by Brittany Jones
The holiday season has arrived and it’s time to entertain. Cooking for crowds is expensive enough, but it seems to be a little pricier this time of year. Gift giving and traveling aside, budgets may be tight over the next couple of months. However, there are plenty of ways to save on entertaining this season. A little frugality can go a long way, especially when it comes down to food. Keep these tips in mind as you prepare for the holiday season.
Get a head count.
Whether it’s a formal affair or not, always try your best to have guests RSVP. Once you know how many people to anticipate, you can meal plan appropriately. People also have a variety of dietary needs, so coordinating a guest list can also help you determine what types of food to prepare and how much. For example, if you have a handful of vegetarian guests, you can plan your dinner to include a few extra vegetable dishes or even a meat substitute.
Stock up early.
Don’t wait for the last minute deals to get ingredients, supplies, and décor. Keep an eye out for sales and the like, but as holidays approach your local grocer may start to run low on key ingredients. Grab spices, mixes and seasonings ahead of time. For items with a shorter shelf life, either store them in the freezer or reserve them for a later date. A lot of grocery stores will let you reserve turkeys and hams for the holidays, just be sure to get on the list as soon as you can.
People tend to over-prepare when cooking for large groups. But what do you do with 6 extra pounds of turkey and 37 dinner rolls? Get creative. Look for new recipes, or make substitutes in your family’s favorites. For example, use turkey in your favorite chicken salad recipe, or leftover sweet rolls in a bread pudding. You may have leftover veggies or fresh seasonings that can be used in entirely new dishes (much like the one below). The possibilities really are endless; you just have to be savvy.
When it comes to quick and easy entertaining, this simple recipe for Sirloin Patties with Caramelized Onion Gravy is perfect for the holiday season. These seasoned hand rolled patties and savory gravy are great as an entrée or appetizer. Ground sirloin may be a little more expensive, so feel free to use ground beef. Ground lamb or turkey would also make excellent (and much leaner) substitutes for this recipe.