The year 2008 has been a tough year for homeschooling families. Gas prices have doubled in two years, grocery expenses are spiraling out of control with each trip we make to the store, and that tight budget needs to stretch farther! Most of us are single-income families, and it can be a juggling act to make it through each month. Now the holidays are upon us, and we love to celebrate with food. How can we enjoy our traditions, make our family favorites, graciously entertain, and save money on food during this holiday season?

Plan to Save

Start with an overall plan to stop grocery spending in its tracks! One of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control; you can do this! Sit down with a hot cup of tea and your favorite recipes and think through all the special meals, dishes, entertaining, and food gifts you would like to make during the holidays this year. How much extra money do you have to spend on this, if you plan to buy a little each week over a four- to six-week span? Establish a budget and then creatively figure out a way to make it work:

  • What are your favorites and why?
  • What do you love to make or are famous for?
  • What foods and recipes "make" the holidays special in your home?
  • What can you cook ahead and freeze?
  • What items that traditionally go on sale can you work into your special menus?

Plan a Family Meeting

Make hot chocolate and have a family meeting to review and discuss your traditions and menu plans. Start with prayer, asking the Lord what He would have you do to celebrate Thanksgiving, His birth, and the New Year. Ask whom you might be able to reach out to through these activities, what He wants to do in your family, and how you can carry out His will.

Then talk about it. You might be surprised to learn what your family members passionately feel is an important part of Thanksgiving or Christmas celebrations. You might be able to drop a few expensive or time-consuming dishes (and activities) and focus on the ultimate favorites, which are often simple. Try to let everyone choose at least one favorite!

Narrowing the list can really help you save money and avoid the stress of cooking so many dishes, not to mention the quandary of what to do with leftovers on those dishes you "always" make but never really get gobbled down! It may be time to let some traditions end. It would not be Christmas without Peanut Butter Fudge in our home, but my family is okay without the homemade cranberry sauce and the Southern Living stuffing of the year.

Don't get sidetracked by all of the beautiful feasts portrayed in magazines, which entice you to buy multiple ingredients not normally on your list. Make a commitment to simplify this year!

Plan to Organize

Now that you have revamped your family plan, grab a notebook and create a "Holiday Recipe Journal." Include in it all recipes for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Day, events you are going to, food gifts, and parties. This keeps things neat and all in one place, allowing you to see which ingredients you will need throughout the season. You now have the tools with which you can compile a master grocery list for the holidays.

Pull a math and economics lesson in by having the kids help you scour the Recipe Journal and determine how many ingredients you will need altogether. How many cups of sugar and flour will you need? Therefore, how many bags of flour and sugar do you need to buy? How many cans of pumpkin, evaporated milk, broth, etc. will be needed? Let them peruse the pantry to take inventory. Do you have enough cinnamon, cloves, sage, and other spices? Write directly on the cans, earmarking them for certain dishes, or put colorful stickers or labels on your cans and boxes of food. Let the family know that these labeled containers are reserved for holiday meals; they are not to be used for other meals. Write down all of the ingredients you still need, creating one master list.