Just three days and counting until the Fourth of July, one of my favorite holidays. No gifts to buy, tons of good deals at the grocery stores, a casual atmosphere and guaranteed free entertainment at dusk. The perfect recipe for a frugal holiday.
Here are a few ideas to help save you money this Fourth of July:
1. Check your stockpile. Before you settle on a menu, check to see what you have in your freezer, fridge and pantry. Why plan a beef dish when your freezer is filled with chicken?
2. Make use of what you have around the house. Do you really need to buy patriotic-themed paper goods? Why not use your plain red Christmas table cloth, your white dishes and your everyday blue napkins.
3. Shop your garden. Cut white flowers and put them in a clear glass vase along with a small American flag. Use your home-grown tomatoes, herbs and whatever else you've got growing.
4. Make edible decorations. You'll get more for your money if you use food as part of your decor. A flag cake made with blueberries or strawberries can double as a nice centerpiece.
5. Don't be afraid to ask your guests to bring a dish. Especially in today's economy, nobody expects you to put on a big spread by yourself. If you have folks on your list who don't cook, suggest they bring soda, beer or wine.
6. Holidays are no surprise. They arrive the same time every year so try to keep the next holiday in mind when out shopping in the weeks leading up to the holiday. That way you don't have to rush out at the last minute and pay full price. Too late for the Fourth of July, but keep it mind for next time around.
Here's what we've got planned for Monday evening. (Warning: It's not only frugal, it's simple. I know a thing or two about pinching pennies, but absolutely nothing about gourmet cooking or fancy decorating.)
We've got barbecue chicken, corn on the cob, hash brown casserole and fruit salad on our menu. For dessert, we're having Patriotic Poke Cake and old-fashioned rocket-shaped popsicles.
The chicken: I'll be using some of the bargain-priced chicken I have stocked in my freezer to make this in the crockpot. Since we're temporarily without a grill, I figured this would be the next best thing. It's easy and won't heat up the kitchen, which is a very frugal thing.
If you haven't done your shopping yet, Harris Teeter has a BOGO deal on its 2.5-pound bags of frozen chicken. One bag is $4.99. Kroger has split chicken breasts for 99 cents per pound.
The sweet corn: I paid $1 for five ears at Target. That sale is good at least through Saturday night. Harris Teeter has corn on e-vic special: eight ears for $2 through Tuesday night.
The hash-brown casserole: This is probably my least frugal item on the menu. Not only will it heat up my kitchen, but I only had a coupon for one of the ingredients, the sour cream. I trimmed my costs by shopping for all the other ingredients at Aldi.
The fruit salad: I picked up peaches, plums, nectarines, strawberries and cantaloupe at Aldi, all at extremely low prices. Just to give you an idea: the cantaloupe were $1 each and the peaches, plums and nectarines were all 69 cents a pound.
The Patriotic Poke cake: This recipe requires a cake mix, red and blue Jell-O and Cool Whip, all of which I had in my stockpile. After coupons, my total cost for this dessert will be about $1.25, not bad considering the Cool Whip cost 88 cents.
The rocket-shaped popsicles: These are Blue Bunny Bomb Pops that I picked up at Food Lion, which has them on a BOGO sale for $1.50 each. I used two $1 coupons I got for signing up on the Blue Bunny site, making my final cost just 50 cents a box. Coupons for .55/1 are also available.
The decor: I'll be setting my table using a couple of red, white and blue beach towels as my tablecloth, along with plain white dishes and white cloth napkins. Instead of flowers, I'll have a couple of small American flags in mason jars filled with red, white and blue Tootsie Rolls I discovered at the Dollar Tree.
When dusk settles in Monday evening, we'll walk down the street with our lawn chairs to watch a fireworks display put on by a neighbor. It's the final ingredient in our frugal Fourth of July.