Even if you love prepping, cooking, and having everyone together, there’s no way you’re fond of how expensive that endeavor can be. And in preparation for get-togethers and family reunions, people are often inclined to buy a lot more than they need. However, this results in 4.2 million holiday dinners being thrown out, which equates to $84,975,360. That’s a lot of waste! So this year, forget about worrying if you’ll have enough to serve — you will — and instead, consider incorporating these savvy ideas for a big helping of financial peace of mind along with your holiday cheer.

Shop With a Plan

Never leave the house without your grocery list. Your first line of defense when it comes to holiday budgeting is to make a list and check it twice. Having a plan of attack will help you resist hitting each aisle in the supermarket willy-nilly and picking up extra items you don’t really need, and will save you not only money but also precious time.

Pay Attention to Portions

There’s no shortage of scrumptious food to indulge in this time of year, but at the end of the day, there’s only so much you can eat before you pop. Therefore, be mindful of your portion sizes. If you’re having 12 people for dinner, ask yourself if they really need two chicken legs each in addition to all the sides, drinks, and dessert that you’re serving. Reducing portion sizes is an easy way to save money — and save stomachs from discomfort.

More Veggies, Less Meat

It’s no secret that favoring vegetables over meat is a great way to save a substantial amount money. So why not introduce this concept to your holiday menu? After all, we generally consume more meat than our bodies require, so perhaps a refreshing, plant-based meal is something we could all use to lighten up the holiday season.

Limit Your Side Dishes

Similar to reducing portion sizes, limiting the number of side dishes you serve is an easy way to cut costs that your guests likely won’t even notice. Especially if you’re serving sides with meat or fancy canapés, omitting one off the list will save you a good chunk of change. Imagine the savings if you do that at every dinner party you host.

Embrace Potlucks

Cooking for a dozen hungry stomachs can quickly add up. So instead of spending your entire holiday budget on food and drink, try incorporating a family-style potluck into your traditions. All you have to do is let everyone know that you’re going to make the main dish, but that you’d appreciate help on sides, appetizers, desserts, and drinks. Make sure to send out an email a few weeks in advance to let everyone know what their cooking assignment is. You don’t want to end up with five vegetable trays and no dessert!

Take Care Around Sales

Just because the word “sale” is written on it doesn’t mean that it’s automatically a good deal. More often than not, if you’re buying something because it’s on sale you’re spending money that you otherwise wouldn’t. Even if the sale item is something you did plan on purchasing, you should always compare prices to other brands. You’d be surprised how often the off-brand is still cheaper than the name-brand sale.

Know When to Stop

Similar to how you have to be careful around those tempting sale items, avoid stopping by the store “just to see what they have.” This could lead to making poorly planned purchases that will blow your budget. Instead, get creative and use the ingredients that you already have in your pantry. You might find that the challenge of creativity takes your culinary skills to new heights.

Have any good practices to curtail your holiday food budget? Tell us about them @BritandCo.

(Photos via Unsplash: @Annie Spratt/@rawpixel)