6 Ways to Save Money at the Supermarket This Holiday Season

Hear from Melissa as she explains how to stretch your dollars while shopping for your holiday meal.

POTATOBACON TORTE Melissa d’ Arabian Ten Dollar Dinners/Perfectly Priced Parisian Food Network Bacon, Fresh Thyme, Heavy Cream, Pie Crusts, Baking Potatoes, Salt, Pepper, Gruyere Cheese, Egg, Butter, Allpurpose Flour

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Matt Armendariz, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Holidays mean family gatherings, gifts and meals together. And those things cost money. But the holidays shouldn’t be about overspending, so I leave you with my last post of 2015: six money-saving tips for the holidays.

1. Comparison-shop, even if you don’t usually think it’s worth it. Stores really go all out with “loss leaders” (advertised super-low prices on a few key items designed to get you in the door) during the holidays. Shopping at multiple stores may lead to your getting the absolutely bottom price, but you always have to balance the hidden costs (gas, time) of visiting multiple markets (which is why most of the year, it probably isn’t worth visiting three supermarkets). If you are hosting a big group for a holiday, spend a few minutes to compare stores’ flyers that come in the mail (or check online) to decide if an extra trip to another store is worth it. The larger the crowd, the more likely it is.

2. Buy gift cards — for yourself! Some major grocery stores promote their gift cards around the holidays with a bonus offer. For instance, you buy a $100 grocery store gift card and you get a $10 or $20 bonus card. Usually, the more you buy, the higher the bonus. Nothing is stopping you from using those gift cards to buy your groceries or holiday gifts, and using those bonus dollars yourself.

3. To save money when entertaining guests, serve beans in the appetizer! Take a cue from the buffet masters of the world, who place the cheaper items at the beginning of the buffet so guests fill their plate with these and have less room for the pricier items at the end of the table: Go ahead and add an inexpensive protein like versatile and creamy white beans to appetizers.

4. Imagine your ideal menu and then make it about two steps simpler. Holidays are a perfect time to invite family and friends over (and maybe include a neighbor who might not have family around?). When hosting, a lot of us plan an ambitious menu requiring a ton of time and money. But a simple menu executed well is always a better entertaining strategy. And focus on food that does not need to be served piping hot to be delicious (who needs that kind of pressure?). My Potato Bacon Torte (pictured above) is a holiday entertaining favorite in my house, and it costs pennies a serving. You could even bake a few now and freeze the rest for later.

5. Serve a signature mocktail/cocktail combo. If you are hosting a variety of ages for your holiday dinner, keep things simple by creating one cocktail that can be made with or without alcohol. Try my recipes for Non-Alcoholic Sangria or Cranberry-Orange Spritzer (a great way to use up that extra cranberry sauce!), as both can be made kid-friendly. This way kids (and non-drinkers) can be included in the festive holiday toasts. My favorite strategy: Mix up some fun flavored simple syrups (orange-basil, or vanilla-mint or rosemary-lime!), which are perfect for adding to Champagne, or to seltzer for the kids.

6. Make your centerpiece do double duty! Use seasonal ingredients you find at the grocery store (squash, apples, winter greens, rosemary) to make your centerpieces, and then use the ingredients in recipes after they have served centerpiece duty. Or, include the kids’ artwork as part of the centerpiece. I gather the girls’ school holiday projects, add a couple of winter squash and arrange them into a simple centerpiece for the table. The kids love when I put their schoolwork on display (which is called being on the “wall of fame” in our house).

What are your favorite money-saving tips around the holidays? Tell me in the comments below.

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