When it comes to cooking, baking and making a holiday meal, many think that it is a time when you just simply can’t keep the grocery budget in mind. In fact, for some it is one of the most expensive meals of the year at home. What if we told you that just by using these six tips you can make your holiday meal for half the cost?
In America, the average cost of a holiday meal, whether Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter or other special occasion, is around $50 for 10 people, or about $5 per person. The price usually gets cheaper the more people there are eating.
Please note, this average cost is for a basic holiday meal! If you add speciality sides or dishes, drinks, breakfast, relish tray, appetizers, speciality desserts, or any other additional dish, it will increase the price.
However, your holiday meal doesn’t have to be $50 for 10 people or $5 per person for the basics. In fact, we have some amazing meals on the holidays as it is one of our most favorite days of the year with us spending half of the national average when even including specialty items. But this also doesn’t count the fact that we generally have about 2-3 more meals in total with the leftovers and the leftover turkey!
If your budget is $5 per person, you can really have some specialty and gourmet dishes included. If your budget is less, you can have a wonderful meal for less than the average with these tips.
So in the end, the Thanksgiving, Christmas or other holiday meal actually becomes some of our most frugal meals when we can spend about $2-$3 on average per person with more than the basics and a few additional meals to follow! We don’t feel like we have skimped at all and in fact have some of the most delicious and gourmet meals of the year!
That’s why I wanted to share this post with you. When we saw what the average American spends, we wanted to bring that holiday cheer into your home while keeping the budget in good cheer too.
When we plan for the holiday meals, there are six key things we do to drop our price to less than $2 per person for the basics, but up to $3 with the sparkling ciders, specialty desserts, appetizers, relish trays, maple peanut clusters, and more. We also have breakfast on Thanksgiving with the whole family, which includes breakfast in a pumpkin, homemade cinnamon rolls, and a breakfast casserole. The whole day’s eats end up being quite affordable, and less than the national average.
Here are the 6 ways to
make your holiday meal for half the cost:
1. Carefully consider what you have on hand
Seriously though! This is where the No-Food Waste menu planner comes in handy. It allows you to quickly take note of what you have on hand that could possibly be used in your holiday meal, especially those little things. It’s those little things on your holiday menu that can add up quick! Those missing spices, canned foods, toppings, butter, flour, sugar, etc.
But you may be surprised about how much you already have on hand that you can use.
I consider alternatives as well with things I have on hand. I rarely follow a recipe exactly as this is where expenses can add up quick. Simple swaps or alternatives will save a huge amount of money. Not to mention how you can use the things you already have to fill in some gaps.
If you need help seeing if you can make a recipe swap with something you have at home – Google becomes your best friend. Someone somewhere in the world has already figured it out!
2. Buy the turkey with the grocery store deals
For example, every year our local grocery store will sell turkeys at half the cost per lb if we also spend $25-$50 of groceries in the same shopping trip. I just actually do my holiday and regular grocery shopping on the same trip, get that turkey deal, and save half on my turkey. In fact, this deal runs for 2-3 weeks on average in our area, so I will do this all three weeks and have 2 extra turkeys in my freezer for Christmas and for sometime in the future as a frugal meal (as I can make a dozen meals from one turkey on a normal, non-holiday day as a result having good source of cheap meat after the holidays). The turkey will not be this cheap again at any other time of the year. Don’t forget you can eat turkey for any meal of the year!
3. Use this app and printable shopping list
With that $25-$50 required spend, I buy as much as I can! But I have a trick to be able to do this!
I use the printable grocery shopping list on our site or the Favado app that breaks down each item with the sale price. They show any coupons available (including the digital store coupons meaning no coupon clipping) with the final price. By using this grocery shopping list, I save an automatic 40% right off the top. This means I can generally get 40% more groceries for the same cost with this one simple trick – meaning from this one tip I can almost single handedly get my holiday meal for half the cost! But it gets even better….
4. Use the ibotta app
I LOVE the ibotta app. We have talked about it a couple of times, but this app allows me to generally get about $5-$10 back in cash on my holiday meal. It is a total no-brainer and saves me another 10-20% off the holiday grocery bill!
What I love about ibotta is that they have cash back on the popular foods of the season, along with cashback on any product and any grocery store so I am always guaranteed cash back of some type, even if I buy everything store/generic brand and fresh.
To give you an idea of how high the payouts are on this “get paid to shop” app, they give all of their new users a $10 joining bonus. To get your bonus, just register and then download the Ibotta app using this link HERE ( use code abqiri to get the $10). When you do so, you will also get a free $10 from joining through the link provided after you redeem your first rebate. So $10 in your pocket right away just from reading this post. Then just login before you go shopping and select which cash-back rebates you would like to take advantage of. I can even do this while in the grocery store.
Find out more details about it in a recent post we shared here.
5. Make homemade dishes
Anything I can’t get on sale for a low price (meaning, not just any sale, but a super sale), I make homemade.
I actually end up making a good chunk of the meal homemade and the groceries I purchase are just to fill in the gaps on some of the needed ingredients. I do this to not only save money, but also as a labor of love as those holiday meals made from scratch are a gift and treat for all of us to enjoy. But an important side effect of homemade is that your grocery bill is far less by nature.
6. Buy generic and in bulk
When I do make my homemade items, if I need fillers, I try to buy the generic version. Even better is when I can buy it in bulk! This is one of my biggest savings tricks outside of the sales shopping list and Ibotta.
Bulk food purchases cut costs dramatically! I actually just restocked many of my spices and staples at the store in the bulk bins. I paid on average $0.31 for each bag of spices, which will probably last me three months. The most expensive spice was one cup of pink Himalayan salt for $0.96 in bulk, along with other speciality spices. Buying my spices this way alone probably saved me at least $15 as opposed to buying them in the bottle.
This means that by doing this I can get the same amount for pennies on the dollar from the separate spices in bottles. Another way to think of this is that I can buy exactly what I need of a specific specialty spice, not have a bottle laying around my pantry for the next decade, and as a result pay mere pennies for exactly what I need!
There are so many spices around the holidays that get rarely used outside of this, that this is a super smart way to save. But don’t forget the totality of this point: it is not only spices, but all staples (e.g., rice, flours, grains, pastas) that I buy and save so much money on and really make my holiday meal for half the cost.
Combine the 6 ways to make your holiday meal for half the cost!
With these tips you really can make your holiday meal for half the cost and have an amazing menu and spread this year.
Again, what it means is that if your budget is less than $5 per person, you can easily make the basic Thanksgiving dinner for even less.
If your budget is around $5 per person, you can make the basics, plus a handful of speciality dishes and appetizers – maybe even breakfast! Don’t forget, if you are having more friends or family over than just your household, ask your guests to bring something. This cuts down the bill dramatically too!
In the end, use these tips to allow you to focus more on the cooking, family and time of the holidays. This helps you to stop stressing about money as no one wants that worry during these special times.
What extra ways do you save on a Holiday Meal?
See more Frugal Living Tips!