It’s getting to be that time. Time for us frugal types to hit the grocery store for the big holiday. Below are your frugal shopping day and meal strategy hacks:
1. Stalk the circulars. Make sure you are signed up for text blasts to get deals. Be sure you are getting the weekly newsletter from your usual grocery haunts. I can’t count the number of times I texted my partner and told him to run to our local grocery outlet because of a great deal I just had gotten an email about.
2. Stick to a plan. Start your meal planning early and don’t keep it in your head. Write it down and finish it off with a detailed list of what you need. Be sure and cross off everything you buy so you don’t forget and waste money mindlessly buying duplicate supplies.
3. Know your prices. I usually turn to my local grocery discount store first unless it is for specific baking goods. Normally they are the store to beat price wise but not for things like evaporated or sweetened, condensed milk. For some reason, they charge nearly twice what I pay at my local dollar store. Keep track, those dollars add up.
4. Make friends with your local butcher. A turkey or other large sized protein is a big expense. Make sure you are getting the best deal possible. Track price per pound and pounce when it hits a seasonal low.
5. Pick your sides carefully and go for cheap. Sides can be cheap. Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberries, root vegetables — all cheap and super flavorful if you prepare them from scratch.
6. Buy butter and other pricy items when on sale and freeze for use during the holidays when you usually need more than usual.
7. Ask guests to provide the pricy booze. They are coming to enjoy your cooking after all, so let them bring something you truly need and don’t want to spend your hard-earned money on. Plus, buying wine and spirits is easy.
8. Bake from scratch. If there is any time of year you should be baking from scratch, this is it. Perfect a few signature baked goods that your friends and family look forward to every year. I’ve been making this sweet Greek bread for decades and it is still the single most requested item on my holiday menu. And don’t be too proud to pick up a dollar store cake box to whip up a last minute desert. Check out my cheap bakes here.
9. Forgo expensive appetizers like shellfish and pricy pre-made dips. Do you really need to spend a fortune on crab dip when everyone will love a simple homemade onion dip just as much? Is a costly shrimp cocktail going to make your guests cherish the day more? Absolutely not. My daughter’s mother-in-law makes an amazing multi-layer taco salad and it doesn’t matter what the occasion or time of year, everyone wants Lisa’s taco salad. Is it expensive? Not at all. Delicious? Absolutely. It’s a family classic that costs very little to make and everyone loves it.
10. Never forget the power of the day after. That’s when a ton of great things go on sale. I once bought a 25 pound turkey at Costco the day after Thanksgiving for just $5. I could not make this deal up. I put it in my garage freezer and a few months later, spent a warm and cozy weekend roasting and taking that bird apart. My dogs have never forgotten that turkey and I comb the grocery aisles for deals just like that post holidays.
11. Leftovers represent burning money if you don’t use them up. The next part of this blog series will focus on a frugal holiday leftover strategy.