Frugal Feasts: Save Money on Holiday Meals

Know when to pay for convenience

Some components of a holiday meal are worth paying for in a convenience format. Some convenience foods are true money-savers, while others save sufficient time to justify the higher price.

Unless you live in sweet potato country, canned yams or sweet potatoes are a good buy compared to fresh yams at 69 cents a pound . Pre-baked brown and serve rolls are frequently offered as loss leaders for under $1 a package, so stock the freezer now.

Similarly, pumpkin pie filling mix, when offered on sale, is usually less expensive than buying canned pumpkin and adding evaporated milk and eggs.

In the middle ground, you'll find prepared pie crusts. Whether they're flat and pre-rolled in the deli section or pre-shaped and frozen, prepared pie crusts may be worth the extra money because of the time and effort they save.

Start your stuffing now

Frugal shoppers know that some convenience items never make the list, no matter how wowser the sale. Primary among these are canned gravy, dry gravy packets, and packaged stuffing mix.

Why not? Because these items can be assembled free from most family kitchens, not to mention that it's downright immoral to sell stale bread crumbs for four times the price of fresh bread!

Start on your stuffing mix now. It's so simple, it's criminal. Finished a loaf of bread? Toss the heels and/or the last few stale pieces on a cookie sheet and put it in the oven. Turn the oven on for five minutes. Turn it off. Leave the bread there to dry out.

Next day, have some bottom left from the loaf from the automatic bread maker Take out yesterday's bread, toss it in a zipper storage bag, and put today's bread onto the cookie sheet? Do the oven on/oven off routine one more time.

If you forget about it, don't worry--the dried-out bread won't grow stale or mold, and in the oven, it won't get dusty. (Automatic bread machine users should slice or cube leftovers; that way they'll dry easily and will be easy to crush when you're ready to make dressing.)

To make dressing, beat that bread-filled zipper bag with a rolling pin until it looks like the store-bought stuff. Dump it in a big bowl. Add sauteed onions and celery, and season with sage, parsley, salt, pepper--you know your family's preferences. Moisten with chicken broth, milk or water, and stuff that bird.

Simple. And it sure won't cost you any $3.59 per six ounces of bread crumbs, either. The variety of bread leads to an interesting, flavorful stuffing.

For those of the cornbread dressing persuasion, follow the same rules--if, and in my family, that's a big if, you've got any cornbread leftovers from Chili-and-Cornbread night!

Ready, frugal shoppers? Take control of holiday meals ... and save!

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