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  • Writer's pictureLisa Lee Freeman

5 cheap tricks for hosting fun & yummy holiday meals

The holidays can clean out your bank account. Here are six ways to host a fun meal without going into debt!

1. Pick a theme and assign dishes. How about a Winter Beach Party, where everyone brings BBQ foods and you use beach towels for a table cloth? Even a turkey can be cooked on a BBQ! Serve grilled veggies and corn on the cob alongside cranberry sauce and hot dogs.

2. Do a brunch buffet! It's cheaper than hosting a dinner party. Mac and cheese, frittatas, and other brunch-y comfort foods are yummy and inexpensive to make.

3. Serve punch. Stocking a full bar can cost hundreds of dollars. Instead, buy one bottle of booze and mix up a delicious punch. If wine is a must for the table, check out boxed wines, which are cheaper than the bottled stuff. Serve it up in wine decanters or pitchers from discount stores like TJ Maxx and Home Goods. No one will know the difference!

4. Build a menu based on flyer ads. Using an app like Flipp, Shopular, or Retale, you can scan digital flyers of grocery stores to see what’s on sale. The best deals are usually on the first page of the ad—and some of those deals are so-called loss leaders, which the store might actually be pricing below cost. They’re designed to get you in the door. Build recipes around those items using a recipe app like Epicurious, Big Oven, or AllRecipes.

5. Do dollar-store decor! Shop dollar stores for decorations, paper goods like napkins, and supplies like tin foil, dish soap, metal pans, and votive candles. Dollar stores also sell food too—and some of the items are brand-name products like Domino sugar and Progresso bread crumbs. Here's another cool idea for discount decor: Go to a store like Home Goods or Odd Lots and buy a bunch of mismatched glasses, which you can fill with candles. Make a display by grouping them in the middle of the table or line your table runner with them; sprinkle in some fragrant pine branches.

6. Sweeten the deal. Save on dessert by buying store-brand cookies and put them on a fancy dish. You can dress up sugar cookies with a little home-made frosting, which you can make with a little butter, sugar, and vanilla or even vanilla pudding and Cool Whip—cheap and yummy!

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