Holiday meals are an easy time to go overboard, whether on your budget or your diet, especially if you plan the food you want without considering the cost of shopping, and even more so if you’re hosting your entire family dinner. That aside, there are plenty of ways to save money on shopping, and we’ve asked some of the top finance bloggers on the web for their own personal methods for saving money on holiday eats. Most of the tips we got were practical, easy to apply, and won’t leave you feeling like you’re missing out on the holidays.

Don’t Supply All of the Food for a Family Gathering

In what is definitely the most popular tip for saving money on holiday meals, most of the bloggers advised asking guests to bring something with them.

the-frugal-farmer Laurie – The Frugal Farmer: “Go potluck – have each guest assigned to bring a contribution to the meal.”

kalen-bruce Kalen Bruce – “If you host a holiday dinner, you’re already providing the place to eat, let the people who are coming bring most of the food. Everybody loves potlucks, unless your family can’t cook…then just take donations for catering!”

brian-debt-discipline Brian – Debt Discipline: “A good way to reduce cost when hosting a holiday meal is to ask family and friends to bring side dishes, drinks, or desserts. This way it’s a shared expense.”

Andrew-Schrage-money-crashers Andrew Schrage – Money Crashers: “Make a part of your holiday meal potluck instead of footing the bill for all of the food yourself. You save money and some of the more finicky eaters in your crowd can bring dishes that they will want to eat. Plus, you also save time.”

debt-john debt-david John & David – Debt Free Guys: “Share in the fun – have each guest bring one or two dishes so no one has to carry the entire load or expense.”

If you choose to go this route, consider coordinating in advance so that everyone brings a different dish, and there’s something of everyone. Otherwise, you could end up with four plates of devilled eggs.

Make a Budget

Budgeting your holiday meal might not sound like fun, but most of the bloggers though it was a good idea to plan in your budget and stick to it.

kalen-bruce Kalen Bruce – “The holidays are a popular time for stretching the budget. Be realistic, and adjust your budget if necessary, but once you adjust it, stick to it. It’s easy to go out to eat or order pizza when you don’t feel like cooking on those cold winter days. Plan for that.”

debt-john debt-david John & David – Debt Free Guys: “Shop the perimeter of your grocery store, the foods in the perimeter tends to be healthier and cheaper. Healthier foods often leader to lower healthcare costs.”

the-frugal-farmer Laurie – The Frugal Farmer: “Avoid expensive decorations and make do with what you have.”

brian-debt-discipline Brian – Debt Discipline: “Plan one or two expensive main dishes, followed by less inexpensive side items.”

Saving money often means deciding how much you want to spend, and then sticking to that rate. This means deciding how much you can afford, and creating a meal plan based on that budget. Many grocery stores have online websites where you can price check to decide on a meal well in advance of shopping. Plus, if you plan in a little extravagance, like pizza, you won’t feel guilty about it when you end up doing it anyway.

Do the Cooking Yourself

Cooking is a traditional part of the holidays, and according to our finance bloggers, it’s also a great way to save money.

the-frugal-farmer Laurie – The Frugal Farmer: “Do homemade as opposed to store-bought or deli items. Much money to be saved here, especially on dessert items.”

brian-debt-discipline Brian – Debt Discipline: – “Cooking from starch and avoid prepared food saves money too.”

Andrew-Schrage-money-crashers Andrew Schrage – Money Crashers: “Cook fresh foods instead of buying pre-processed, which also saves money.”

Not everyone can cook, but there are plenty of easy and budget holiday recipes on the web if you want to try your hand at preparing all of the dishes for your holiday feast.

Shop Smart

Getting smart with money is an important part of frugal living, and these tips will definitely get you started.

lazy-man Lazy Man and Money: “For big holiday meals, I’m a huge fan of local grocery stores offer to do the cooking. I’ve found the prices to be quite reasonable, sometimes even less than our date-night dinners at a restaurant. For less money, we can eat for days and, most importantly, save hours of cooking time. It might not save you a single dollar, but I think it is one of the best values around.”

brian-debt-discipline Brian, Debt Discipline: “Plan the meal ahead of time and shop sales stocking up on items when on sale, waiting to the last minute will only cost you extra money.”

Andrew-Schrage-money-crashers Andrew Schrage – Money Crashers: “Use coupons from the Sunday paper and if you own a smartphone, try apps like Checkout 51 and iBotta for more savings.”

debt-john debt-david John & David – Debt Free Guys: “Check your local dollar store. They often have name-brand prepared and basic foods and some even carry fresh foods.”

This is great advice, which is why so many people offered it. Plus, buying frozen items, like turkeys and hams, well in advance of the actual dinner is always a good idea. Not only can you look for sales or try to find the cheapest option, you’ll have more choices rather than having to pick out what’s left. Plus, the lines will be shorter.

Save on Alcohol

Alcohol is an important part of the festivities for many, and according to the bloggers, it’s also a big chunk of our budget.

Andrew-Schrage-money-crashers Andrew Schrage – Money Crashers: “Consider serving a themed holiday drink if alcohol is part of your gathering, rather than spending a bundle on a variety of beer, wine, and liquor.”

the-frugal-farmer Laurie, The Frugal Farmer: “Avoid going overboard on providing alcohol when hosting gatherings. Do BYOB or provide inexpensive wine.”

An inexpensive fruit punch or sangria is easy to make, delicious, and fairly inexpensive when compared to the cost of the same volume of wine.

Saving money on your holiday meals is a great way to cut costs over the holidays, save money for something else like gifts, or just keep your spending down. Most importantly, if you plan and make some room for indulging yourself, it’s not even that difficult.

Do you have your own tips for saving money on holiday meals? Let us know.

About the Bloggers

Grethcen-retired-by-40 Gretchen Lindow, Retired by 40 blog: Gretchen is a writer, entrepreneur, personal finance nerd, and the founder of Retired by 40!, the blog dedicated to documenting her family’s journey towards early retirement. She is mom to a beautiful little girl, and husband to her soldier. When she manages to tear herself away from her work, she enjoys good books, hard workouts, and as much as sun as she can handle.

lazy-man Lazy Man and Money was created in 2006 to help people learn how to make their money work for them. You can get to financial freedom faster by working smarter, not harder. Today, I provide commentary on money, consumer protection, and tips for early retirement.”

the-frugal-farmer Rick & Laurie, The Frugal Farmer: Laurie is a wife, mother to 4, and homesteader who blogs about personal finance, self-sufficiency and life in general over at The Frugal Farmer. Part witty, part introspective and part silly, her goal in blogging is to help others find their way to financial freedom, and to a simpler, more peaceful life.

debt-john debt-david David Auten and John Schneider are The Debt Free Guys who use their blog, Facebook, Twitter and books to help others become money conscious, live debt free and have fun. The Debt Free Guys have published three eBooks in the#MoneyConscious Series and a fourth, hard copy book called 4: The Four Principles of a Debt Free Life.

miranda-marquit Miranda Marquit is a freelance journalist specializing in financial topics. She covers money-related subjects for a variety of outlets and has appeared in numerous publications including Huffington Post,, Forbes, NPR and U.S. News & World Report. Her blog is Planting Money Seeds.

kalen-bruce Kalen Bruce is passionate about helping you master your finances and maximize your productivity. He defies millennial laws by having no debt and four children. You can get two of his books and two personal finance classics, all for free, at

brian-debt-discipline Brian from DebtDiscpline is a personal finance expert and coach who is the founder of the blog Debt Discipline. Once gaining control of his family’s debt in 2010, and becoming debt free in 2014 he turned his focus to helping others.

Gary-Dek Gary Dek, Gajizmo: Gary specializes in personal finance, blogging, investing and entrepreneurship.

Andrew-Schrage-money-crashers Andrew Schrage is the co-owner of, which is a personal finance site dedicated towards providing readers with practical and valuable financial resources that they can implement in their daily lives. The site writes about everything from when to start saving for retirement to how to raise a family on a budget to the best cash back credit cards.