Christmas Sweets

By Sharon Naylor

September 4, 2012 5 min read

Everyone at your holiday dinner loves the desserts! Incorporating treasured, traditional desserts into your menu makes guests happy and elicits favorite family memories. But in this economy, it can be expensive to make those five different pies and fill a platter with pastries. One ice cream cake might cost $40 for a 6-inch round, which is a lot of money to feed eight people.

Your dessert spread doesn't have to be sparse this year. There are some excellent budget-saving strategies to help you serve up those delectable desserts for all to enjoy:

--Plan ahead for coupon use. Weeks before your holiday dinner, scour the online coupon sites like Coupons.com, CouponMom.com, SwagGrabber.com and others to help you land sizable savings on dessert essentials such as flour, butter, cake mix, frosting, chocolate chips, coconut, whipped cream and other ingredients for your recipes.

--Check into supermarket member cards. They're most often free to acquire, and when they're scanned at checkout they can earn you big savings. Visit the website of your supermarket chain to print out its store-specific coupons, which often apply to holiday baking items. At checkout, you may find that your savings added up so much that many of your baking products were essentially free.

--Shop on the right day. According to Mark DiVincenzo in his book "Buy Ketchup in May and Fly at Noon," Wednesday is the day when supermarket sales launch, so shopping then increases the odds that those in-demand pie shells and other baking items will be in stock. He also advises going to the store at night, when perishable items may be discounted.

--Bake from scratch. Carroll Pellegrinelli, About.com's desserts and baking guide, includes baking from scratch as a top budget dessert strategy. She also encourages you to shop in the bulk foods section of your supermarket for baking supplies. Domino Sugar Co. says to look for "ingredients like cocoa powder, rolled oats, flaked coconut, nuts and spices. Bulk prices are usually lower per pound than their packaged counterparts, and because you can buy exactly as much as you need, you'll waste less. That's especially useful with nuts, whose oil content can turn rancid, and with spices such as cinnamon, which lose their potency in storage. The best bulk-foods departments have high turnover, which means the staples are always fresh."

--Check out warehouse stores. Costco, Sam's Club and other membership warehouse stores have quality baking departments offering cakes, pastries, tarts and other party-friendly treats at low prices. Members also receive coupon books monthly.

--Use smart timing. For bread puddings, a popular holiday dessert, you may be able to get two-for-one loaves of bread from a bakery near closing time. Also, prepare to bake the day before your holiday celebration, so that your prized cookies, pies and cakes don't get freezer-burned and you don't lose a portion of your batches to snacking family members.

--Use seasonal fruits in your desserts. In fall and winter, apples are plentiful and inexpensive, perfect for low-cost apple pie, apple cake, strudel and other apple-based desserts. Other in-season fruits, according to LocalHarvest.org -- a good place to check to see which fruits are in-season in your region -- are Clementines, date plums, dates, kiwis, mandarin oranges, Maradol papayas, oranges, passion fruit, pears, persimmons, red bananas and tangerines. If you don't have traditional recipes using these fruits, check popular recipe sites and apps like FoodNetwork.com and AllRecipes.com.

--Consider a family-style trifle. These layered desserts look grand and are budget-friendly in their layering of inexpensive pound cake, pudding, fresh fruit or canned pineapple and whipped cream. A trifle may cost less than $15 to make and will feed your entire guest list.

--Ask guests to bring a dessert. Relatives and friends often ask, "What can we bring?" when invited to your dinner, and it's increasingly popular and etiquette-friendly to ask them to bring their choice of desserts. Guests may opt to share their best homemade treats or pick up a store-bought tray of brownies or cookies to add to your dessert display.

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