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Preparing Healthy Holiday Meals on a Budget

Each season brings things we look forward to but may also stretch our wallets more than we are comfortable with. We want to be able to enjoy the things we have always held as traditions along with making new ones. Sometimes we don’t realize how much we spent until after the fact which causes us to make other sacrifices. How can we enjoy holiday meals without adding stress to our hearts and bank accounts? The answer is proper planning.
To get started, look at your overall monthly budget and determine how much you can spend on your holiday meal before any planning takes place. This is key to help keep you on track. Next, take an inventory of your pantry. What ingredients do you have on hand that you can incorporate into cooking and baking? This is a great time to look at items you may have had for some time. Keep the list handy as you choose your recipes. Find new recipes or swap out ingredients in family favorites for what you have on hand that complement the recipe. This can lead to more creativity in the kitchen and new family favorites. When selecting recipes, it is recommended to keep in mind incorporating healthier ingredients which will lead to an overall decrease in total calories eaten during that special meal.
Other cost savings measures include being on the lookout for sales, checking unit pricing, and using seasonal foods. Planning out your recipes in advance can identify the ingredients you will need. For items that will keep at their peak freshness shop sales to take advantage of cost savings on products, you would have had to buy anyway. In addition to shopping sales, you want to compare the unit prices of products. This price will look at a single unit of measure. By looking at the unit price you can compare to products on sale to purchase the quantity you need, but at the best cost available. Choosing recipes that use seasonal fruits and vegetables allows you to enjoy that product at its peak during the growing season and the cost will be lower.
We all know convenience is easier but is it the best choice in health or cost? Just as you plan your holiday menu, schedule time on your calendar for the preparation time you will need to make items in advance or the day of. Determining a timeline of when you will need to start each recipe or any preparation that can be done in advance can keep your stress level down and your meal on time. Skipping the convenience items like pre-sliced, pre-chopped, and pre-cooked will save on cost. Taking charge of the preparation allows you to control the ingredients. You know each ingredient that goes into each recipe and the ability to use healthy cooking techniques and ingredients to create flavorful and healthier recipes.
As the holiday season rolls in take the time to plan. Planning will give you that peace of mind to eliminate holiday meal stress and financial worries. The more advanced planning you do, the more time you have to spend with your family making memories and carrying on family traditions.