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Don't stress over holiday feasts

Follow a few simple tips to make the most out of your money when having family and friends come by for dinner.

December 21, 2011|By Sheri Alzeerah, Special to the Daily Pilot

Fact: Having a holly, jolly holiday season means eating holly, jolly feasts with family and friends. From crisp apple strudels to schnitzel with noodles, these are a few of everyone's favorite things.

But when it comes to funding a feast that can fill up a table of tummies, your wallet quickly becomes far from full. Fear no more, holiday host extraordinaire. With these simple steps, you can feast like royalty with time, money and, as is the case with all holiday meals, yummy food to spare.

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1. Go figure

The first step to executing a feast within the budget is, of course, to set a budget. Be careful not to be too tight on the numbers though, allowing a bit of leeway for the inevitable last-minute grocery finds. Look to past grocery receipts to help make a practical budget based on real prices, and as always, keep an eye out for special holiday sales.

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2. Make a menu

Feeding a crowd is no simple undertaking, and the savviest hosts know that no detail is too small to map out ahead of time. Deciding what to serve well in advance is essential to saving money in the store, saving time in the kitchen and best of all, saving stress. From beverages to appetizers to entrees to sides to desserts, all the fixins must be worked out before jotting down a shopping list (another feast-planning essential).

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3. Host a potluck

Sharing is caring, and when it comes to holiday feasts, you'll definitely feel the love when your workload is divvied up. Instead of taking on the gargantuan task of pleasing the pack, have your guests pitch in and bring a dish. Make sure to make note of who's bringing what and, just as importantly, letting your guests know what everyone is bringing to avoid repeats and deficiencies.

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4. Say bye to brands

For generic ingredients, it doesn't hurt to buy the grocery store's generic brand. Though your taste buds could easily distinguish your favorite soda from the no-name offshoots, a good portion of cooking and baking ingredients are comparable in taste and quality. The only difference? The amount you pay. Flour, sugar, oils, spices, butter and cheeses are just a few basics that can easily pass brandless.

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5. Do right with what's left

When food is put to waste, money is put to waste, and when a feast is served, leftovers are a big, fat, Tupperwared given. After the last bite of dessert has been eaten and goodbyes have been said, it's time for cleanup. As you clean, divide leftovers into meal-sized portions to be refrigerated or frozen for meals to follow. Plan and store accordingly, and soon enough, you can put the "over" in "leftover."

Feasts don't have to be a beast of an undertaking when carefully planned ahead of time. This year, be holly, jolly and best of all, stress-free and with money to spare.

SHERI ALZEERAH is a journalist and freelance writer for meal planning service. For more information, visit http://www.foodonthetable.com.

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