Let’s start with the party food. You NEVER have to pay full price for food, especially on holidays. And the good news is that some of the best and most delicious foods are also easy.
Step #1 – Instead of deciding what YOU want to serve for your Halloween party menu, let the sales dictate what goes on your menu. But don’t miss UN-advertised sales. Yes, there are often twice as many sales once you get to the store. So keep an eye out for those great opportunities!
Check drugstores for sales on all kinds of party food like chips, nuts, crackers, candy, and more at great savings.
Stack the deals. Look for store coupons in drugstore and supermarket circulars, and match those with manufacturer coupons from the Sunday paper.
Now that you have a plan for how to get your food for half off or better, here’s how you build your money saving fabulous menu! Ideally, you will gather the best of the best sales over the course of weeks for your Halloween bash. And don’t forget to think about what you already have in your fridge, pantry and freezer.
Start by saving a ton on your main course, which is usually meat. Choose your meat dish from the front page of one week’s sales circular. The big picture will usually be the best deal. If you find a meat sale that you like weeks before the party, pop it in your freezer. A big pot of chili is a good and easy option as dry beans soaked overnight, then slow cooked, are cheap to add to chili. Any type of beef, whether ground or cubed, or even ground turkey is great in chili. Remember, you choose whatever meat is on a great sale. As the weeks go by, look for a great sale on cheese to grate, and canned tomatoes to add in.
Pasta is a super cheap side dish or even main dish. Check circulars for a great pasta sale and stock up for your party, which can be weeks before if the sale hits early.
Be flexible. . Substitutions are one of the best ways to save big money! If you see ground beef on sale for half off, but your meatball recipe calls for Italian sausage, stick with the money saving ground beef, and spice it up. For chip and dip, if plain yogurt is on sale instead of sour cream, make a yogurt dip. Or if hummus is on sale, use that for your veggie dip. Since there are lots of varieties of cheese, let the sales determine which variety of cheese will go on your cheese platter. Get it??? You’re being flexible, and it just might get you out of your rut too!
Stick to traditional fare, much of which became traditional because of readily available ingredients of the season. Caramel apples are traditional Halloween fare, because apples are in season and super cheap. Popcorn balls are also traditional, and you can’t beat the economy of making those! Rice crispy treats are super easy. But only make them, if you find a great sale on the rice crispy cereal!
On the last week, you’ll buy whatever veggies are on sale to go with all that you’ve gathered for super cheap! And how easy was that? You did all the biggest shopping ahead of time!
In the end, you’ll find you just cut your food cost by half or better!
SAVE MONEY ON “TRICK OR TREATS”
Buy the limit! Whenever you see a “limit” on candy, food, or anything else, buy that limit. For instance, if circular reads “limit 2” on a bag of Halloween candy, it’s probably at one of the lowest possible prices. So, get it!!! In most cases, you can also use a coupon to make the deal even sweeter! Nice!
Consider healthier choices for trick or treaters, and save money too! Look for sales on all kinds of granola bars, fruit snacks and more. A good sale is 50% off or a BOGO (buy one get one free). Add a coupon to the sale to save about 67%. Visit www.TheGroceryGame.com to see these deals and lots of other food deal stacking every week.
Instead of candy, give out prizes! Visit dollar stores for great deals on fun trinkets. I just got a package of ten cute Halloween pencils, Halloween erasers, glow in the dark spider rings and more for super cheap. Kids love to find prizes among all that candy, and it can save you money!
DECORATING – OUTDOOR DESIGN
Several jack-o-lanterns in various sizes and different faces are great for your front porch. To make your lantern last longer, refrigerate them during the day, and only put them back out in the evenings. If you don’t have room in your refrigerator, store in a large ice chest with frozen blue ice blocks in the middle of each pumpkin, and a few around to keep it cool. A cut pumpkin can last nicely for over a week when kept cool.
To make a front yard spooky, all you need is a few sheets, lighting and a fan. Hang sheets like ghosts in trees, and use lighting from behind bushes to give an indirect glow. Even Christmas lights laid on the ground behind bushes or a low wall, can cast a glow of light that’s spooky. If wind is forecasted, your sheets will move just fine. But if no wind, a strategically placed fan with an extension cord will do the trick.
DECORATING - HOME STYLE
Use what you have. If you have clear glass hurricane candle holders, fill them with candy corn or gummy worms, and place a candle in the center. You just created a Halloween candle holder for almost nothing! Gather fall leaves and use to sprinkle around mantles and tables, keeping them away from any candle flames.
Decorate food tables with real fall leaves. I live in California, so we don’t’ have those beautiful fall colors. I bought fake fall leaves from a dollar store years ago, and they serve me well every year! Black and orange curling ribbon is fast and effective to decorate a food table, if you just haphazardly string it all over the table around the food.
Food elevated in various levels is easy to do and appealing for buffets. I use stacks of books in varying levels, highest in the back, then cover with a table cloth. This is super fast, easy, and looks like I had a caterer! Sprinkle around fall leaves and black and orange curling ribbon, and a few apple and mini pumpkin votives. A jack-o-lantern on a buffet table is also bright and fun. Just make sure all candles are not in a place where people will burn their hands or clothes when reaching for food.
Online shopping for decorations for big parties can be super easy for busy moms and can save money. Sites like Oriental Trading Company have good items for place settings, and small decorator items that can be used for sprinkling around on food tables, or for place settings.
I also LOVE streamers! They’re cheap, and really make a party festive, if you do it right. Streamers are best used diagonally stretched across a room from one corner to the other, hanging down about seven feet from the floor. About three or four twisted and stretched across a room’s ceiling really brightens it up, and brings in the festivity.
FREE COSTUMES, AND MORE…
The next best thing to free is thrift stores! I just got an adorable plush child’s lion costume for $1.25. Visit thrift stores often, as new items are donated daily. Get to know someone at each thrift store, and ask if they will call you when a costume comes in that you may like.
Buy used costumes on Ebay, Craigslist, or check your local paper for used costumes. This can be a great way to get a nice costume for much less.
Make your own costumes for super cheap. Google “DIY costumes” and you will find tons of ideas from complex to easy. Lots of costumes can be made from what you already have. Kids also like to make their own costumes. Maybe your daughter wants to be a “paper doll”. Help her cut a dress out of cardboard, and cardboard bow for her hair, and cardboard purse. She can add colors and design her paper doll with colored markers or crayons. Add cute round rosy cheeks with makeup, and she’s adorable. A boy could be a tin man using cardboard boxes covered with aluminum foil. Kids can come up with their own ideas, and love making their own costumes that they can be proud of.
If your kids are at an age where they can go out by themselves, make them go in groups, and stay together. Also make sure they have cell phones.
All trick or treaters should have flashlights!
SAVE FOR THE COMING HOLIDAYS
Teri Gault, CEO and founder of The Grocery Gamewww.thegrocerygame.com