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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Let the Holidays Begin

Okay, not really begin. I just start in September to think, plan, buy, and save for the holiday foods to maximize my dollars I have to spend. Here is where my parsimony really kicks in. You can call it thrift, or frugality.

This is not a practice I started due to my newly-reduced financial status. This practice was started when I married into a reduced financial  status.  We were young and in school. He made $55/week and we rented. Even when we had more money, this just seemed the way to make our money go farther and not eschew the goodies and celebration we/I wanted.

Really, my mother bought this way. So, I had a really good example of how to maximize my food money. There were times Daddy controlled things to the point of cruelty, but left to her own devices, my mother bought at the best price and early. She grew up during the Great Depression. 

I always check my spices to see what I will be needing for my favorites. It is disheartening to be in the midst of baking a pumpkin pie at 10 pm and discover I don't have the spices I need. Please, no mention of substitutes. This has to be perfect. This year, I may use sweet potatoes I have right here instead of the canned pumpkin. I have no preference as to which pie I have, sweet potato or pumpkin.

Sugars must be checked. There are great sugar deals this far ahead of the holidays. At the last moment?...not so much. I use Domino Cane substitutes.  The same goes for the dark brown sugar and Confectioners sugar. With sales and coupons, I can get it as cheaply as I can off-brands or store brands. I never pay full price for sugar.

Flour goes on sale, too.  I kick myself if I ever buy it full price! I always use all-purpose flour so I can follow exactly all my recipes. 

Very close to Thanksgiving, celery is dirt cheap. I buy several stalks and freeze what I cannot use for the holiday dressing.

Even canned food is bought early and on sale. I do buy canned pumpkin and canned jellied cranberry sauce. Whole cranberries are bought when they go on sale and frozen until needed.

Maybe you substitute spices, raised your own pumpkins, and never eat sweets. Fine. But, this is my

At this point, I probably have plenty of flour, sugars, spices, and canned goods. That is not the point of my spending during the next two or three months. I will use all from the older foods and still buy an excess for use during the next year. Flour, sugars, and spices will be good for the next year, possibly more. That way, I never pay full price year-round.

Not only will I control spending during the holidays, but during the next year I will use food bought for little. The way food prices are rising, this is imperative for me and many people. Even if you can afford the rising prices, why not maximize your food dollar? (rhetorical)

Having had a bout of pantry moths last year, I resorted to storage beyond my usual measures. In the past, each five lb flour bag was inserted into a gallon freezer bag. Since pantry moths can invade these plastic bags, I changed my short-term storage containers.

I bought half-gallon Ball canning jars and put my vulnerable storage into those. Since I cannot afford all I need of anything at one time, I had to buy 6 jars at a time for around $8. Using money from things I sold, I managed to buy 8 boxes of jars--48 jars to be exact. Right now, they hold beans, sugars, flour. Now, this was done over about 8 months time last year and before I had the hen security concerns. I figured I would put up the things that might have bugs. If the food was contaminated with eggs, at least the contamination was confined to that jar. So far, a bag of cereal is the only thing I found that had to be tossed. The hens were happy.

If you are buying in bulk or buying regular retail, don't lose your money by letting pests destroy it. Besides, sugars in canning jars do not get hard....yay for that little advantage.

Back to holiday food planning.

My holidays that I plan for are Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Eve, and parties to which I am invited for any of those holidays. Yes, I am alone here. However, I decided very early that I would not be the old lady who did not celebrate or decorate.

My Trick or Treat candy will be gotten free at Office Max, using my recycling points. At Thanksgiving and Christmas  I have my own version of what must be:

Turkey breast (can be just chicken breasts if I am really broke)
dressing (cornbread and lots of onions and celery)
giblet gravy (minus giblets) with boiled eggs chopped in it.
cranberry sauce
green beans
mashed potatoes
baked, whole sweet potatoes
pumpkin pie
mincemeat pie
chocolate pound cake
eggnog from the store

Yes, I will eat the other traditional fare along with my favorites. The above is just what I prepare for myself.  Heavy on carbs? I do prepare all this just for myself and know I will not have to cook for a week.  Even if I go someplace for Thanksgiving or Christmas, I prepare this meal because leftovers are the best part of Thanksgiving and Christmas. No, I do not complain that there is too much turkey or other leftovers.

My favorite leftover is a sandwich that I could eat year-round: Whole wheat bread, turkey, Miracle Whip, lots of spinach leaves. Yes, I do eat fresh greens with all but the meal when first cooked. After that, I eat more fresh, non-carb vegetables with the leftovers.

The plan for thrifty shopping? Ads with sales and coupons.

Note: I just wrote a whole post without misspelling one single word. I always get words wrong that are so common...tabel, spooon, there for know the sticky finger and wrong order type things. Now, if there are no grammar or punctuation errors...dream on, Linda.

Your turn
Do you buy ahead for holiday baking and cooking? Do you find your year supply of sugar, flour, and other staples at this time of year?


  1. had to chuckle as I read this, because only today re-discovered some sugar that mom gave me when she gave me an antique gallon glass jar. I think you've got a great idea about putting flour in jars...what if you freeze it first to kill any bugs? LOVE this reading what others consider must-eats on Thanksgiving!

  2. Most of the flour I store has been frozen first to kill eggs that always are in flour. I just didn't mention it here. But, this frozen flour had been taken from the freezer and could have been infested here. It was too overwhelming to try and kill twice. So far, there have been no infested items stored in glass jars...knock on wood.

    My must-eats seem limiting. But, I am only willing to cook so much all at once for just me. I am all over fruit salads, jello salads, purple hull peas, mac and cheese, lots of things that are wonderful eating. Oooh, sweet potato casserole with pecans is delicious.

  3. I absolutely *love* the holidays, but this is going to be a tough one this year being that it's the first season without my mom. Especially Thanksgiving.. last year she spent the night before with me & my newlywed hubby and taught me how to make my first turkey. I suspect my dad will be sad too, and considering I'm an only child, I feel some responsibility to make sure his holiday is enjoyable.

    The tentative plan is to invite him & grandma (mom's mom) over to our apartment and cook them dinner. We'll probably watch our favorite holiday movie (A Christmas Story). That's all I have for now..

    Honestly, this is the first time I feel sad thinking about the holidays *sigh*

  4. In Australia, we don't have the Thanks Giving/Christmas celebrations you guys do, but nonetheless we still try to enjoy our food come Christmas time.

    It's funny you should make this post, as we went shopping this week and noticed so many specials on the things we normally buy. We bought up because it means we don't have to pay full price later.

    We're doing this slowly and trying to build up supplies, so we can wait until the next specials come around. I'm also a big fan of spices though. Weren't they responsible for the first trade routes? It's funny how they've gone from precious commodity to available nearly everywhere. Not that many people stock up and I'm guilty of this sometimes too.

    Ginger would have to be "the" spice for the holiday season - I make gingerbread men, ginger cookies and ginger beer (because Christmas is summer here in Australia).

    What's your mostly used spice of the holiday season, Linda?

  5. tlc, Every "first" without her will be hard. I was twice your age, as I have said, and it was and still is hard to go through things without her. There is a jagged hole in your life. As time passes, the hole becomes less jagged, but it is a hole, nonetheless.

  6. My most-used spices at the holidays....forgot New Year's Day is vanilla and cinnamon. A friend in Australia said you still have Christmas cards with snow. That seems a little hard when it is hot outdoors! Yes, spices were the the reason for many explorations and expansions. There was even a Cinnamon Route. What is your favorite spice?

  7. Vanilla bean pod - so versatile and yummy!

  8. I stock up all year round on staples like sugar and salt. We use so much of both in canning that we take advantage of the sales in summer most of the time. You are so right that closer to the holidays, these foods go up in price!

    Its a great idea to think about buying these things now though. Canned pumpkin sure has gone up in prices hasn't it?

    Do you buy Christmas presents early too? A good friend starts now and is finished by October! I always wanted to try that out.

  9. Chris, I have never used vanilla beans, just vanilla extract, but NEVER artificial vanilla.

    LindaM, I missed the one golden opportunity for sugar when I was ill. Now, there will be opportunities for cheap sugar in sales before the holidays. I won't miss this

    Absolutely, I do buy gifts early, used sometimes, and on sale, or homemade. I have that post almost ready to post.


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