I love the big holidays of the year. For us, it’s New Year’s Eve, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
Since so many of them hit us in succession, it pays to be careful with food budgeting. And because so many holidays are back to back you have to be good to yourself too.
Here are my rules for staying sane and in budget.
• Choose your battles wisely. I try to host only one big spread. If you prefer to host Thanksgiving, let someone else do Christmas or New Year’s. The responsibility should never fall just on you.
• Share the expenses. Let’s face it. Feeding people can get expensive, especially for the more elaborate meals of a holiday. If money is tight there’s nothing wrong with asking friends or family to pitch in with food.
When I was working, we used to have really nice spreads at the office. My coworkers were great about divvying up the essentials and most of them were excellent cooks and bakers. There was one bachelor in particular who didn’t cook, but we could always count on him to provide all the drinks and miscellaneous accoutrements. He was very generous. It was his way of contributing since he couldn’t bring something homemade.
• Make simple meals. Not everyone can be Martha Stewart. Don’t try to impress with something super fancy. If your best recipe is a great mashed potato, don’t bother with tartiflette. Now is not the time to experiment. Go with what you know is successful.
• Plan ahead. Usually before a big holiday, stores put their most popular items on sale. Many of them are loss leaders so they are probably at their lowest for the year. This is when I stock up.
• Cook with whole foods. It’s almost always cheaper than buying premade stuff.
• On the other hand, don’t beat yourself up if you take a shortcut here and there. If you have your hands full there’s no harm in having ready made salads or appetizer trays. Be kind to yourself during this stressful time.
• Decorate simply. People are there to see you, not your house.
• Give the house a thorough shakedown several weeks in advance. The less you have to do before guests arrive, the more you’ll enjoy your own party.
• Rest. I try to get everything done as early as possible. If I can have an hour or two before guests arrive, I’m a much better hostess.
How do you feel about holiday get togethers? What one dish do you think is your best? Do you have a signature drink?
And here’s a good question. Are you good at holding your liquor? Greg recently reminded me that I can not be trusted after one drink. I think I can handle it, but I cannot. LOL! I wake up with a doozy of a hangover the next day. Every five years or so, I get cocky and try a second drink, but it knocks me down every time. He always said I was a cheap date. 🙂