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Planning for a Frugal Christmas Dinner

We all want to have the ideal Christmas dinner, one your family and guests will remember for years to come—a dinner with all the entire family together and food covering the table. Sadly, the stress of feeding lots of people and buying tons of food ends up cutting back that amazing dinner. It can even turn the whole event from a perfect day to a perfect nightmare!

Last year my family managed to feed 10 people Christmas dinner for only $20! That included a turkey and everything else, down to the paper plates and plastic cups. Cooking a huge dinner on a small budget is easy. There are a lot of ways to save on the meal without your guests ever knowing that you served a frugal Christmas dinner.

It Starts With a Plan

First, you need to plan early. Don’t start planning the week before, start now. Decide what you want to serve, down to every side, sauce and dessert. Start the savings by sharing the list you’ve made and seeing if any relatives or other guests want to handle a particular side or dessert. The more you delegate, the more you save—plus everyone will enjoy getting to help out in some way with the meal.

Shop for a Month

Once everyone else has chosen sides they can make, go ahead and make a list of what items you need to prepare from the dishes that are left. Also, add any paper goods you want and even decor items to your list. You are basically making your shopping list a month in advance. Having this list ready means that over the next month you can start to watch sales and buy the items you need when they are actually on sale. You won’t be running in the week before the big meal and paying full price because you have no other option.

As you watch sales, it’s important to know what a “real” grocery sale is. To save the most money you want to look for sales that are at least 40% off of the regular price. An example: Canned vegetables are normally $1, but you want to grab them when they are on sale for 60¢ or less.

Clip Those Coupons

Buying an item on a “true” sale is a massive savings, but you can save even more by adding in coupons. There will be great baking and food coupons throughout November and December, so keep an eye out. We want to save the coupon and use it when the item is at that great sale price. Pairing the 40%-plus sale and the coupons allows you to grab some items for pennies and some items for free!

To get an idea of the savings, check out the specific item search on Southern Savers. Type in “cranberries” and you’ll see everywhere they are on sale this week, plus any coupons available to use for that item. And yes, there are even coupons for cranberries!

Main Dish Promotions

Lastly, let’s talk about how to save on the main entrée: the turkey or ham. The biggest way to save on meat for a holiday meal is to take advantage of special store promotions. Many stores will match ham or turkey prices, and some stores that run gas savings programs will even give increased gas discounts. We’ve even seen grocery stores offering a free turkey when you transfer any prescription to their pharmacy. Spend a few minutes to decide which promotion or price match works best for you. Don’t forget to look for coupons too. There will be a number available for the major brands.

Quick Tips to Remember


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If you are feeling burdened or overwhelmed by the expense of hosting Christmas dinner, keep these simple tips in mind:

  1. Plan the menu early and delegate some dishes
  2. Make a detailed shopping list of everything you need
  3. Stash away coupons for key items and watch for sales
  4. Pair coupons, sales, price matching and rewards programs to maximize savings

Get started on your menu planning now and watch the savings stack up. Following these savings tips will let you achieve a frugal holiday meal, and shopping early will let you concentrate on the thing that really matters: cultivating family memories. In the end, I expect you’ll be eager to share how much you saved with every guest at the table!

Jenny Martin is the author of, one of the leading frugal living websites in the South. Its goal is to teach a purposeful, relaxed approach to saving money on almost everything you buy.

If you want even more awesome money tips, try a free trial of Ramsey+. You'll get access to Ramsey's best online money courses, including Financial Peace University, the program that's changed more than 6 million lives. Plus, you'll get the tools to make it all happen—like the premium version of the EveryDollar budgeting app. Start your free trial today!

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About the author


Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners. Learn More.

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