Make Ends Meet: Save money on holiday meal

Now that the countdown to the holidays has begun, the last thing you want to worry about is affording the meal for your family.
Published: Nov. 10, 2023 at 4:15 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The countdown to the holidays has begun and so has the count of how much money is in the family budget.

There are so many traditions that come along with our holiday celebrations and most of them end up around the dinner table. When you come around the table with family and friends for the holiday that meal is more than just sustenance. It is a time of gratitude, love, reflection, and relaxation.

The last thing you want to worry about leading up to dinner is can you afford the meal for the family you care for so much. You can have your cake and eat it too for a decent price if you do it right. Rachel West, a registered dietician and Senior Nutrition Editor for eMeals, works to not only make sure families eat healthy but also know how to shop smartly.

“The best way to save money at the grocery store is to have a plan and to stick to it,” stressed West.

You especially want to have a plan and stick to it when you are planning for a special meal for a holiday like Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, or Christmas.

“It means making a list,” explained West. “It means make sure you check your pantry, fridge and freezer and make a list from there.”

Knowing what you need will keep you from spending more than you need. You will know what you have, and you will know what you need if you check your pantry before going to the store. Shop as early as possible. Do not wait until the last day or two before the holiday. Buy what you can early if you can.

“I think one of the ways to save money is to think out of the box for what you’ll prepare,” shared West.

Ham, prime rib, and turkey often find their way to the holiday table but less expensive dishes the family loves can also be festive. A certain dish does not make the holiday, you do.

“This potentially requires letting go of a traditional meal or whatever that looks like for you and your family,” explained West.

There’s some good news to flap our wings about. Turkey is 22% lower this year than it was this same time last year, according to the latest American Farm Bureau Federation Market Intel report. There are just too many birds which brings the price down. The more birds there are the less money we pay. It is the old tale of supply and demand.

When it comes to tasty sides dishes, cranberries are 20% cheaper if they are fresh. But you will pay 60% more in packaging and labor costs if the cranberries are canned. Canned pumpkin is currently 30% higher for the same reason. So are most canned fruits. Russet potatoes right now are at an all-time high after a tremendous drought but are expected to drop in price. Green beans are up by 9%.

“Frozen vegetables those are always an option,” explained West. “Another reason I always love frozen vegetables as a budget savings tip is that they’re already prepped for you.”

The most important part of the meal really will not be in the cooking or on the plate, it is in the gathering.

“Make it potluck,” shared West. “Share the love with other people and let them contribute to the meal.”