Taming the Cupboard During the Holidays:  It CAN Be Done!  Examples Inside

Taming the Cupboard During the Holidays: It CAN Be Done! Examples Inside

As I aim to get back on track with the content weeks I share with everyone, I look back over October and November’s content calendars and realize I had never actually fleshed out week 4 of November! There’s nothing written there! November was to be all about wants versus needs in the pantry, and then starting the last Sunday in November, we start Advent.

As a single mom with kids in school, it is important to feed your family well without breaking the bank. I wrote and spoke about this at length during the Taming the Coin quarter, because groceries are a huge part of a monthly financial budget. Right now during the holiday season between halloween and New Years, we as single moms can inadvertently make life more difficult for ourselves by thinking we have to have what everyone else has on their tables at this time of year. “Keeping up with the Joneses” does more harm to the single mom’s grocery budget than anything else. It literally pays to be creative, to think outside the box, and to make yearly food traditions that are unique to your household that fit within your food budget.

This is where being a societal rebel helps immensely! Who says Thanksgiving has to be a turkey dinner with all the trimmings?! In our household, we would do things like the following:

Salmon feast: Roast a salmon we found on sale, make mashed potatoes with a bit of milk and butter mashed in (no chives or sour cream), kernel corn cooked and piled to one side, dinner rolls bought at the day-old discount price, and pumpkin pie for dessert with or without ice cream depending on how the food budget was doing that month. On the pumpkin pie note, I puree my own pumpkin and have an ebook on how I purchase, prep, puree, store, and then make my own pumpkin pies. My daughter got upset with me for publishing this, saying I was giving away the family secret! She let it go, but wasn’t happy about it.

Christmas DinnerBeef roast dinner: Utility roast put in the oven at 375 from frozen, seasoned and forgotten about for 4 to 5 hours. Add water a good two inches up the side of the pan before sealing and putting in the oven. Covering with parchment paper and then aluminium foil to hold the seal down (don’t put aluminum foil right up against your food!) means no basting! Do the corn thing or a green salad, rice, potatoes, or one year we did mac’n cheese beside the roast! Doesn’t taste too bad actually. And of course the pie for dessert.  This pic to the right is from 2014.

thanksgivingtableHam or Pork Roast dinner:  Follow the same steps for the beef roast, but perhaps shove cloves around the ham in a grid pattern and make a ginger/plum puree honey glaze to pour over it when serving.  Add the green salad, dinner rolls, rice or potatoes, etc to the meal as desired.  In this picture you’ll see my signature Ambrosia salad.  This was the yearly splurge and typically only done for holiday dinners because it had ingredients I don’t normally buy the rest of the year.  This pic to the left is from 2010.

Taco Thanksgiving dinner: This can take the form of actual tacos if we found a deal or were given a kit or something. Or it can take the form of a nacho plate using hamburger, chopped onions, salsa bought on sale or bulk to keep the price low, corn, greens for those who want them, and dessert of some kind that fits into the food budget. We ‘ve actually had this particular Thanksgiving meal a lot!

Christmas dinner courtesy of the food hamper

Of course back before I became allergic to turkey fat, if we found a utility turkey on sale, we’d cook that the way I say to cook the roast, but the bigger meat has a larger pan and therefore more water before seasoning and sealing it all up to forget about it for 7 hours or so at 375 in the oven. I used to make my own stuffing using saved bread scraps I’d keep in the freezer over the year, hamburger browned, kernel corn all tossed together with seasonings, then I’d follow my mom’s footsteps. Half the stuffing would go inside the bird before sealing it up and putting it in the oven. The rest would sit in the fridge until the bird was cooked. After the turkey was sifted out of the pan in pieces (because when you cook it this way it doesn’t come out in one piece! Your turkey photo is a platter, not a browned bird), the stuffing inside the bird would be added to the bowl of remaining stuffing and all mixed together and then put back in the warm oven to finish heating through while you set the table and finish up remaining dinner prep before it all goes out to the buffet zone. This meant no soggy stuffing!!! The moisture from the stuffing inside the bird would seep into the remaining stuffing just right.  This pic to the right was taken Christmas 2019 and that Caesar salad is made using spinach instead of Romaine.  Remember the rebel bit?  Making use of what you have? 

Note that these Thanksgiving dinner ideas shared before the turkey one, would become part of our Christmas celebrations too because I couldn’t afford to pay for organic, grain-fed, range-fed chickens or turkeys, so poultry was off the table for me.

One of the ways you can make holiday feasting more enjoyable in your home is to save grocery points all year and spend those for your holiday fare, or save your change in a jar all year and use that for your holiday grocery shopping, or buy festive versions of the food you normally buy but only when you locate them on sale or really good discounts, as typically, holiday versions of everyday foods are more expensive.

But I encourage you to figure out cheerful ways to enjoy holiday meals without making life more difficult at month end when other bills come due. Your meals may be smaller than everyone else’s, they may look different than everyone else’s, but even just changing up the dishware you use at holiday time that you don’t use any other time of the year will have your kids excited that a special meal is coming!

One way to make holiday meals fun and protect your kids’ health at the same time, is to have beverages that are high in vitamin C, iron, and D3. So make your own eggnog with eggs, milk, vanilla and nutmeg (no alcohol). At one egg per two cups of milk, this is a bit costly per person, so don’t do it very often. Buy cranberry juice, grape juice, lemon concentrate, and ginger ale. Make a punch from these. Don’t drink juice very often as it is high in sugar that will eat your kids’ teeth, leading to expensive dental visits, but these juice options are high in the vitamins that will combat colds and flus caused by others around you who don’t regulate the sugar intake, the late night sleeps, the partying etc. You and your own family can choose the fun and healthier route by keeping usual bedtime routines, having fun healthy meals and drink options, and keeping any sweets to a minimum.

On the note of sweets, make your own healthy chocolate freezer squares as follows:

3/4 cup not packed down non-irradiated cocoa (from the health food store)
3/4 cup cold-pressed coconut oil (more stores are starting to carry this than just health food stores)
3/4 cup non-pastuerized honey, liquid if possible or melted on low if not (you don’t want it hot and runny)

Stir everything together till well blended, pour into a parchment or plastic-wrap-lined tray and put in the freezer. When set, pull out and cut into 1″ squares. Or for the holidays, pour into fun festive moulds and chill, then pop out of the moulds to enjoy. This treat must stay in the fridge if you keep your home toasty or they will melt everywhere. They don’t have floor waxes to hold them together like the chocolates you’ll find in the grocery store.

The ingredients to make this chocolate aren’t necessarily cheap, but if bought in bulk, you’ll be able to use the remaining contents for things like homemade cocoa (tablespoon per cup), homemade toothpaste (coconut oil stirred into baking soda/salt/peppermint, there are recipes out there for this), adding honey instead of sugar to most things calling for sugar, etc.

You and your kids can enjoy the holidays without overspending and without wrecking your health.

Thanksgiving nacho plateOur fridge in our new-to-us RV tiny home is barely big enough for the usual fare for us as three adults now, so figuring out how Christmas dinner will look next month is going to be interesting, and many leftovers will probably end up in the deepfreezer out back this year. Thanksgiving in October was a nacho plate again this year. Yes, even as adults, my grown kids prefer how we did things as they grew up and keep doing it that way now.  The pink drink there is Chokecherry lemonade made using a bit of chokecherry juice concentrate and lemon juice concentrate.  I made the chokecherry concentrate from our summer foraging, and bought the lemon concentrate.  We added a can of tonic water we were given to give it some fizz.

So today for momday, I encourage you to consider how you’ll plan your festive meals this season in a way that protects your budget and your health while still being fun for you and the kids.

Tell me in the comments wherever you found the link to this article, what you did, what your questions might be on how to do it, and do reach out if you need assistance in this area. The bank account hangover can be avoided.

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