Preparing for the Holidays

As Thanksgiving and Christmas approach, so does the steady rise in stress level. Not only do we plan for our gifting budget, but the holiday food alone can easily get out of hand. Frankly, in years past I haven’t kept a close enough eye on it. From the parties we host and participate in to the exotic ingredients used only during the holiday season… before I know it our spending far exceeds the budget expected.  Which can cast a shadow over the festivities.

But it doesn’t have to be that way! This year I have a plan. I’m going to apply a few tips Brian and I have successfully mastered already and combine them with a couple new tricks that I think will make this season nothing but fun. It’s a challenge I am making for myself and I’m going to put it to you too. Here are a few tips  that will help us stay on task and focused on friends and family rather than the wallet.

Plan and track your spending now

With a little bit of reorganization in the kitchen and some help from the friendly mobile app Goodbudget, we were able to reduce our monthly grocery bill by almost $400. Huge savings. We also saved in several other categories, rolling our excess straight into savings. I love Thanksgiving and Christmas and this year will be even better because I know we will be better stewards.

The Goodbudget app: we like it because it is free while others were not. (Hello! The whole purpose of downloading it was to watch our spending!) It’s pretty similar to the cash envelope system Dave Ramsey likes to promote but it’s all in an app that synchronizes between your separate devices. Brian and I both add purchase updates to it. All month we both knew exactly where we were in groceries, cars etc. and it kept us right on target.

Sell unused items that are taking up space

Another way to balance holiday spending is to make extra money on the side. Go through your clothes,  appliances, whozits and whatnots and consign or Craigslist what you don’t use anymore. You may be surprised how much money you can make if you start now. Remember, it takes time to liquidate these items. So do it early to have ready cash.

Clear the clutter

Make a little extra room so your home isn’t cluttered after Christmas. Every year the moment the kids start opening presents I know the toy bins will explode. Stressful. But this year, I am going through our toy bins to see what we can sell or donate. I have our kids help so they are a part of blessing others for Christmas and so they don’t accidentally lose anything truly special to them.

Choose a signature sweet and savory you will bring to events

Every time I am supposed to bring a dish to a party I go through the 4-step process of deciding how much time I have before the party, what I want to bring, what I need to run to the store for and how much time it takes to prepare. Not this year. No more last minute trips to the grocery store, recipe deliberation or too little time to prepare. This year I am deciding on one sweet and one savory dish. I am buying the ingredients in bulk ahead of time. I will always know what I am making, I will already have the recipe, the ingredients will already be on hand and all I’ll need to do is make it. Next year I’ll choose different dishes.

pray for them

When Esther was two I taught her a bedtime prayer. Because my passion is to pray scripture, it was a natural decision to teach her to do the same. This prayer is so simple we have since then taught all our kids this bedtime prayer and now I am sharing it with you.

Dear Jesus, thank you for mommy, daddy… [all close relatives and any friends they want to mention], bless them, keep them, cause your face to shine upon them, give them your peace. In jesus’ name, amen. -numbers 6

chicken pot pie

It’s just so good. And it no longer has to take forever to make.

  • 2 cans Cooked Chicken
  • 2 cups Frozen Mixed Vegetables
  • 1 stalk Celery (sliced)
  • 1/3 cup Butter
  • 1/2 Chopped Medium Onion
  • 1/3 cup Flour
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Celery Seed
  • 1 3/4 cups Chicken Broth
  • 2/3 cup Milk
  • 1 Perfect Pie Crust (divided into 2)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare the Perfect Pie Crust. Divide into 2 and roll out each crust for a 9×13 glass baking dish. Place the first crust in the bottom of the pan.

In a saucepan combine chicken, vegetables and celery. Cover with water and bring to a boil. In another saucepan, melt butter and saute onions. Gradually add flour, salt, celery seed and pepper. Stir until a smooth paste is formed. Slowly stir in chicken broth and milk. Simmer until thick.

Drain chicken and veggies and add to the pie crust. Immediately pour in the sauce. Layer the top with the other half of the pie dough, cut slits for the steam to escape. Bake for 30-35 minutes until crust is golden brown.

Note: Take this recipe to the next level by using fresh vegetables instead of frozen. For me, the time saver is clutch, but hey- if you’ve got the time… by all means.