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Stretching a Holiday Food Budget during the Busy Holiday Season

Posted by Audrey Rowe, Food and Nutrition Service Administrator in Food and Nutrition
Dec 03, 2013
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service will host a Twitter chat on holiday meal budget tips on Wednesday, December 4, at 3 pm EST.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service will host a Twitter chat on holiday meal budget tips on Wednesday, December 4, at 3 pm EST.

Holiday celebrations are a great time to gather with family and friends.  But when you’re on a tight budget and pressed for time, it can be challenging to prepare a nutritious, timely meal for your loved ones.  With that in mind, USDA offers these healthy tips for creating low-cost meals your whole family will enjoy:

  • Plan ahead. Starting early to plan your menu allows time for you to look for the sales and coupons that can lower cost of foods substantially.  Check to see what you have on hand first, and then make a list of what you need – this saves time and money!
  • Try to save time cooking. Frozen and canned fruits and veggies are often good buys, and they save preparation time in the kitchen, while providing the same nutrients as fresh foods.
  • Be flexible about your meat choice. The meat dish can account for nearly 40 percent of the cost of a small gathering, a whole roasted chicken or lean pork roast is a tasty but less expensive option. Generally speaking, frozen meats cost less.
  • Invite others to bring food. Family members and friends can bring a dish with them when they join your celebration.  That way, everyone saves money on the meal, and you save time and effort.
  • Make it yourself. While buying a ready-to-go dish or dessert at the supermarket is easy, it will cost less if you make it yourself and it can be healthier too. You control the amount of salt, sugar and fat.
  • Check out the FNS RECIPE Box, for easy, low cost, tasty and healthy recipes for every level of cook.
  • Be creative with leftovers. Create fun and healthy lunches and dinners from your leftovers, and save money on supermarket trips for the rest of the week. For example, sandwiches and soups from meat and veggies.
  • Take advantage of holiday food support for families in your community. If funding is simply too scarce, you may be eligible for assistance from organization in your community. Many faith-based organizations, civic and community centers, food banks and private groups provide support for families during the holidays. Check your community paper and local social agency for information.
  • Follow the MyPlate Holiday Makeover series. On the USDA blog, nutritionists from the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion are providing healthy makeovers of traditional holiday dishes that will help you manage all your celebrations from now through January and help you make healthy choices throughout the year.
  • Visit You can find weekly recipes and tips to help make the holidays healthier.
    • MyPlate empowers you to put the Dietary Guidelines for Americans into action in a personalized way, through the holidays.
    • Now, through the MyPlate social media channels - Facebook and Twitter - you can share your own tips about staying healthy with others.
  • Sign-up for USDA’s SuperTracker, to track and maintain your New Year’s resolution.  SuperTracker’s tools can help you stay on track with your diet and physical activity through an online system where you can log your daily activities.
  • Remember, your meal can be festive and healthy. You can find additional resources at

Join us on December 4 at 3pm for a twitter chat, Stretching Your Food Budget during the Holidays. Use the hashtag #HealthierNextGen and follow @USDANutrition to learn and share your ideas and tips on how to make the holidays healthy and special for your family and friends.

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Category/Topic: Food and Nutrition