by Jenny Smedra
Vacation is always a big job in our family. For us, it’s a time for fun and celebrations, especially when it comes to Easter brunch. Maybe it’s because of the change in weather and the ability to cook outside, or the fact that so much candy is available, but it often turns out to be one of the most expensive holidays for us too.
However, the greatest financial burden usually rests on the shoulders of the hosting person. Any trip to the grocery store for extra ingredients or extra pages will add to the total. However, this year we have tried to change that and find ways that everyone can save money. So we had an Easter brunch potluck to spread the cost and responsibility. Here are some ways that helped us save a ton of money with basic budgeting and planning.
Creating the menu for the Easter brunch
1. Set the menu.
We were approaching our vacation planning as well as our weekly meal planning. First we created a menu and selected recipes that we wanted to prepare. As we are more budget conscious these days, we no longer had to use some of the more elaborate recipes that required expensive ingredients or condiments. Instead, we stuck to classic crowd-pleasers such as pasta, vegetables and fresh fruit salads, which use common ingredients and produce seasonal products. When we are more aware of our food choices, we have drastically reduced our food bill.
2. Create a shopping list.
After choosing our recipes and having a basic idea of the menu, we went to work creating our shopping list for the occasion. As we closely monitor our monthly grocery budget, we always check the pantry and refrigerator first to see what ingredients we already have. This prevents us from buying duplicates or other items that we don’t really need.
3. Compare prices and look for discounts.
Next, let’s look for ways to stretch the grocery budget. This usually involves a mix of coupons, online discounts, and comparison shopping. Even a small change in your shopping habits, such as buying generic brands, can help you get more out of your budget.
Additionally, buying items in bulk is a very inexpensive method when planning a large meal. We also share memberships in discount shopping clubs to reduce the overall cost of hosting. However, this year we had an unusual opportunity that saved us a lot of the meat price. One of the perks of living in the Midwest is that we have easy access to local farms and stockyards that sell meat in bulk. A few weeks ago we were able to split the cost of slaughtering an entire cow. We got half a cow for about $ 3.00 a pound. The package contained a variety of cuts including ground beef, steaks, roasts, short ribs, and even a brisket. We now have enough beef to make it through the rest of the year. Additionally, we plan to save the best cuts for future holidays to help cut food costs as well.
4. Limit your alcohol budget.
Finally, we capped the alcohol budget, which is usually one of the largest spending on family reunions. I know it can be difficult for the adults to get on board. Having a few drinks together is one way our family socializes and is an integral part of our family culture. However, alcohol is also expensive and not a necessary part of holiday celebrations. We did have a couple of bottles of wine on hand for spritzers and mimosas, but it was nowhere near the most common variety out there. Additionally, we found drink recipes that used blenders and helped stretch what we already had. With a reduced alcohol budget, we also had more money for the things we thought were more important.
Plan a potluck for Easter brunch
If it wasn’t clear by now, I’m a huge fan of making lists and having a plan. Meal planning gives you a clear picture of how much food you are going to have, especially during the holidays. Although I love leftovers, I hate wasting food. We often do too much and end up throwing things away. You are literally throwing your money away by not planning ahead.
Putting together an Easter potluck relieved the burden of preparing for the holiday considerably. This not only helps to evenly distribute the financial burden of a family celebration, but also the time it takes to prepare and cook food. The participants knew long in advance what the menu would look like. This gave everyone time to determine what supplies they already had and what dishes they wanted to prepare. It also prevented people from preparing similar dishes and wasting food by offering too many options at the buffet.
Skip the elaborate Easter baskets
Elaborate baskets and Easter egg hunt are fun, but you still need to spend more money. It’s easy to go overboard and fill the baskets with the kids’ favorite things. If you’re like me, a trip to Target can easily run into hundreds of dollars. However, I kept remembering the budget. I also realized that the smaller items are often overlooked or forgotten when too many things are pushed into an already overcrowded basket.
When we discussed the events we wanted to have, my nieces, who are now teenagers, felt too old for these traditions. They were perfectly happy with the food and company. However, my mother was unwilling to admit that they had outgrown these traditions. So we compromised and put together little baskets of some of their favorite candies and treats. It just goes to show that you don’t have to spend a small fortune giving your kids something they will really enjoy.
As I watched the children, I realized the importance of celebrating holidays. It shouldn’t be about how much you spend on food and gifts, it should be about being together.