How to Host Holiday Gatherings for Less

You don’t have to blow your budget to have a festive meal with family and friends.

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Whether you’re hosting your first or tenth holiday gathering, the prospect of feeding so many close friends and family members at once can be daunting—and expensive. As you start to brainstorm over the guest list and menu, here are seven ideas from Allrecipes.com on how to be a great host without blowing your budget:

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1. Substitute cheaper ingredients. A rack of lamb or prime rib are pricey choices; cheaper cuts of meat such as a chuck roast or rump roast can save money. If your recipe calls for sauces or other garnishes, then your guests might not even notice the difference. You can also opt for a vegetarian entrée such as ravioli or other favorite dish. Allrecipes also suggests a homemade honey-glazed ham recipe that costs half as much as the classic store-bought version.

2. Dole out the expensive indulgences in small portions. If you want to incorporate expensive ingredients, such as salmon or lobster, into the meal, then add them to dishes that use pasta or rice to bulk themselves up, such as soups or pastas. Another option is to serve the expensive item as an appetizer.

3. Host brunch, not dinner. By focusing on brunch instead, you can not only bypass the wine, but you can also serve egg-based dishes, such as a strata or omelet, which are much cheaper that meat-centered courses. While the price of eggs has gone up this year, they still clock in at a relatively affordable 25 cents per egg.

4. Opt for chili. It’s easy to eat, delicious, and relatively simple to prepare, especially if you use a slow cooker. That means you can focus on your guests instead of the meal preparations.

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5. Shop with a list in hand. At the grocery store, it’s easy to get tempted by last minute additions, from gingerbread cookies to eggnog. Planning ahead can help keep those purchases to a minimum.

6. Think about leftovers. A turkey can go into the next day’s soup, or roast beef can become a pot pie. Making use of leftovers and reducing waste helps shrink your food budget, and keeps any overnight guests fed throughout their visit. To make the most of those main meal leftovers, stock up on pie crust, chicken stock, and bread (for sandwiches) in advance.

7. Make your own beverages. A red wine that’s on the cheaper side can taste considerably more upscale after you simmer it alongside raisins, almonds, and spices. Similarly, cheaper white wines can taste festive with the addition of crème de cassis, which forms a kir.

Do you have any holiday-saving tips of your own to add? We’ll be revisiting the topic as the holidays approach.

Twitter: @alphaconsumer