We all feel it. Food prices are higher. In fact, they are expected to increase 5.8% this year. And the increased cost of eating at your favorite restaurant is even higher, at 7%. Around the holidays, those food increases can quickly add up and rattle even the best of budgets.
Here are some creative and smart spending tips to help stretch your food budget for memorable holiday meals with friends and family this season — and beyond.
Share the menu
Plan to make the main dish and have your guests bring a side or dessert. This can be a way to invite everyone to bring a smaller and favorite item, and also help spread out the cost of the entire meal.
Shop at low-priced stores
Look in your neighborhood for stores with discounted prices. You may pay more at major grocery chains, so look for coupons and other deals if you prefer to shop at those grocery stores. Remember, planning to buy staple items at the lower-priced stores will save you money.
Host an appetizer party
This option can reduce the amount of food you need to buy, and the associated costs. Cooking a full-scale main course with sides and desserts will be more expensive this year. Appetizers can be made in smaller portions, giving your guests more to choose from, and that can help stretch your budget.
Plan to rotate holidays
The goal here is to help spread the cost of consecutive gatherings across a friend group or family. Between birthdays and seasonal holidays, celebrations can come at a steady clip. When someone chooses a holiday, another person would choose the next event, and so on. That way, one person doesn’t have to host two major holidays or celebrations in a row!
Make or freeze meals in advance
Doing this can help spread out the cost of groceries. Buying and making meals this way can also help you take advantage of sales, and break the cost of the entire meal into manageable pieces over time.
Be flexible with purchases
When you see pantry items or frozen items on sale in the store, pick them up now for use later. You can adjust your spending plan for that month to accommodate the purchases, as needed.
Focus on family and friends
Food can be the centerpiece of many gatherings, but remember to focus on the family and friends in attendance. Spending time with each other is most important of all. These tips can come in handy throughout the year, for birthdays, holidays, or “whatever” days. Planning your meals with these strategies can help you spend better, save more money, and maybe have more get-togethers!