Sweet memories of a home filled with loved ones and enjoying mouthwatering meals during the holidays can be difficult to replicate when most of the world is still reeling from the pandemic and parents are stretched to their limits. Nevertheless, there are some things we can do to invite joy into our lives, despite the constraints.
We would know; as personal finance bloggers and parents to an energetic three-and-a-half-year-old, we’ve learned how to make fun, frugal, and flavorful memories even in times like this.
Since travel is a hassle, bring the world to you...through your leftovers!
We’re all familiar with the usual suspects – roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, greens, mac and cheese and cranberry sauce. In usual times, we’d look forward to the days of leftovers but in a year filled with mundane, stay-at-home activities, eating the same thing for a week is the last thing we want to do.
You can avoid hitting a massive flavor wall with a few international ingredients! By the end of the week, while you may have stayed home, your tastebuds will have been to Mexico, Southeast Asia and the Southern US!
Here are a couple of ways we’re planning to switch it up to make the most of our budget and enjoy the food we’ve prepared. With the leftover slices of turkey breast, we plan to make simple turkey and cheese quesadillas. The cheese will help to counter any of the drier bits of turkey and the addition of salsa and guacamole will add a little pizazz to the week’s menu.
Not a fan of Tex-Mex? Try chopping up the breast meat and throwing it into a simple fried rice. After you’ve added your ginger, garlic, soy sauce, ginger, and peas, you won’t be able to tell it’s not takeout and the kids won’t either! Lastly, if there’s any leftover dark meat from the leg or thigh, it’s always easy to make a simple chowder or chili. You can even use the turkey carcass to make a rich and savory broth for your freezer stash.
2010 called — they want their cheap wine back!
For those of us who prefer a boozier celebration, we’ve started a new tradition of making a Holiday punch that everyone can enjoy. It’s a bit more sophisticated than our college hunch-punch and you can even give it a name that embodies the year like “Doomscroll” or “Zoom juice”. Holiday-themed serving bowls and cups are also available at most discount stores, but if you’re feeling really fancy, you can create a garnish station by putting out some skewers, chopping up some fruit and adding candy. Get creative!
The best part about punches is that they’re easy to make and effortless to tweak with non-alcoholic versions based on your family’s preferences.
It’s also simple to elevate the experience just by focusing on the presentation. You can transform your kitchen counter to your favorite bar or lounge by serving the ice with tongs or even investing in the larger ice molds.
To make memories that last, engage all the senses.
Another way we make holidays special is by dialing up the number of sensory experiences. We’re natural foodies so we tend to prioritize sense of taste, but smell is an equally important factor. This season, try infusing your oils before you start preparing a meal. Taking a half bottle of olive oil and adding fresh rosemary and garlic not only makes your entire home smell incredible, but it also gives you a new oil that you can use to cook all of your vegetables and side dishes with. Win win!
Outside of the kitchen, we run diffusers with therapeutic aroma blends and have created a daily candle routine to signal when it’s time to relax. We appeal to our sense of sound by playing music that reflects our mood. Saturday mornings contain “oontz oontz” Vegas music, Sundays are more old-school R&B and depending on the evening you may hear a Parisian Cafe playlist or Japanese Jazz. For touch, we swap out all our throws and blankets for cozier, softer textiles and opt for fuzzy robes and socks.
None of these things have to be expensive but on a busy day, during a crazy year, they’re enough to bring a much-needed smile to our faces.