Grandma Serving Roasted Chicken

Celebrating on a Budget

December can be a magical time of year in New England. Twinkling lights are everywhere, families and friends express love and gratitude for each other, and warm cozy meals are set for the dinner table. Fortunately, all of this magic does not need to come with a hefty price tag. Read on for some ideas to save both time and money this holiday season. 

Saving Money While Shopping for Food

The Massachusetts SNAP-Ed website is full of ideas for helping you stay within your budget at any time of year. The holiday season and end of the year are no exception. Shopping on a budget is very doable, especially if you are able to put in a little time and planning before buying food. Here are a few ideas to keep you on track this season.

A person weighing produce at a grocery mart.
  • When you are grocery shopping, take some time to look at all your options. Most of the time, the store brand is cheaper than the big brand names, but sometimes stores can have more than one brand. Look at your options by comparing prices before deciding on that final item from the shelf. Also look for sales and other seasonal deals. If you receive grocery store flyers in the mail, carefully look through them while you make your shopping list.
  • Take advantage of the seasonal sales. In season produce is often cheaper than things that are out of season. Look for winter fruits and vegetables like oranges and other citrus fruits, squash, and greens such as kale or collard greens. These items will be the freshest, most nutritious, and extra delicious when they are in season.
  • Use your benefits. EBT cards are accepted at most grocery stores, and they can even be used for online groceries now. If you have WIC benefits, look for the marked WIC-approved items in grocery stores. Lastly, if you live in an area with a winter farmers’ market, you can use your EBT card as part of the HIP program to stretch your SNAP dollars even further. Use this tool to find a market near you.
  • Food pantries can be an extra resource to supplement your food needs this time of year. The food bank/food pantry finder on our site can help you find the right spot for your area.

Saving Time While Preparing Food

Money is not the only important resource during a busy season. Time is also very valuable. That is why the MA SNAP-Ed website tries to give you some time-saving tips as well, such as how to prepare snacks for the family when life gets busy. Below are a few additional tips that can hopefully make meal prep easier.

  • Cook in big batches. Pick a day in the week where this would be easiest and make extra food to last the week or at least a few days. Recipes like this Bolognese sauce can easily be doubled or tripled and then frozen. All you have to do is cook up some pasta, defrost the sauce, and you have a meal ready to go.
  • Meals like soups or stews, especially when made in a slow cooker, can also easily be frozen. This pork stew is full of important nutrients and can easily be left alone in a slow cooker for hours. Make this ahead of time to have two or more meals for the week.
  • Use some time saving ingredients, like in this broccoli potato soup. Instant mashed potatoes reduce the amount of chopping and prep work at the beginning of a recipe. Evaporated milk and other shelf-stable items can last a long time and give you more options when you are trying to prepare food in a hurry.

For any of your go-to recipes, check out these holiday makeover tips to boost the nutrition in your favorite dishes. Holiday eating does not need to be indulgent. It is easy to enjoy many delicious and nutritious meals this season.

Another Unique Idea

It is no secret that this time of year can be extra expensive because of the large meals and gift-giving. To save yourself a little money, try some of these do-it-yourself gift ideas that use affordable food items. By combining a few food items or ingredients in a jar, you have an instant delicious gift for anyone special in your life. Seasoning blends are especially easy to put together—combine cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg for instant pumpkin pie mix. There are many more combination ideas you can check out here.

Christmas cookie mix jar. Dry ingredients for making Christmas cookies in a jar, white background.

However you celebrate this time of year, there are many ways to do so without feeling like you have overspent. Keep these tips in mind while you are grocery shopping or gift shopping. There are many ways to celebrate and feel this season’s magic without overextending yourself. Stay happy and healthy this December!

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