In the spirit of the season and saving money, below are six tips for feasting on a budget:
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.
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.
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