Ten Little Last Minute Tips

Over the next few days, many families across Canada are celebrating Christmas with a big dinner to be shared with family and friends, a big meal that requires a lot of planning and likely generates a lot of leftovers.

As many households gear up for this big meal, don’t forget to keep in mind that there are a lot of little money-saving tactics that you can pull together, even at the last minute. Here are 10 such tips, most of which I expect to see in action over the next few days.

Ask your guests to bring something simple, do it today! Go through your list and ask each guest to bring something simple in lieu of a host/hostess gift. Perhaps you can ask a few guests to bring a bottle of wine, or ask another guest to bring dinner rolls.

Not only does this trim your cost a little, it makes your guests feel better about not showing up empty-handed to an elaborate meal without having to put in a ton of work and it reduces the stress of preparation.

Do everything you possibly can — the day before or the morning of the meal. Every single possible thing you can do in advance, do it in advance.

Chop the vegetables tonight and put them in small containers in the fridge. Make the sauce tonight and refrigerate it so all you have to do is warm it up a bit tomorrow. Do 80% of the work for all of the casseroles in the morning so you can just push them in the oven in the afternoon. Make your salads the night before and chill them in the fridge.

How does that make things frugal? It saves tons of last minute effort and drastically reduces the chances of food items and whole dishes going to waste because you’re overwhelmed. I’ve seen many holiday dishes and ingredients go to waste because people were overwhelmed with tasks at the last minute. Spread them out. You’ll be glad you did.

Save your vegetable scraps. As you’re chopping those vegetables, you’ll sometimes wind up with some edge pieces that are perfectly good, but tricky to chop, or some pieces that are marginal. Save those bits. Put all of them aside in a great big mixed bag of vegetable scraps and stow that bag away in the deep freezer.

Create after the holidays are over, pull out that bag and pop it in a slow cooker. Add some salt and a few peppercorns, then fill it with water and turn it on low. Let it run for a long time — 12 hours or even more if you want. Then, strain it and save the liquid.

That liquid is vegetable stock and it’s useful in all kinds of casseroles, soups, and other things. Any dish that uses broth or stock can use that liquid gold. Save it in the freezer in quart-sized batches so you can easily make soup going forward.

Use a slow cooker (or two) to keep an item warm while other items are cooking in the oven … or even cook an item in the slow cooker. You don’t have to make everything at once and perfectly time everything for the table at the same time. Rather, make some items a little earlier in the day and then use a slow cooker to keep them warm until it’s time to eat.

A slow cooker is perfect for things like sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, collard greens, dressing or even gravy. Almost all of those can rest for a while in a slow cooker on “keep warm” mode for an hour or two while you finish other dishes.

You can even make many of those dishes in the slow cooker, and even serve them if your slow cooker has a nice removable crock for serving.

Take advantage of Canadian Winter.  If you live in Canada, you have the largest refrigerator in the world.  Just pop them into the snow on your porch/patio or in your garage.

You’d be surprised how often someone will show up with a bottle of wine and you want to serve it but it’s supposed to be served chilled and the bottle is room temperature and the freezer won’t get it cold enough fast enough and you don’t want to serve mildly chilled wine and you’ve got fifty other things to do. This is such a simple way to handle it, as long as you keep an eye on it and don’t forget it outside you’ll be good to go.

If you need last minute table decorations, take a walk. Take a trip outside with the kids and gather up natural elements for your table centerpiece rather than some prepackaged and expensive items. Find things like pinecones, leaves, pine tree branches, and other such items that will easily create a natural, rustic and festive look on your Christmas table.

Most leftovers are freezable in reseal-able containers, so label them and save them. Almost everything served at a typical Christmas dinner can be frozen and then reheated. After a day or two in the fridge to be eaten as short-term leftovers, save the items that are left in individual meal-sized containers and freeze them. Thaw them out at a later date.

You can do this with almost everything from mashed potatoes to sweet potatoes to dressing to casseroles, and most of it will turn out quite good.

Chop up every bit of leftover turkey and freeze it, as it can substitute for chicken in many dishes later on. Turkey is a special case because chopped up turkey can be used in so many different recipes. Any leftover turkey you have should be saved on its own in relatively small batches in the freezer.

You can use that turkey later for things like soup or stew or turkey tetrazzini or as an ingredient in a casserole. It can basically be used in anything that chicken would be used in.

Save your turkey carcass and scraps, too. This goes along with the earlier tip of saving vegetable scraps. It turns out you can make delicious turkey stock in much the same way, and that turkey stock is useful as the backbone of all kinds of casseroles and soups and stews.

Just save all of the scraps, break down the carcass a little, and save it all in a big bag in your freezer. When the holidays are over, pull out that bag, get out a big slow cooker or a big pot, and put the carcass and scraps in there. Add a couple teaspoons of salt and some peppercorns and maybe some other herbs and spices of your choosing, then fill it with water such that the carcass is covered. If you’re using a slow cooker, turn it on low and leave it for a good 12 hours (or more). If you’re doing it in a big pot, put it over just enough heat for the liquid to barely simmer and occasionally refill it with water so that the carcass is always covered by a few inches of water and let it simmer all day. In either case, strain it when you’re done and save that liquid, as its turkey stock and it’s the delicious backbone of countless soups and casseroles.

Freeze that liquid in quart-sized containers (quart sized freezer bags are fine) for future uses of all kinds. You’ll find yourself making an amazing homemade soup in a month or two using that liquid gold.

Do your grocery shopping on Black Friday. While there are a lot of shoppers out on Black Friday, they’re usually not in the grocery stores. However, grocery stores are typically unloading Christmas items on Black Friday at a discount, so that’s a perfect time to pick up things you can store for the future.

Grab an extra turkey for the freezer — you can always cook it up in February. Grab some pre-made dinner rolls. Stock up on sweet potatoes and other vegetables. Everything you might have on a Christmas table that doesn’t have a far-off expiration date is going to be on sale, so stock your pantry.

Do you know what the best part is? You may have the whole place to yourself because it is more likely that everyone is shopping at the stores.

Although careful meal planning is the biggest holiday meal money saver, there are lots of things you can do at the last minute to cut costs and get the maximum value out of your holiday meal. It just takes clever thinking and a lot of leftover containers!

About The Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.