Interesting!Most Irish shoppers begin grocery shopping only two weeks before Christmas. Some even start just one week in advance. 68% Irish folks even said that they ended up using their Christmas supplies in advance, leaving them to restock.
The holidays are marked with a lot of cooking, serving, and eating. Besides the ultimate Christmas breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you need to also cater to unexpected friendly visits, potlucks, cookouts, etc. All this calls for an abundance of food supplies and of course, a well-stocked pantry. Scrambling at the last minute for basic essentials can raise stress levels and simply suck out the joy from the holiday season.
Stocking up for the holidays is great; however, with the scores of ads being shoved into our faces, it's difficult to stay level-headed during our grocery shopping. Staying focused and purchasing only the essentials seems an ardent task. However, there are different ways you can hold your grocery shopping on a leash, and prevent the holiday budget from skyrocketing.
How to Stock Your Pantry for the Holidays
Prepare a Budget
As with planning anything else, the primary base on which the pantry stock rests is your budget. Believe it or not, the budget gives the head start for holiday shopping, and gives you an idea of what you can afford. Without a budget, you're sure to burn a hole in your pocket. So, be wise and set aside a budget for your holiday staples. Once you have it defined, you can move ahead to planning the menu, etc. However, make sure you stick to it despite all temptations.
Plan Your Holiday Menu
While some enjoy ham-centric Christmas feasts, others have their stuffed turkey as the occasion's centerpiece. Depending on your family's preference, prepare a holiday menu that includes not just the delicacies for Christmas eve or Christmas day, but also includes other sumptuous delights you would like to prepare and serve the entire holiday season. While preparing the menu, also make a rough draft of all the ingredients you think you will need, and also take into consideration the approximate number of people you think you'll be entertaining.
Check Your Pantry
Once you have your menu in mind, the next step is to check your pantry for present supplies. Check the expiry dates on all of them, and discard those that have crossed the date. Baking causes ingredients and spices to lose their effectiveness on long storage, so check them and discard, if necessary. Once you've got your pantry sorted out, based on your overall menu for the season, you'll know exactly what you have and what you need to stock up on.
Prepare a Shopping List
Before heading to the supermarket, you need to prepare a shopping list. It's always better to jot down your own list. If you think using a printable template is better, go ahead. However, each family is different, and pantry essentials will differ from one household to another, depending on personal preference and lifestyle. Preparing a list of your own isn't rocket science, so make one for yourself. All you have to do is write down items you think are required, and take the list along when you shop. Take a pen along as well to cross out the items you've purchased.
Check Your Guest List
It's important to know your guests well. Is someone allergic to gluten, milk, nuts, chocolate, etc., or is anybody vegan? If you have no clue, call them up and find out, because your supply purchase for the holidays will also depend on this factor. If you're having them over for just one meal, make sure you list down the gluten-free items you need to prepare the meal. Be very careful while doing this.
Take the List Along
Don't rely on your memory to guide you at the supermarket, even if it's darn perfect, because memory always gets overridden by the enticing tactics of supermarket marketers. So, this holiday season, make sure your shopping list is guiding you, instead of allowing the supermarket to tell you what you need. The list helps keep you on track, and prevents you from diverting too much from the essentials. Moreover, when you leave the place, you're sure to have everything you need and less of the fancy stuff you thought you needed because they were on display.
Stock Up on Bargain-priced Staples
Grocery stores and supermarkets offer great deals during this time of the year, and the smartest thing to do would be to take advantage of the top-of-the-line bargains. Bag some of the lowest prices of the year, and stock up on your frozen pie shells, pureed pumpkins, cranberry sauce, canned food, etc. Bulk bargains are great ways to stock up on non-perishables, especially hospitality supplies. While all bulk bargains may not be great deals, keep an eye out for the profitable ones.
While every store portrays that it's giving you the deal of a lifetime, be prudent. Don't lunge at the first offer you set your eyes upon. Peruse through different stores online, check their rates, and find out what's the prevalent rate this season. Going through price comparison sites can be helpful. If you're purchasing in bulk, calculate the unit price of the item, and then check if you're in any benefit. Keep an eye out for exceptionally good deals, and bag them as you go along.
Look through newspapers and magazines, browse online for digital coupons, etc., and get hold of some high value ones that you can encash this holiday season. These coupons will help stretch your budget. However, make sure you sort the coupons and take them along when you go grocery shopping.
Smarten Your Pantry
Just because it's the onset of the holidays doesn't mean you have to spend lots of cash on fancy items. But, this also doesn't mean you should serve the regular stuff. Going smart is the best way! A few food staples can transform regular dishes and give them a festive appeal. For example, stocking up on holiday sprinkles or coconut shavings is the easiest way to add a Christmas touch to most desserts. Adding freshly ground spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, etc., to pies and desserts gives them a warm and glorious appeal. Use simple staples to customize your dishes and give them a grander feel, all without stretching your budget!
You want to furnish your pantry with all the essentials required for the holidays, not stock it up with everything you can lay your eyes upon. It's important to have an understanding of what you will really require, and whether you really need a particular item or not. People often go on a shopping spree and pick up large amounts of food, without bothering to stop and think if they will actually eat it. If you're not into corn, don't buy bags of it. If you're hosting a small gathering, don't purchase a whole ham. To hold a leash on your budget, don't overstock your pantry. Know your likes and dislikes, and stick to the right items and quantities.
Stocking up your pantry for the holidays is going to take time, so don't expect it to happen during the next grocery visit. It may take you a few days (or even weeks if you begin early) to peruse through the different sales offers and make your purchases. All through the shopping spree, remember Christmas is all about Christ and not about food, clothes, and gifts. Have a blessed holiday season!