How to Serve a Frugal Easter Dinner

frugal easter dinnerPlease welcome back the Laurie of The Frugal Farmer. She was so sweet to submit two posts for my maternity leave, and I really, really appreciate it!! In case you didn’t read her last post, Laurie is an awesome mama, blogger, and debt repayment queen. You’ll love her tips on how to serve a frugal Easter dinner. Thanks again, Laurie!

We in the Frugal Farmer family love, love, love to have people over and serve them a nice big meal, especially on holidays.  However, feeding a big group of people on a budget can get tricky.  We love to show kindness to others by preparing a meal for them, but we’re also on a tight budget as we work toward debt freedom.  Over the years, we’ve learned tricks and tips for hosting holiday meal gatherings and yet still keeping the costs reasonable.  Here are some of our tips:

Know When to Choose Homemade and When to Choose Store-Bought

Homemade foods are nearly always cheaper, especially when it comes to things like breads, desserts and side dishes, but sometimes store-bought is the better way to go.  For instance, last Thanksgiving, I toyed with making homemade bread rolls to serve to our group of twenty, but when the generic brown n’ serves went on sale for a buck a bag, I knew this was the way to go.  The cost comparison was similar to the homemade version, and the work it would save me was priceless. J  Another thing we did differently on Thanksgiving this year was that we made our stuffing with bread crumbs from home instead of store-bought bread crumbs.  I’d learned a tip on another blog about saving the ends (or crusts) of your bread loaves in a freezer bag and freezing them in the weeks before Thanksgiving and using those as your bread stuffing base.  So, instead of paying $3 a bag (we usually buy at least two bags) for store-bought bread crumbs, we used our bread loaf ends, which we had been throwing away, and had likely the best stuffing we’ve ever served.   Having a good idea of what foods cost in their raw state and what a comparable processed item would cost will help you to make quick and wise decisions about which option will be more cost effective.

Go Potluck

People, in general, love to contribute to a big meal, so don’t be afraid to ask your guests if they’ll bring a thing or two.  We’ve done this at our Easter and other holiday dinners for years now, and it not only saves on cost, but it adds a bit of fun to the festivities as we get to taste the cooking creations of others.  I usually try and pick out the more expensive items, and dole out one to each family that joins us on holidays, leaving the hard work and more inexpensive items to us.

Be Choosy About Serving Alcohol

On Easter and other holidays, serving alcohol for 20-30 people can get expensive real quick.  We handle this one of two ways: we either just serve pop and milk, inviting guests to bring anything else they might like on their own dime, or, we’ll pick up a more inexpensive 12-pack of beer and/or a cheaper bottle of wine, and when it’s gone, it’s gone.  The rule though, at our house, is to never let spending on drinks of any kind get out of hand, as this can be a huge budget-breaker

Plan Frugal Activities

With Easter specifically, the activities generally center around the kids.  We always buy a couple of bags of the cheap plastic Easter eggs, throw in some inexpensive candies and a few pennies, and the kids have a blast searching our large yard for the Easter eggs in their assigned color (this assures that everyone gets the same amount of eggs).  You can also plan other outdoor games, depending on the weather, such as badminton/volleyball, croquet, or simply send the kids out for a good old-fashioned game of hide and seek.  For winter holidays, choose activities like group games, family video slide shows, or fun movies to watch that fit the holiday you’re celebrating.

For the adults we make sure the sports options are available for them too, but mostly they’re quite happy simply sitting around and chatting.

With a little ingenuity, Easter dinner and other holiday dinners can be fun and entertaining without breaking the bank.

What are your favorite Easter and other holiday traditions?     

How to Select the Best Type of Home to Buy

View of new homes in rowPlease welcome Diana Fishlock of Zillow who was kind enough to post for me during my maternity leave!

Choosing a home is a big decision with far-reaching implications. Homebuyers should think beyond price and community, and consider their lifestyles and which types of houses will fit their needs long-term.

Potential buyers should consider how they feel about lawn mowing, home maintenance and privacy. Buyers who determine their preferences ahead of time avoid being drawn in by pretty facades and experiencing buyer’s remorse.

Here’s an overview of property types for buyers to consider:

Single-Family Detached

For buyers who want privacy and the freedom to remodel, single-family houses are great. They range from quaint little bungalows and modest ranch houses to austere Victorians and sprawling McMansions. Each single-family home has its own plot of land, typically with a front and back yard. Open spaces allow homeowners options for patios, landscaping and outdoor furniture.

Single-family detached houses aren’t attached to other homes, such as a double-family or a row house. Residents are more likely able to play their music loudly or read quietly without feeling like the neighbors are right on top of them. Alternatively, these homeowners don’t benefit from close neighbors who crank up their heat in the winter, warming their homes in the process.

Homeowners of single-family properties are responsible for all the repairs and maintenance. They must maintain their lawns, clean their gutters, clear away snow and keep up with standard home repairs. The true cost of owning a home includes insurance, mortgage payments and maintenance.

Planned or gated communities offer amenities such as heighted security and shared pool houses but are often more expensive. Many communities have homeowners associations (HOA) that limit homeowners’ choices on upgrades such as paint color, length of time guests can stay and how many cars can park at a property. HOAs charge homeowners monthly dues and require additional fees when they deem the community needs updating.

Townhouses

Townhouses typically cost less than single-family detached homes, but still provide small yards for buyers who enjoy outdoor play and gardening. These homes are almost always multi-level with ground floor entrances. Townhome owners share at least one wall with their neighbors, providing heating benefits. Sharing walls with neighbors can create close relationships for borrowing a cup of sugar or letting family pets play together. However, neighbors may feel too close when they overhear howling pets, loud music and family arguments.

Houses with two units side-by-side in one building that share a common wall are called duplexes, semi-detached or double houses. These properties sometimes have shared porches and yards. Some inner cities or new developments offer row houses, which have several homes attached in a row. Many row houses do not have yards and instead offer community parks or green spaces for families and pets. Townhouses often have HOAs that limit remodeling and property upgrades, but generally take care of community landscaping and park maintenance.

Condominiums

Condos are perfect for buyers who want to spend less time mowing lawns and repairing things, and more time indoors. Condos are apartment-like units within a single building and are typically one-story or lofted units. Residents may be able to hear their neighbors’ conversations, music or gatherings but condos are typically more private than townhouses where neighbors get to know each other outdoors. Condo dwellers own the inside of their units and a small percentage of their property’s roof, exterior walls and any shared facilities such as pools, exercise rooms or parks.

Condominium associations collect monthly fees from all owners to maintain the properties. Also these fees typically cover the hazard insurance on the buildings themselves, while the individual owners pay renter’s insurance to cover their personal property. Condos give owners freedom from time-consuming maintenance tasks and often cost less than single-family homes since all owners share the expenses.

Cooperative Housing

Residents of cooperatives don’t own their apartments but own shares of the corporation that owns the apartments. Like condominiums, inner-city cooperative apartments charge residents fees to manage their properties and require residents to follow rules to live there.

Residents don’t need to worry about repairs, maintenance or even paying the mortgage or property taxes. Shareholders vote on decisions affecting the corporation, including who can live there. Some co-ops divide funds among the shareholders. When they move out, they sell their shares.

Buyers have several options for owning homes or shares of buildings. Spending some time considering priorities can help buyers decide what’s best for them. Prospective buyers should seek out the level of privacy and home maintenance that best suits their personalities and budgets to create happy homes where they can live for many years.

What type of home do you live in?