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Holiday Feasts on the Cheap

Five tips to maximize your food budget

Between decorating and buying gifts, the holidays can really eat up your money. However, even though the economy is tough, it doesn't have to ruin the holidays or your annual celebration. Here are five tips to maximize your spending this holiday season.

1. Throw a potluck. Everyone has a signature dish, whether it's casserole or banana cream pie. So why not try having a potluck this season? When you call to invite your family and friends over for the holidays, ask them if they would be interested in bringing their best culinary creation. For those who don't cook or bake, see if they wouldn't mind bringing a vegetable tray or a bottle of wine. These additional things add up, saving you cash while you provide the venue for a great holiday celebration.

2. Stock up early. Jim Hiller, CEO of the family-owned Hiller’s Markets in metro Detroit, suggests stocking up on products that are at their best prices around the holidays. Baking ingredients such as flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and spices can be purchased and used all year round. In addition, purchase pop, bottled water and other beverages when you find sales. That way, you're all stocked up on drinks for the party.

3. Stay within budget. Before you head out to the grocery store, create a shopping list, clip coupons and roughly estimate how much cash you will need. In order to stay within your budget, plan to spend only the amount of cash you have in your wallet. If you have $100 cash on you, plan your grocery list according to that. And remember, if you're hungry, don't go shopping – because starving shoppers typically tend to splurge on groceries!

4. Look for the best price. When it comes to finding great deals, skim through PennySavers and Valpaks for sale items and coupons. This way, you can find the lowest price and even buy additional items that you need without going over budget. Check places like Kroger that have 10 items for $10 specials. It's a great way to get more for your money.

5. Store vs. name brand. Just because an item isn't a name brand doesn't mean it isn't just as good. Try comparing prices of store vs. name brand food and see which one is cheaper. If the store brand wins the price competition, buy it. If the name brand ends up being cheaper, purchase that one instead.

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