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Live financially well over the holidays

Celebrate without busting the bank

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POSTED: November 18, 2012 10:46 a.m.
Photo by Emily C. Harrison/

Coupons are everywhere; you just need to look for them. Seek out coupons in magazines, newspaper inserts and online. Check in local stores for in-store coupons or coupon circulars from manufacturers such a P&G, Unilever and Acosta.

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I love the holidays. They are often special times with family and friends. Family meals, although stressful and often expensive to put on, usually are special occasions with cherished holiday dishes.
In this tough economy, everyone is trying to do more with less, even more so during this time of the year. We often spare no expense to make the holidays special. When it comes to meals, this leads to overbuying, overcooking and making much more food than needed to make guests happy and satisfied.
So, how do you put on a fabulous meal without blowing the bank? It takes planning and legwork.

My holiday meal saving tips...
Before you shop:
• Set an overall budget. Figure out what you have to spend on meals, decor, gifts, etc. Work to stay within that number.
• Are you the host for gatherings? See if guests will bring a side dish or dessert. It will save you a lot of money and time.
• Calculate the servings for each dish based on attendance, don’t estimate. For example, when selecting a turkey or ham, figure about 1 pound per adult, half that for a child. This will keep you from buying something way too big.
• Plan meals carefully. Plan out all your meals for the season. Make a master list of ingredients for the dishes. Check recipes so you don’t forget anything. Cross-check your pantry to see what you have. Don’t forget to check spices and condiments. Only buy what you need.
• Do your homework. Check all the weekly ads for the best prices. You may need to go to multiple stores or shop somewhere that offers price-matching, like Walmart.

While you shop:
• Know when to buy. You can buy dry goods, canned goods and drinks far in advance and store them. Poultry, meats, most cheeses and rolls or bread all can be frozen. Produce and dairy should be bought within a few days of your meal.
• Use coupons. You don’t need to be an extreme couponer to see real savings. Coupons can add up quickly and reduce spending. Check the Sunday paper, magazines, in stores and printable coupons online. Look for a store such as Kroger that offers double coupons for those up to 50 cents. Remember you can typically “stack” a store coupon and a manufacturers’ coupon for even more savings.
• Use rewards cards. You’ll get the best prices with the store’s shopper or rewards card. Some offer incentives if you register the card online and/or sign up for an email list. Some stores’ websites have digital coupons that you load onto your shopping card, no clipping necessary.
• Make a list and stick to it. Typically, 50 percent of grocery purchases are unplanned. Stay within your budget. Don’t put it in the cart unless it is on your list.
• Don’t be afraid of store or off-brands. Most store brands are identical to the name brands and typically cost less.
• Compare prices. Just because an item is on sale doesn’t mean it is the best vale. Check the price per ounce that is usually listed on the shelf. This will show which item truly has the best price.
• Shop dollar stores. They offer a great selection of grocery items along with household, decor, cleaning and health and beauty items. True dollar stores — those where all items are a dollar or less, such as Dollar Tree — have a lot of bargains.
• Check for rebates. Some manufacturers offer rebates on turkeys, hams and other items. Look for in-store displays and check manufacturers’ websites.

During and after the meal:
• Skip the buffet. People eat more when they serve themselves. Designate a carver and a server who can dole out equal portions.
• If you end up with leftovers, figure out how to incorporate them into upcoming meals. Leftover turkey is safe to eat for up to seven days after it is cooked.
For ideas on what to make, check out www.bigoven.com/recipes/leftover. Use the search engine to select up to three leftover items and it will pull up recipes for those items.

 

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