If you feel financially stressed over the holiday season, start stocking up now.
Note: though I talk about my own traditions of Thanksgiving and Christmas, this applies equally to my friends who follow other beliefs and faiths. It doesn’t matter what your religious background is … the financial pressures of holidays and celebrations is universal!
When I talk to some of my friends about Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations, what I often hear from them is NOT happiness … not a a spirit of thanksgiving, or the joys of Christmas but instead anxiety, despair and depression.
The reason for the negative feelings is often about money. My friends talk about the pressure of feeling like you have to go all out on special dinners, parties and gatherings. They talk about not being able to “afford” it all and the fact that it takes months to pay off their credit cards.
I KNOW that feeling, because I lived through it myself for over a decade. I began to hate the holidays not only because of family issues but mostly because of money issues. When I was in my twenties I was married to a very nice guy who had 5 brothers … and I became an instant Auntie to 7 of their children. Gifts were expected for everyone. My husband and I simply could not do it, especially since both of us were still in university. It was humiliating to have to tell everyone … NO gifts.
The benefit of our announcement was that everyone agreed. They just never had the nerve to say it. We ended up drawing two names from a bucket, set a $20 limit on each purchase … and that was it. Problem solved and everyone still got two nice and thoughtful gifts.
However the holidays were still a financial strain … food bills more than doubled in October (Canadian Thanksgiving) and in December.
One day I was talking to one of my clients– a client that had become a very good friend. It was August. I have NO idea how the conversation started, but he ended up telling me about how his family solved the holiday season financial spike.
From January to July, they put aside $50 a month for the holiday season. The money was to cover gifts, decorations and FOOD for Thanksgiving and Xmas.
In August, they started watching the sales. The first thing his wife did was buy sale items to make Christmas cake. Once she’d made a couple of slabs of fruit cake, they started on the rest of the holiday food stock up. By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, they had a good stock pile of non-perishable food items.
I thought the idea was brilliant so I tried it and … what an amazing difference it makes. It has a huge impact on reducing the financial strain, but surprisingly there is less of a feeling of frantic shopping in the weeks before the “events.”
So what do I stock up on? Basically EVERYTHING that can be stored for a period of two to six months. From soda to toilet paper. From canned tomatoes to stuffing mixes. From spices to hot toddy mixes. Baking ingredients including flour, butter, spices, raisins, nuts, sugar substitutes and yes, sugar for those who don’t diet.
The first year, I made a list of EVERYTHING I could think of– using last year’s celebrations to prompt my memory. I also “tried” to make the “big dinner” menus ahead of time. I listed everything. From the everything list, I separated out the items that could be stored … including freezer storage. For example, you can freeze butter and yes … eggs.
Next I set up bank account especially for “the holidays.” Since I started this 1/2 way though the year I started banking $75 a month. In August I started watching the food sales and stocking up on groceries and supplies. When I first started doing this, Amazon did not even exist. Today Amazon is one of my favorite “grocery stores” so I watch for specials there too. I have a long list of things to watch for in the Black Friday sales … thank goodness for my holiday bank account!
The challenge for me was and still is … “storage” space. The first thing I did was clear out my apartment storage locker. There were things stored there I hadn’t used in years … out they went. Every inch of my under the bed space ended up being used. After the first year, I got smart and listed everything I stuffed under the bed and approximately where it is located (head, middle, foot). This saves me time searching for stuff … and serves as a reminder of what is being stored (and how long).
Because I had a six month head start, the first year was remarkable. Yes, there was a slight upward blip during October and again in December, but it was not even close to what t it had been in previous years.
One of my biggest bargains was buying my Christmas turkey right after Thanksgiving when frozen turkeys were sold at a deep discount. I wrapped the frozen turkey in several layers of saran wrap to prevent freezer burn.
I always serve my guests salted nuts (cashews, almonds, mixed) and getting these on sale saved me over $100. And SPICES. When you have to make a quick trip to your local grocery for an emergency supply of nutmeg … the price is over the roof. Getting five times the amount at a specialty spice store for the same $ amount will put a smile on your face.
The second year, I set aside $50 a month AND purchased bulk quantities of on sale (sometimes deep discounts) items.
Over the years technology has changed. One year someone gave me a “recycled” gift … she never used it. I use it all the time. My vacuum sealer is used regularly to make sure what I buy stays as fresh as possible.
Here’s a short list of things I vacuum pack:
- nuts (raw and roasted)
- soft candies (for the kids)
- baking and eating chocolate
- appetizers such as won tons or samosas
- frozen fruit (strawberries, berries, cherries, apple filling)
- frozen veggies: the bounty from my friends gardens provides me with tons of free produce.
- cookies, bars, loaves
- Spices: I buy in bulk and divide the spices into quantities that fit my spice jars
Yes, the vacuum pack bags cost a bit more, BUT nothing gets freezer burned. Meat can last up to a year, and spices for several years.
In the summer and fall, I will often spend a day in the kitchen, chopping up packages of “ready for the Instapot” packages. For example I have a favorite lentil soup and make it regularly. I chop up all the veggies (bounty from my friend’s gardens) and create ready to so soup packs. For example, I might create five big packs of: onions, carrots, peas, zucchini and mushrooms, all chopped or sliced and ready to dump in my Instapot.
Aside from my freezer, I also stock up on canned or tetra packed foods such as tomatoes, beef and chicken stock, almond milk, coconut milk/cream … and on dried food items such as pasta, flour, sugar, the ingredients for my low-carb baking mixes and money-saving purchases on sugar-substitute ingredients.
Be sure to add wine, alcohol and drink mixes to your list if that is part of your celebration.
Closer to the celebration days, I will purchase BIG bags of onions, potatoes. These will last for months in cold storage.
Talking about cold storage or freezer storage. Depending on the part of the country you live in, you can use your condo or apartment balcony as a place to store a lot of goodies. I have two friends with balconies. They are balconies during the summer … but later in the fall they store boxes of canned goods, and produce and then once it freezes the balcony becomes a freezer. One of my friends covers her boxes with a dark tarp … so her boxes are hidden from sight. The other friend uses a tool bin to hide her bounty from sight.
Another option for cold or frozen storage is your garage. This is what I use. During the spring and fall my garage is cold storage. During the winter, my garage doesn’t freeze up totally, so I can still cold store potatoes, onions, and other produce in large insulated chests. During the summer I pack the same insulated chests with freezer packs to keep the temperatures low.
How Can YOU Get Started?
1. Open a holiday bank account. Do a rough calculation of what you think you spend on your holiday food. Divide that into twelve and put this aside every month. Or just start and bank $100 a month starting now.
2. The first year, make a list of everything you need for the holiday meals. Think back to last year and try to remember what made for dinner, how many people were there and whether or not they stayed overnight or longer. If people stay over, that means you also have to plan for breakfast, lunch and snacks.
Next look ahead to the coming holidays … do you have traditional meals with the same foods all the time, or do you create totally different menus each time. In my family, most of the meal is very traditional … I know exactly what is needed. BUT every year I add in a few “new casseroles” or new baked goodies. Make a list of the staples. You might not know exactly what cookies you will make, but you DO know you will bake … so you need flour, sugar, spices, butter, margarine, coconut oil and things like nuts, dried fruits, chocolate nibs, coconut shreds, etc.
3. Clear some storage spaces. Put up some cheap storage shelving. Purchase (on sale) some storage bins and cooler chests. Even a cheap Styrofoam cooler will work … I know because I used them for years.
4. Once a week start watching for sales items. Check your list and start stocking your holiday pantry. If the items you are purchasing are things you regularly use, buy twice to three times what you normally would … and store the holiday meal purchases separately (if you can).
That’s it … if you start NOW, no matter when NOW is, by the time occasions such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas OR other holidays YOU celebrate, roll around the financial impact will be less than usual. Do this for a full year and you will be amazed!
Will all the stress of holidays go away?
NO .. you still have to deal with the fact that Uncle Mark drinks too much and that Auntie May asks inappropriate questions. You’ll still have to put up with the kids constantly asking for everything their friends have. And you’ll still have to go to the office Christmas party!
Here’s What WILL Happen …
By setting up a bank account and stock piling for your holiday dinners and entertainment, you WILL alleviate much of the financial stress that holiday dinners, holiday parties, holiday guests can create.
You will know that there will be plenty of food on the table and that you won’t be paying for that food next February!
Who knows, you might even grow to love the holidays and have oodles of FUN, JOY and LAUGHTER.
If you are on a low-carb or Keto Diet be sure to check out all the great recipes for a family Thanksgiving dinner without sugar! Low Carb Thanksgiving Feasts