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Week Before Christmas: Christmas Dinner

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(credit: DAN-LEVINE/AFP/Getty Images)

(credit: DAN-LEVINE/AFP/Getty Images)

420x316-grad-lee Dee Lee
Dee Lee is a Certified Financial Planner who received a diploma in...
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BOSTON (CBS) – If you are budgeting for this holiday don’t forget the money you spend on holiday food.

We plan for the big things like travel and presents but forget the special food and drinks we purchase for the holidays. Whether it’s a party you are having or serving Christmas or Hanukkah dinners consider doing it cheaper.

The easiest thing is to make it a pot luck affair. Ask people to bring something. If someone calls and asks what they can bring; tell them. Especially if you know they are a great baker or make a special hors d’oeuvre. You know they will bring something anyway so isn’t this better than a Christmas dish, towel or some napkins?

Christmas dinner will be here very soon. Start thinking now about how to make it less expensive. Start by checking the sales at the grocery stores.

Many of you are considering just ordering dinner from the grocery store. I admit it is easier but not cheaper than what you can do yourself. And saving money means you must spend your time.

The grocery store sales include ham, roast beef and turkey. These seem to be the traditional foods people eat at this time of year. We always have roast beef on Christmas. Started years ago when my kids were little. We had just read the Dr. Seuss book How the Grinch Stole Christmas and the Whos celebrate with roast beast on Christmas day.

But the easiest meal to prepare is ham. They come pre-cooked and all you have to do is heat it up. Some even come pre-sliced. And if your group is small you can get a small ham. Let everyone bring the side dishes.

Consider making the desserts yourself. Bakery pies are going for $17 and cookies are a $1 apiece. Make the cookies a family project this weekend and make enough to eat and freeze. As for pies buy the prepared crust and add the filling. Apples, pumpkin or cherries. And cover any mistakes with whipped cream!

Cakes also freeze very well. I always make cupcakes and let the little ones decorate them. I tell them we are celebrating baby Jesus’ birthday and the kids love that.

Centerpieces for the table do not have to be expensive. Wrap some small boxes and add bows and you have an instant centerpiece.  Save those branches you cut off the tree and put them in the center with some candles.

Use coupons. Retailers want you in the stores and sales and coupons are how they get people in the door. Check out the Sunday paper but also go to coupons.com and coolsavings.com. I found coupons for all of the Pillsbury products, rolls, biscuits, cookies, flour, pie crusts (I am not suggesting you make your own).

Wine:  If someone brings an expensive bottle, open it. Then haul out the cheap stuff and put it in a carafe. After the first glass or two, nobody cares. Consider getting a brand called The Third Bottle, which is recommended for situations just like this after you have gone thru the expensive stuff.

One more thing:  My Martha Stewart Tip For The Day: Christmas morning is usually very hectic. Make muffins and Christmas breads this week and freeze. You can even make potato latkes ahead and freeze as well. Christmas morning breakfast/brunch at our house is a variety of Christmas breads, fruit salad, kielbasa, breakfast sausage, potato latkes and eggs.

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