I've noticed that my December grocery bills tend to go up, up,up, and my December 2008 pantry bill will be even higher than last year because of high fuel and delivery costs.
- $ Plan special party menus, Christmas dinner, and baked gifts by mid-November. Watch Thanksgiving sales for your December needs. One or two items bought on each grocery ticket will be more pleasant than hurried trips to the store and being tempted by all the extra products that squeal, "Take me home." I go after one pound of butter and come home with the whole cow.
- $ When cooking in October and November, make extra for the busy month of December. A casserole from the freezer is tastier, most likely healthier, and yummier than a fast food meal. Check our easy December recipes here . Have ingredients on hand to make Leslie's seven can soup or make Brenda's sausage and rice ahead of time and freeze for December.
- $ If you have baking ingredients stocked well ahead of December, you might even get in the mood to pre-mix homemade cookie dough or bake a carrot cake and freeze it (frost when thawed). Those luscious goodies in your freezer might keep you from buying a $12.00 store bought pecan pie when you need to take a dessert to Aunt Trudy's.
- $ What? You don't think you can use a full 5 pounds of chopped walnuts? Ask a neighbor or close friend if they'd like to split the costs of bulk baking items.
- $ Use the china. Use the fancy serving dishes. Use your Christmas dishes the whole month of December. Save on paper goods by enjoying whatever glassware you have. Be it humble or fancy. I remember a church Christmas party where we brought our best dishes and decorated round dining tables, seating six. One woman only had some plastic ware (Melmac or some other brand). I remember one of our elders, Bob, steering his family away from a fancy table and on to the more humble place settings. He was so congenial and friendly, his whole family was, to the woman who brought her best that night. Bob's gone on to be with the Lord, now. I imagine his cup runs over.
Most of the five tips are mere reminders of what we already know. Whether you're on a strict budget or have money to spare, planning ahead makes good sense, because buying and baking ahead gives you more time for people. Whether you serve popcorn and Kool-Aid or caviar and wine, you and your family can fill someone's Christmas cup with goodwill--maybe for a little less than last year.