Tips on saving money during the holidays
I try to be a sensible shopper and am usually quite successful at sticking to my grocery budget. But I turn into a frantic spendthrift when the holidays arrive and I have guests to host. Out of a deep-rooted fear of leaving guests hungry, I produce more dishes than can fit on the table. I wish I could say it was the taste of my meals, and not the sheer volume, that has gained me a reputation among my friends.
According to Debbie Frye, general manager of Flyerland.ca, I am the perfect example of what not do to during the holidays. "Thanksgiving doesn't have to be a catastrophe," she says. "It can be the start of a good season where you don't feel bad about spending."
As a founder of one of our country's top websites for grocery flyers and coupons, Debbie has several tips to help trim food costs this Thanksgiving. Here are some of the ways you can use your money wisely over the next few weeks.
Plan ahead A thrifty holiday begins with a plan. "Select your recipes in advance, make a list, and research online and in print to find the best deals," says Debbie. "It's really important to make a list of how many people coming and what you need. Look in your cupboards and see what staples you already have."
If, like me, you are confounded by how much the average human guest eats, you can turn to one of many online calculators for help. Website Love Food, Hate Waste has a portion calculator that takes the guesswork out of how much to cook per guest.
When planning ahead, look at a website such as Save.ca and order coupons for the ingredients you need. It will take a few days to arrive in the mail, but the discounts can you save a few dollars per product.
Shop around Debbie highly recommends shopping at different stores for certain items to get the lowest prices. Even though it is less convenient than shopping at one store, there are substantial savings to be had when you shop around. You can search for the best prices by category or by store in your area at Flyerland.ca.
"In five minutes can see who has the best deal on the turkey and all the trimmings," Debbie says. If you want to really be thrifty, plan your menu around what's on sale.
The best day to go shopping is Friday, according to Debbie, as that's when many of the flyers come out and stores will have the hot items in stock.
Looking up high and down low At the grocery store, manufacturers pay for placement and you will always find the pricier items right at eye level, warns Debbie. "Displays are there for a reason. They want you to impulsively grab it and buy it." Look instead for generic products to be found on the higher and lower shelves.
"When you're making a Thanksgiving casserole, don't be afraid to use the store brands", Debbie says. "You save money and they're very good. Your recipe will still turn out."
Buy in bulk Debbie is a fan of buying in bulk. "The rule of thumb is you usually get three times the quantity for twice the price," she says. You can go shopping with friends to buy goods in bulk together and share the savings.
Share the cooking duties When I have guests coming over, I assume a superwoman persona and cook and bake the whole meal on my own. Even when my friends offer to help, I don't accept out of some kind of misguided self-empowerment. To Debbie, this is a sure way to waste time and money.
"Do a potluck for Thanksgiving dinner," she suggests. "Be organized about it and ask people to bring a certain dish or a course." Having your guests help will engage them in the event and flatter them too.
Another easy way to make holiday meal duties easier is to split up food items with your friends. If you're known for your pies and your friend has a famous marinated salad, both of you should make extra and swap. This will save you both from buying the store-bought version.
Use the leftovers Buy a slightly larger turkey than you need. Not only will you feel relaxed that you have enough for your guests, any extras will make great leftovers. Pick three recipes ahead of time for your turkey leftovers, so you'll be sure to use them and not waste them. You should also buy all the ingredients you'll need for the extra recipes to be prepared. "This way you get the most from your investment for Thanksgiving," says Debbie.