Last week we talked about gifts...hope you made your list, checked it twice and then got busy. I did and knocked out two homemade items along with purchasing a third one! This week will see the completion of several more homemade gifts. Just think about how good it is going to feel when the mad rush to complete shopping is in full swing and you are sitting home sipping hot chocolate instead of fighting the crowds!
This week let's look ahead and think food. Begin by making a list of goodies you'll want to bake. Then, list the ingredients you'll need to purchase to do so (extra flour, chocolate chips, nuts, etc.). Don't stop there, though. Think about what you'll want for your Christmas meal, too. Along with considering any special snacks your family will want or that you'll want to take to parties, church socials, etc., etc. Be sure to think about what food items you'll be making to give as gifts (cookies, breads, mixes in a jar, etc.) Include the ingredients for all these on your master ingredient list as well. Before setting your pencil aside, think about Thanksgiving...and think about what you will want to prepare for it as well. Now, compare your Thanksgiving food plan with your Christmas food plan. Any menu items overlap? Will the items freeze well? If so, plan to make a double batch at Thanksgiving, freezing the second batch to be pulled out and used at Christmas. This can seem overwhelming when thinking of this planning as a whole so break it down into individual lists on seperate pieces of paper with only one master list of ingredients. Remember, the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time! So by taking a few small bites this week you can be asured of having what you need on hand when you need it and save the frustration of running out for one ingredient.
Now that you've planned, made lists and know what extras you'll need to purchase work those items into your grocery budget over several weeks. Make sure you'll get what you need for Thanksgiving first with the over-all goal of having all your food items purchased by the end of November, if possible. Take note of what is on sale each week to help stretch your food dollars. Before you know it you'll have all you need on hand!
One of the extra items I usually purchase each year for the holidays is chicken stock. For some reason I just do not seem to use it during the year but when November hits it becomes necessary. Last month I came across a super idea on making it homemade. Frugally, too, I might add. It uses things one normally would throw away or compost. However, it is not a quick process and is best done on cooler days when you don't mind running the stove and generating a little extra warmth in the house. Check it out here: http://www.econobusters.com/2010/09/guest-postkelly-the-culinarians-homemade-stock/ . We have a bag in the freezer collecting our scraps and will be making the stock this week so I'll post an update after we've done this.
As you begin your process of food planning this week, break it up if you need to. Not many of us have a few hours in a row to devote to this. Make plans for goodies one day, meals the next, gifts the following one...you get the idea. The whole idea of planning ahead is to save us from being overwhelmed later on and not to overwhelm ourself with the process of planning.