Preparing foods from recipes can be hectic, especially during the holidays. But there are meals to be cooked, appetizers to be taken to the office and holidays to be celebrated with food. How can you save those 2 most precious commodities-time and money-when preparing your family and friends’ favorite recipes? Read on for some suggestions.
1-Devise a budget for holiday food-spending. It doesn’t have to be complicated but make a reasonable estimate of how much you would like to spend. This initial step is important because limiting what you spend for preparing recipes will also help naturally set boundaries around the time you will spend cooking.
2-Look at grocery store flyers in your newspapers before planning meals and selecting individual recipes. Doing so will allow you to choose recipes that utilize the foods and ingredients that are on sale. In other words, focus on sale items when deciding what you will cook.
3-Use pre-chopped vegetables in your recipes. Chopping fresh vegetables can be particularly time-consuming during holiday food preparation. Check to see if your grocery store sells pre-chopped onions, peppers, and celery. These types of convenience foods are often on sale during the holidays and will cut substantial time off of food preparation. With no knife or cutting board to clean, no vegetables to wash, seed, and chop, you will zip right through main dish and side dish recipes.
4-If you need to take a dish to a potluck or celebratory gathering, consider taking an appetizer or vegetable tray made up of sale items. For example, purchasing jars of small pickles and olives, a bag of pre-cut broccoli and cauliflower and a container of pre-made dip (on sale, of course) will save you a load of time and most likely, some money. So, take special care to select sale items to make up an appetizer/vegetable tray to achieve your dual goals to save money and time.
5-When baking, turn on your oven first before mixing ingredients as the recipe states. Since it takes many ovens 10 to 20 minutes to preheat, you can save a lot of time at the end of your recipe preparation by turning the oven on first. Thus, once the dish is ready to be baked, the oven is heated and ready to go.
6-If you have a convection oven feature on your oven, use it. Cooking with convection typically cuts cooking times by 30%, saving both time and money. If you haven’t used it before, have no fear, just get out the manual you received when you purchased the oven and educate yourself about the convection feature and how it works.
7-Think about purchasing pre-made side dishes. Many grocery stores sell pre-made side dishes like mashed potatoes, macaroni salad and green bean casserole (freezer section). Although prepared side dishes won’t always save you money, review which pre-made items are on sale. It’s quite possible you can save time and money by serving pre-made dishes.
8-Before the holidays, prepare recipes ahead of time and freeze them. In this case, you can, not only shop the sales and save money purchasing a recipe’s ingredients in advance, you can make up the recipe and freeze it to use later when you are in a time crunch to save time later.
9-Be realistic about the amount of food necessary for the meal you are planning. Do you really need 4 or 5 different side dishes, or are 2 or 3 dishes sufficient? It is common knowledge that people tend to overdo tasks like cooking and shopping at holiday time. Try to get a count on the number of people who will be present at the meal. Then, use your experience from previous holiday meals shared together to help you properly estimate the amount of food actually needed. Let’s face it, how many times have you been to a holiday celebration where there wasn’t food left over?
10-Consider the trade-off when you have to choose between saving time and saving money. When you can’t save both, decide which commodity (time or money) is more important and focus on saving it when selecting recipes to prepare for the holidays.