by erin thursby

Its time again for the most expensive meals of the year. While there isn’t anything like tucking into a holiday meal, it can be a real strain on the pocketbook. Here are a few tips on saving a bit of green for a frugal feast.


have everyone pitch in

Start a new tradition and ask everyone to bring a particular dish. If festivities are at your house just take care of the bulky items, such as the bird, and let everyone else worry about the rest. This might not work if everyone is coming from out of town, but it is an option if everyone is living in the same place.


shop for the christmas meal a month early

Shopping for food the day after Thanksgiving does not help you for Thanksgiving, but it will help you for that Christmas meal. Turkey keeps quite well in the freezer. An uncooked turkey can actually keep for an entire year in the freezer. You can keep it in there even longer than that. It’s still safe to eat even after a couple of years, but it won’t be as tasty. Prices on turkey should be much lower the day after the big feast. Provided you have room in your freezer, it’s a no-brainer.

      Look for sales on canned goods you’ll know you’ll use and always look at the expiration dates, no matter how good the deal!

      Since turkey keeps, you can also start shopping for it in October or early November for that Thanksgiving meal. The deals won’t be as good, but they might be better than the prices just before Thanksgiving, when demand is high.


start shopping now and be disciplined!

Look for loss leaders when you’re clipping coupons. Loss leaders are items in the store designed to bring people into the store for the great bargain. The store actually expects to lose money on a loss leader item, but they figure it’s worth it, because once you’re in the store you’ll buy other things, more than making up for their loss. Don’t fall for it!

      Instead, come in only for the loss leader you planned to buy. Also, do not buy in bulk simply because something is a good deal. You aren’t saving any money if you aren’t going to use the item in question.


make what you can ahead of time

Feeling really ambitious with lots of freezer space? Then why not look for deals on fresh produce items that you know will keep in the freezer once you’ve cooked them. Casseroles will keep, as will most rice, pasta and veggie dishes. Dairy-based sauces can get a bit lumpy and separate out some, so watch for that.

      Basically, you don’t need to pass up a good deal on fresh sweet potatoes just because you have two weeks before the big meal. Buy it, cook it in a casserole, freeze it and thaw for your holiday meal. Sweet potatoes, by the way, can only be frozen if they are cooked first, otherwise they lose their flavor and develop a rock solid core.

      You can also dry out leftover bread to make your breadcrumbs ahead of time. Our family is mostly bread-free, so this doesn’t make sense for us, but if your family goes through lots of bread, you can dry it out in the oven to make breadcrumbs.


to the farmer’s market!

For fresh produce, the farmer’s market is actually cheaper, plus you can haggle with the vendors. Do price out what you’re buying at the supermarket before you hit the framer’s market, that way you’ll know how good of a deal you’re getting. My advice is to take your time and never buy the first thing you see. There will most likely be another vendor with the same item at a lower price. You’ll find almost everything you’re looking for (and then some) at the farmer’s market.

      Whatever way you save this holiday meal, just know that your meal will be just as good if not better. How little you spent will be your happy holiday secret.

Just three of the area farmer’s markets. Check the websites for hours and availability.

Jacksonville Farmer’s Market

1810 West Beaver St.,

Jacksonville Flea and Farmers Market

614 Pecan Park Rd.,

Beach Boulevard Flea and Farmers Market

11041 Beach Blvd.,