The more I talk to friends the more I am hearing the same thing. Money is tight from one end to the other and it seems everyone is pinching pennies trying to make this a great Christmas. While we anxiously await the birth of Christ we also often have anxiety over the credit card bills to come or the age old "will there be enough". A few days ago I blogged about what past Christmases had taught me. Today I want to help everyone start developing a strategy to help survive the season with their budget still intact.
1. Cut the cookie baking. Baking supplies are CRAZY expensive. Overflowing cookie trays are lovely but they are nowhere near as cheap to make as they have been in years gone by. Cut down to making the "must have" cookies. Let each family member pick 1 recipe they REALLY want and then if it makes more than 2 dozen cookies, cut it in half. If you're a "cookie gifter", stay tuned. Tip 2 is for you.
2. Learn to bake bread instead. Bread is cheap to make, stretches meals, and looks VERY impressive. On Monday I'll be sharing my favorite basic bread recipe I use to make everything from apple stuffed rolls to garlic bread to cinnamon rolls. You can do almost anything with it and it requires hands, a large bowl, and measuring utensils. :) SUPER easy and far more frugal than the extravagant baking sprees of the past. Kids love helping to knead the dough and put baked goods together and you'll love the savings!
3. Start plotting your meals now so you can plan ahead. For example, our family Christmas Eve tradition is to have lasagna with garlic bread and a salad. By cooking extra homemade spaghetti sauce in advance and browning extra meat I can have all that ready and prepped ahead of time. The more you make yourself from scratch, the more you'll save! Make pancakes the week before and double your recipe so you'll have them already done on Christmas morning! Little things like this instead of purchasing pre-made goods save you dollars and give you more time with your family. It's a real win/win!
4. Start remaking meals into other meals. This is a favorite budget stretching tactic here. Make a larger roast on Monday. Then on Wednesday recycle half the leftover meat into a casserole. Then on Friday take the bones and the remaining meat and make a soup. 3 meals, 1 roast. To really stretch it out, either serve all the meat in soups/casseroles or serve homemade rolls with the roast to significantly cut the amount of meat that's eaten because tummies are full with all that homemade yumminess. If you can "stretch" other meals into your breakfast (ham chopped into quiche, those pancakes from #3, etc) and into your lunch (homemade soup!) your budget gets significantly cut. To make that soup even more special, serve it in homemade bread bowls with your new bread making skills from #2!
5. Pick 1-2 items to "splurge" on for your holiday meal. Even better, if others are coming turn it into a potluck for the rest of the items. Make the rest of the items more inexpensive things you can make at home. For example, we "splurge" on the ham and the chocolate peanut butter pie for Christmas Day and I use good old fashioned frozen veggies I got on sale ahead of time and cheapie baked potatoes along with homemade bread to go with it. By not overloading on dishes we save money and time as well as sanity. :)