Getting ahead of holiday meal costs

Published 7:36 am Thursday, November 11, 2021

By Sheila Gregory, Currituck Extension

Getting yourself ready and being prepared for holiday meals can be a challenge. This year may be especially challenging with rising grocery prices and limited supply. So it is important to start planning early. With the resources provided by our partners at morefood.org, Currituck Extension is offering you this article series to help you prepare early and save money on your grocery bill.

Whether you are planning an in-person or virtual celebration, a celebration for friends or family, a big group or smaller gatherings, it’s never too early to start holiday meal preparation.

If left to the last minute, meal planning can be a challenge. Planning your menu in advance allows you to shop smarter and also gives you the opportunity to be sure everyone’s favorite dish is included. You will shop more efficiently and decrease costs by avoiding unnecessary purchases. Sticking to your menu items and buying in advance over the course of several grocery trips will spread out the expense and lower the impact on your monthly food budget. Today’s article will focus on:

  1. Finding and organizing your recipes
  2. Itemizing cooking utensils
  3. Shopping Sales

Finding and Organizing Your Recipes

You will want to refer to your recipes often while planning. Begin by pulling out your favorite recipes and organizing them by breakfast, entrees, sides and dessert. Once organized, begin reviewing what you have on hand. We all have certain spices that are family favorites. Take an inventory of these items and make a note of which ones are running low. Don’t forget oils and non-stick sprays. If you do not know what meal you will be preparing, compiling a list of these staples will avoid purchasing the same item twice. Your list will save money and remind you to use items on hand first, utilizing them before they expire.

Itemizing Cooking Utensils

Have you ever reached for a cookie sheet only to find it is warped? Now is the perfect time to purchase any needed replacement pots, pans, baking sheets or muffin cups. Don’t forget other baking, cooking and serving supplies, such as parchment paper, aluminum foil, cutlery and table linens (cloth or disposable). Keep in mind that non-food items such as these are not SNAP eligible so you cannot purchase them with an EBT card. For low-cost items, consider local dollar stores or borrowing from a friend or family member who will not be using their pots/pans.

Shopping the Bargains and Sales

Where you purchase certain items can make a difference in how far your food dollars stretch. Consider which stores offer the best value for the items in your recipes. The best buy on spices and for canned goods might be two different stores. Check grocery store advertisements and compare store offerings. Then select the store that offers the best combination of price and suitable product.

Watch for specials through grocery store loyalty card programs such as Food Lion’s MVP or Harris Teeter’s VIC; loyalty cards can lower the food bill at check-out. Paid membership warehouses such as Sam’s Club, Costco or BJ’s are also great options if you are looking to purchase bulk items. Members of these warehouses are allowed to bring one guest when shopping. If you are not a member, ask a friend or family member if you are able to join them when shopping.

Preparing for the holidays can be challenging, but following the tips above can make it easier. Let’s kick off holiday meal planning right by finding the best deals. Happy shopping!

For more information, contact Sheila Gregory at sheila_grergory@ncsu.edu or via phone at 252-232-2261. Series is provided by http://www.morefood.org/.

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