Holiday entertaining can be stressful -- and expensive. Instead of slipping down that rabbit hole, try these 18 tips for saving money, time, and sanity without detracting from the event. Here's to throwing a budget-friendly and stress-free holiday party!
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To throw a fantastic feast, get started on the game plan now. Decide what to serve, then write up a list of ingredients, cooking methods, and timing. If oven space is limited, serve dishes with similar cooking temperatures. Pick up nonperishable ingredients in advance (watch for sales) and avoid the crush of last-minute shoppers.
Dodge that all-alone-and-overwhelmed-in-the-kitchen feeling and ask for help. Likewise, if friends or family offer to pitch in, say "yes" and accept the help. Whether it's having the kids stir sauces or organizing a potluck-style dinner, extra hands and contributions from others mean less pressure, financial and otherwise, on the host.
Entertaining is exhausting enough without having to face the dreaded post-meal/party cleanup. Instead of leaving everything until the end, get ahead of the mess and clean as you go. While the turkey is roasting, tackle the knives, cutting boards, and mixing bowls to make life easier.
Give leftovers the credit they deserve. With a little creativity, a recovering host can make killer turkey sandwiches, a savory breakfast strata with stuffing, or mashed potato cakes, suggests Rebecca Lewis, a registered dietician at HelloFresh. "Savor those leftovers and you'll save yourself from cooking for at least a couple meals."
Instead of planning an elaborate sit-down affair or calling in a pricey caterer, host a "grazing" finger-food party. During the holidays, budget-friendly warehouse stores such as Costco and Sam's Club carry a greater assortment of premade hors d'oeuvres -- mini quiches, bacon-wrapped shrimp, and the like. Heat three or four appetizers at a time and replenish plates throughout the evening.
Supplement hot appetizers with cold platters of cheese, charcuterie, and vegetables. Prepare these plates in advance, cover with plastic wrap, and stack in the refrigerator. Use regular-size plates rather than large serving platters, which can look unsightly as they get picked over.
Instead of spending big bucks on prime rib, buy a whole rib-eye roast, suggests Teri Gault, CEO of The Grocery Game. When cooked properly, this cheaper cut passes for the much pricier alternative. Use a rub and olive oil, sear on high on a rotisserie, then cook low and slow.
Maximize time with guests and cut down on "day-of" stress by mixing batches of cocktails in pitchers ahead of time -- even the night before, says Tracy Memoli, the blogger behind Suite Savory. Looking for an easy crowd-pleaser? Her go-to is sangria, which can be made with inexpensive red or white wine.
Before making any holiday-event purchases, check around the house to see what items already are on hand. This way, money won't be wasted on duplicate necessities, such as table linens or a wine opener.
If any entertaining essentials are missing, don't run out immediately to buy them. Borrow from friends and family, says etiquette expert Diane Gottsman. The money saved by not buying the crowd-size serving bowl or pie server -- which may be used only once a year -- adds up.
Even novice hosts know that a dessert party is more time efficient and less expensive than a dinner party. Holly Clegg, creator of the Trim Terrific cookbook series, suggests serving a variety of small bites, such as brownies, cookies, bar cookies, and miniature cheesecakes. They're easy to prepare in advance (they freeze well) and make for a festive presentation.
If you have a spacious home, volunteer to host the holiday dinner as long as others bring the meal. Ask each guest to arrive with a dish, which saves the host time and money. Cleaning the house costs next to nothing, and decorating is fun. These two activities, even added together, are cheaper and less stressful than shopping for and cooking an entire meal.
Real Christmas trees may be romantic, but a high- quality artificial tree that can be reused every year also makes a statement, says Debora Balardini, co-founder of Punto Space, an event space in Manhattan. A one-time purchase eliminates the annual expense and hassle of disposal and ensures convenience for seasons to come.
Collect creative holiday ideas and keep them a surprise for guests with a secret Pinterest board, suggests Gifty Walker, events and design director of Joybird, a customized furniture workshop. Storing everything from recipes and gift ideas to DIY decorations in one spot also relieves worry about misplacing important information.
Holiday event planning can be overwhelming. Instead of trying to tackle everything at once, start by doing a little at time. Letting a home slowly take on a festive air means less stress and a chance to snag items when they go on sale.
As new items accumulate, remove the packaging and dispose in the trash or recycling bins. This saves time and energy, and ensures that everything is ready to go when the first guest rings the bell.
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