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?     

Saving on Baby Expenses During the First Year

Cat's Two Little Beans! :)

Cat’s Two Little Beans! :)

Please welcome the lovely Laurie of The Frugal Farmer. Laurie is an awesome mama, blogger, and debt repayment queen. I’m so happy to have her on the blog today!

(Pssst: Yep, those are my twins on the left! I owe y’all an update! Until then, enjoy Laurie’s expert wisdom!)

As a mother of four kids, I’ve learned a lot about what needs to be spent, and what doesn’t need to be spent, as you’re raising your kids.  When your first baby (or, babies :)) is born, it’s easy to fall into a trap of thinking you need to have every available gadget and baby item out there in order to truly give your baby the best life.  Truth be told, though, you’ll be doing your baby (and your pocketbook) a huge favor by being choosy about what comes into their lives during that first year.

New vs. Used

I used to be hesitant about buying used things for my babies, and in fact, I’m still a bit on the odd side about buying used for our kids.  Yet, I also know there are huge cost savings in buying used.  Here are some tips for both buying new and buying used:

If you’re insistent on buying new, plan ahead and hit sales and clearance racks.  We often buy our kids’ clothes a year ahead of time, knowing that we can get next year’s winter gear, for instance, at the end of this year, for dirt cheap.  I once got our son a Columbia brand winter jacket for $8 by hitting the clearance racks.  I probably wouldn’t have paid much less than that at a garage sale.  So if going new is the only option for you, shop early and shop often.

Another tip for buying new?  Hit garage sales in high-end areas of your city.  In the affluent suburb we used to live in, I never ceased to be amazed at the brand-new, tags-still-on items that appeared in garage sales constantly.  People often buy new things and never even take them out of their boxes or bags.

If buying used is okay for you, make sure to shop for clean, well-taken care of items.  A friend of mine always buys her kids name brand clothes, and somehow, those clothes always remain in good shape.  Every spring, she holds an organized garage sale and sells these barely worn name-brand clothes for a fraction of the cost of new, and every year, lots of the same moms come to this sale.  Seek out the sales in your area that seem to have kids a year or two older than yours, and ask if they hold sales every year, with the goal of having a list of yearly sales to go to that have the types and condition of items you want. Also, utilize Ebay and other sites for great deals too.

Back to Basics

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that babies and kids don’t need nearly as much stuff as we think they do.  They generally play with the same five or six toys, favor the same types of outfits and also favor the same two or three comfort items.  Resist the urge to buy your kids every single toy or item, and focus instead on things that will entertain them, yet make your life easier.  When our kids were babes, we pretty much bought them every gadget and toy that targeted commercials said would make them happy.  In hindsight, however, we would have bought three or so different items, such as an Exersaucer, that would keep them occupied and safe, and skipped the rest.  The same goes with outfits and other items.  When choosing what to buy, think in terms of items that will make your life and your baby’s life easy and happy, not just in terms of convenience, but also in terms of maintenance (as in, less to clean and care for) and in terms of your pocketbook.  A minimalist approach can go a long way in your baby’s first year of life.

The first year of your babies’ lives are a time filled with wonder, joy and a whole host of new things to learn and do.  Concentrating on those things, and not worrying so much about what to buy and spend money on, will make that first year much more enjoyable and much less stressful.

What was on your had-to-have list in your baby’s first year?