Affording the Holidays: Freezer and Pantry Cooking

Affording the Holidays: Freezer and Pantry Cooking

As we get closer to Christmas, it's possible you might be feeling a pinch in your budget. Affording Christmas gifts on top of a shaky economy and rising prices is enough to test just about anyone's income. However, before whipping out your plastic to take care of the gifts on your list, consider using the cash you'd normally spend on household expenses, such as groceries, and applying it to your holiday purchases.

Now it should be noted that I am not advocating the foregoing of buying food and household necessities so that gifts can be bought. That's not the point at all. What I am suggesting, however, is an experiment to get super-creative with what you have on hand in your pantry and freezer for at least one week as a way to supplement your Christmas cash this year.

Say you have $100 per week budgeted for groceries. By using what you already have on hand at home in conjunction with some meal-planning tactics, you could take that $100 you had planned to spend on new groceries and spend it instead on Christmas gifts.

Take Stock

To give this whole idea a chance at success, you first need to take a gander at your freezer and pantry to see what's lurking in their depths. Chances are, you have canned and frozen items that can be turned into a meal.

You can also, if need be, make a grocery run for weekly necessities, like milk and bread. Make sure, however, you stick to just those necessities. You know how it is: you run into the store for milk and come out with a whole cart full of things. Be disciplined and focused, and you can get out of the store spending far less than you normally would on groceries but still be able to provide for your family.

Plan It

Once you know what you're working with ingredients-wise, you can then take a few minutes and plan out some meals for the week. I know my cupboards and fridge won't yield gourmet fare, but I usually can find a week's worth of meal ideas within them. Think simple, such as jarred sauce and spaghetti or mac 'n cheese with a side of fruit. Also, think creatively: flour, eggs and milk can be turned into homemade pancakes for a breakfast-for-dinner treat. Mold together some leftover cooked meat and veggies with some rice or noodles for a new one-dish meal.

For the Future

The nice thing about a freezer-and-pantry-cooking week is that once you have the idea down, if your budget should ever get tight again (unexpected car repair bills, anyone?), you can apply this again in the future to help put meals on the table without feeling the pinch in your grocery budget.

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Jana's picture

Jana wrote:

Thu, 12/15/2011 - 16:07 Comment #: 1

I like the idea of eating from the pantry and freezer to free up money for Christmas gifts. We've been doing this, and I've been planning meals based on what's already in the house. The reason for this is to have some extra money for Christmas dinner rather than gifts. Christmas dinner can be expensive!

Melinda Gregory's picture

Melinda Gregory wrote:

Fri, 12/16/2011 - 22:19 Comment #: 2

Hi Jana!
I like your idea of saving now for Christmas dinner money; you're right - that is expensive! I do this from time to time throughout the year - especially if we have an unexpected expense or the week's budget is just tight. It does help us save money!