If you’re watching your wallet this holiday season, you probably know that you’ll save a bundle by eating at home as much as possible. Sure, you want to be in the festive spirit inviting friends and relatives over for a meal or two, but how do you do that and keep your already soaring holiday budget expenses from getting even more out of control?
The principles of eating well on a budget are the same for the masses as they are for you at home. Buy in bulk, buy foods that “stretch,” and buy produce at greatly reduced rates from local farms or stores when they are on sale.
What does that look like? If you’re entertaining large groups, buying in bulk makes even more sense, especially when it comes to beans and grains. Whatever you don’t cook up, you can store for future use in mason-type jars with rubber gaskets to keep the food fresh for months.
You can find a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm and often if you volunteer there, you can get produce at reduced rates or even free, depending on how much you volunteer. To find a CSA or any local farm near you, go to www.localharvest.org. Even at your local grocery store, you can find deals on produce that is close to expiration date if you plan to use the food soon. Stores will greatly discount produce just to sell it the closer it is to expiration.
Beans and grains will be much cheaper than produce. So prepare hefty servings of lower-cost grains such as brown rice, golden millet, pasta and bean salads to give your guests plenty of protein and stick-to-your-ribs choices. Stir-frys with colorful vegetables will catch their eye. Slice red, yellow and orange peppers thin to make them go a long way. Serving vegetables on top of grains will allow you to stretch with going heavy on the grains.
Sweet potatoes and orange and yellow winter squashes are the base of classic festive dishes. It doesn’t take much money or effort to cook the squash, remove the cooked inside, set aside the seeds for toasting with a little paprika, and then restuff the shell with toasted sunflower seeds, chopped nuts, chopped celery, tomatoes, spinach (or your favorite green vegetables), and vegan cheese melted on top if you like.
Fun, cheap desserts like chocolate mousse or carrot cake are always fun to serve to the non-veg crowd as they promise to wow the crowd, and people always demand to know the recipe. Handing your guests a recipe as they leave can have great impact as they are thinking about the fact that they just ate something so delicious that was vegan.
You may feel like shying away from salads, since ingredients for them can add up. One way around this is to serve up portions in advance, rather than make a larger total quantity in a large salad serving bowl. Make sure you make your salad dressing at home to ensure quality ingredients and the lowest cost possible.
Learn more about eating vegan on a budget from Ellen Jaffe Jones at: