by Jenny Smedra
Holidays are always a big to-do in our family. For us, it is a time for fun and feasting, particularly when it comes to Easter brunch. Maybe it is due to the change in weather and the ability to cook outdoors, or the fact that there are so many sweets on hand, but it often becomes one of the most expensive holidays for us as well.
However, the heaviest financial burden usually falls on the shoulders of the person with the hosting duties. Each trip to the grocery store for additional ingredients or extra sides pushes the total tally even higher. However, this year we tried to change this and find ways for everyone to save money. Therefore, we had an Easter brunch potluck to distribute the cost and responsibility. Here are a few ways that helped us save a ton with basic budgeting and planning.
Creating the Menu for Easter Brunch
1. Set the Menu.
We approached our holiday meal planning the same way we do our weekly meal planning. First, we created a menu and chose recipes that we wanted to prepare. Since we are more budget-conscious these days, we had to nix some of the more elaborate recipes that called for expensive ingredients or spices. Instead, we stuck to classic crowd-pleasers like pasta, vegetable, and fresh fruit salads that use common ingredients and produce that is in season. Being more mindful of our food choices has drastically reduced our grocery bill.
2. Make a Shopping List.
Once we chose our recipes and had a basic idea of the menu, we set to work making our grocery list for the occasion. Since we closely monitor our monthly food budget, we always start by looking through the pantry and refrigerator to see which ingredients we already have. This prevents us from buying duplicates or other items we don’t really need.
3. Compare Prices and Look for Discounts.
Next, we look for ways to stretch the food budget. This usually incorporates a mixture of cutting coupons, using online rebates, and comparison shopping. Even a small change in your shopping habits, such as buying generic brands, can help you squeeze more out of your budget.
Additionally, buying items in bulk is a very cost effective method when planning a large meal. We share memberships in discount buying clubs as well to help reduce the overall costs of hosting. However, this year we had an unusual opportunity that saved us a ton on the price of meat. One benefit of living in the Midwest is that we have easy accessibility to local farms and stockyards that sell meat in bulk. A few weeks ago, we were able to split the cost of butchering an entire cow. We received half of a cow at roughly $3.00 a pound. The package included a variety of cuts, including ground beef, steaks, roasts, short ribs, and even a brisket. We now have enough beef to last us the rest of the year. Furthermore, we plan to save the best cuts for future holidays to reduce meal costs as well.
4. Restrict the Alcohol Budget.
Lastly, we limited the alcohol budget which is usually one of the largest expenses for family get togethers. I know, this may be a tough one for the adults to get on board with. Having a few drinks together is one way our family socializes and is an ingrained part of our family culture. However, alcohol is also expensive and not a necessary part of holiday celebrations. While we did have a few bottles of wine on hand for spritzers and mimosas, it was nowhere near the usual variety that is available. Furthermore, we found drink recipes that used mixers and help stretch what we already had. With a reduced alcohol budget, we also had more money to spend on the things we felt were more important.
Planning a Potluck for Easter Brunch
If it wasn’t clear by now, I am a huge fan of making lists and having a plan. When it comes to holidays especially, meal planning gives you a clear picture of how much food you will have. Although I love leftovers, I hate wasting food. We often make too much and end up having to throw things out. You are literally throwing your money away by not planning ahead.
Putting together an Easter potluck relieved a lot of the stress associated with holiday preparation. Not only does it help evenly distribute the financial burden of a family feast, but also the time required for food preparation and cooking. Those who attended knew what the menu would be well in advance. This allowed everyone time to determine what supplies they already had and what dishes they wanted to make. It also prevented people from making similar dishes and wasting food by having too many options on the buffet.
Skip the Elaborate Easter Baskets
While elaborate baskets and Easter egg hunts are fun, they also require you to spend even more money. It is easy to go overboard and stuff the baskets full of the kids’ favorite things. If you are like me, a trip to Target can quickly turn into hundreds of dollars. However, I kept reminding myself of the budget. Furthermore, I realized that when there are too many things shoved into an already overflowing basket, the smaller items often get overlooked or forgotten.
When we discussed the events we wanted to have, my nieces who are now teenagers felt they were too old for these traditions. They were perfectly content to enjoy the food and company. However, my mom was not quite ready to admit they had outgrown these traditions. So, we made a compromise and put together small baskets with some of their favorite candy and treats. It just proves that you do not need to spend a small fortune to give your kids something they will really enjoy.
Watching the kids made me understand the real importance of celebrating holidays. It shouldn’t be about how much you spend on food and presents, but about being together.
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