being higher priced. Also consider frozen vegetables in large bags, that may also be the better-priced option.
Avoid the Bakery
Grocery-store created baked goods are expensive because of their convenience. You can often buy the ingredients and create multiple servings such as a whole cake, and a whole pie or dozens of cookies much cheaper than pre-packaged bakery items. For example, $6.00-8.00 for a bakery-made cake when boxed cake mixes are under $2.00.
If you’ve been the hostess for years, think about asking family members or guests to bring at least one dish or condiment. Accepting help and trying new foods may be the most fun after all.
Create a Punch
Mixed drinks, bottled beer and other specialty wines can be top dollar, especially around a holiday. Think about creating a sparkling, spiked punch bowl or carbonate fizz drinks with a splash of alcohol to save money.
Generally, this is the best time to buy in large quantity—especially look at snack foods, apples, and off-brand chocolates.
Use Herbs, Seasonings and Salt
To get the most flavor out of foods, season it well. Also the method of cooking can save money such as buying bagged raw beans and lentils, large bag grains and prepare them in a pressure-cooker.
Skip the fancy pre-made decorations and decorate by carving out inexpensive fruits and vegetables to use as bowls. Also, elevate serving dishes by putting boxes or books under the tablecloth. Pull out candles, cut beautiful outdoor branches or pick pine cones; look in the craft drawer or sewing box for felt, ribbon and other craft materials like shiny paper than can be made in pinwheels or small flower bunches wrapped in wire for napkin rings. Make pennant-style banners with triangle paper and string to hang over the table or from overhead lighting.