This is the season for gathering friends and family together. Unfortunately, if your family is anything like mine, feeding the ravenous hoard can be an expensive proposition. Here are some suggestions to save on your Christmas hosting.

1. Host a brunch. Dinner ingredients tend to be higher cost, especially the meats, cheeses and wines, while a brunch can be done quite inexpensively. An egg dish, bacon, oatmeal, yogurt, fruit and muffins are also relatively easy to prepare and will allow you more time to visit with your loved ones. For an extra celebratory touch, make mimosas (orange juice and champagne) or lilosas (pink grapefruit juice and champagne).

2. Throw a soup luncheon. Most of us tend to overindulge during the season, and would welcome a lighter yet convivial meal. A pot of chicken noodle soup, or chili, or vegetable soup with some good crusty French bread and a cup of hot chocolate is the perfect recipe for afternoon conversation.

3. Use your punch bowl. Rather than try to stock an entire line of liquors, wine and beer, make a punch bowl or two of favorite drinks. How about apple cider and cinnamon schnapps? Pineapple and champagne? Or use your crock pot to whip up some traditional wassail.

4. Consolidate. If you are throwing a soirée and attending one or more others, plan to use the same ingredients for each, to take advantage of bulk purchasing and make use of leftovers.

5. Instead of putting out bowls of nuts, make popcorn. Fill that candy dish with grapes. Have single-serving boxes of raisins on hand for the kids.

Remember, the food is window dressing for the fellowship that makes the season joyous. Don't waste too much time or money on the window dressing.


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