Holiday Meals & Decorating – On a Budget?

You better believe it!

With a powerful combination of budget-friendly stores and one powerful little app, you’ll be amazed and what magic you can create on the table and in the home whether you’re entertaining many or an intimate few. We’ll be hitting the high points in this post with the following stores:

  • Aldi
  • Big Lots
  • Dollar General Marketplace
  • Dollar Tree
  • Family Dollar
  • Save-A-Lot 

We’re going to combine the wallet-loving savings of these great shopping destinations with my favorite budget empowering app:

outofmilkOut of Milk

After experimenting extensively with several different grocery store / shopping list / coupon sorting apps, I finally settled on Out of Milk.  In my opinion, this app gives you the most bang for your buck, hitting the high points of what the efficient shopper or family manager needs and wants. Screenshot_2014-12-19-00-02-31Go to to find the app download for your device.  Or go to the PlayStore or AppStore directly to download and install. You can use the free app, or optionally install the Pro Key.  I personally did opt to purchase the key, because of how extensively I use this app and love the homescreen widgets for shopping lists which the Pro Key version offers.  You can also keep track of coupons with the Pro Key.   Is it necessary?  No.  Not at all.  The program itself in the free version works beautifully as a stand alone.

The Stores

So what are the qualifications a store must meet in order to make this Nutmeg’s list of shopping-dos?

  • First and foremost be economical!  Having sales specific to events or holidays, have sales on regular household pantry items and staples.  The regular prices must be equally affordable and wallet friendly.
  • Have good quality products!  Quality means using ingredients that are not covered in pesticides, are non-GMO-d, and offer the ability to do what food is supposed to – nourish the body, not poison it.
  • Be time efficient!  My time is valuable.  I want to enjoy my shopping experience, but be able to navigate the aisles quickly, easily and get in and out in a short period of time.
  • Be clean and organized with great customer service and a friendly staff is preferable.
  • Offer both name brand and generic products that have equal quality or better.
  • They offer a website which shows deals in my local stores, and if they offer an app or online login for organization or extra savings – double bonus!


Want power in your shopping cart for groceries? If you have an Aldi in your area you will not believe the savings across the board and the quality is really beyond compare.    They have a wide variety of organic and premium items to choose from, their own Aldi’s brand which has great quality, many items to choose from, not just groceries.  They have a wide array of more gourmet cheeses and specialty items, most carry wine, and again – in the end – your savings are extraordinary! You can easily build an amazing holiday dinner setting on a limited budget by shopping at Aldi!   They also will offer terrific prices on decorations that are of good quality and durability.   They have an app you can download and then go through the weekly sales items by category, name or all, and place them in your list for time saving help. Personal note:  For our household, in regards to store-bought milk, Aldi is the only one of two places I will purchase milk in my area.  It is single-homogenized and single-pasteurized, which allows more of the nutrients to stay in the milk.  Ultra-anything means it was stripped of all nutritional quality and actually leeches calcium from your body over time.  If you’re drinking “ultra” processed milk – you’re not drinking milk.  

Big_Lots_logoBig Lots!

Surprised?  Don’t be.   While they may not offer fresh produce, they have home wares, household goods, pantry staples, quality breads, an international aisle that’s actually pretty impressive, a nice freezer/refrigerator section to choose from as well as a fantastic selection of one of my top two non-GMO flour and breakfast products – Bob’s Red Mill.  Furthermore you can decorate your entire house interior and exterior combined for a very affordable price.   Quality?  You got it!  And many Big Lots! are also furniture stores carrying Ashley, La-Z-Boy and a host of other top brand furniture for phenomenal savings!  They also have in-house credit for those products. Check out Buzz Club Rewards for points savings and advance notices SEASONAL BONUS!  Since retailers have somehow convinced everyone they’re required to start decorating the day after Halloween for Christmas – The week before Christmas, many of the stores move their seasonal items to clearance.   Big Lots! is one who does this so the week before Christmas you can peruse the decorating aisles for colossal savings on everything you can imagine for this year or next.  

apps1dg2Dollar General (Marketplace)

What’s the difference between a regular Dollar General and a Dollar General Marketplace?  Fresh produce and a larger selection.  How can you find a Marketplace near you?  Use the Store Locator on their site.  When you put in your zip code or city and state, you’ll be shown your area with DG logo pins wherever there is a standard Dollar General and a green leaf for any location which is a Marketplace. Is there a difference in price between Dollar General and a Marketplace?  No.  If you received a sale flyer for your local store, the prices are the same in either location.  Dollar General Marketplace is a small full grocery store with fresh produce, a large refrigerated and freezer section and more variety of pantry, staples and general foods and drinks.    The savings are great at either location and they offer a great selection and savings on holiday lights.  (Note – I once completely covered a 12′ tree with 1,800 twinkle lights for $18.  They were $1 a box per 100.   Yes, I still have most of them). Extra bonus to Dollar General – have you used this yet?  

Dollar General Digital Coupons

How does this work?  Go to the DG Digital Coupons page, create a login.  Go through the coupons and pick the ones your need or use.  When you go to the store, you don’t even need your device.  The pin-pad for checkout has a Digital Coupon login in the bottom right corner of the screen.  Tap that before checking out and enter in your phone number you used to register.  All the digital coupons are immediately applied and discounted from your purchase.   I love this!  Especially because if my husband or son stops at the store, and are buying something on the list from Dollar General, they key in my number and the savings apply!  They don’t need the coupon in hand or my phone to scan.

dollar-tree_logo_1628Dollar Tree

For anyone who just double-blinked and leaned in to see if that actually says, “Dollar Tree,” yes it does. I have to admit the first time someone suggested to me we go to Dollar Tree to look for something.  I raised an eyebrow and remembered the first $1 store I ever saw.  It was also the last one I stepped foot in for 21 years.   Massive pleasant surprise lay in wait for me.

Dollar Tree has unbelievable glassware for dining purposes, not cheapo junk plastic ware – actual glass: Libby, Anchor, top brands! Drinking glasses, wine, champagne, pilsners, pub style, massive mugs, coffee cups – all in assorted colors and styles.  And quite literally everything is $1, always.

If you want gift bags, gift wrap, bows, boxes, tape and batteries for the 1,000 batteries that children’s toys now require – Dollar Tree carries packs of Panasonic and Sunbeam batteries for, you guessed it, $1 a pack.  Great quality with long life to them too.

Candles, picture frames, last minute stocking stuffers, craft and school supply items to indulge children with art projects, household supplies and decorative items all can be found here – each for $1.

When it comes to cooking – those huge heavy duty foil pans that everyone spends a fortune on at standard grocery and big-box stores – Dollar Tree has them for $1 and some are double packaged so you get two for your $1.  Same quality, same durability, you just save about $6 per pan.  Oh is that all?  That adds up quickly.

Family-dollarFamily Dollar Stores

Another surprise of savings for decorations, lights, pantry, staples, household goods and refrigerated selections is your local Family Dollar Store.   They too, offer great prices on both name brand and generic items for a substantial savings over general grocers and super stores.  Quite often you can find items that are “on sale,” in these other stores, where the everyday price at Family Dollar is still less than the large stores’ sale prices.   That is powerful knowledge in the land of making your dollar stretch to feed your household and entertain, with change to spare!

savealotSave A Lot

Another full service grocery store where their jingle of, “My dollar goes far at Save-A-Lot,” is not joking.   They offer substantial savings on both name brand and Save A Lot brand goods.  Those generic items are also of great quality.   If you have a Save A Lot in your area, you’ll generally find their savings ad in the weekly circular mailed to your house.

Save A Lot offers fresh produce with a wide variety to choose from as well as a meat department as opposed to just frozen and refrigerated selections.   It’s a full service grocery store minus a deli.  By shopping at Save A Lot you can easily afford to offer your family and guests more selection, variety and quantities and still have some savings left in your wallet.


Save A Lot also offers the Smart Shopper Club.  Sign up, receive sale alerts early via email  and get bonus savings as a member.

dT8Xz9GTeBy making smart choices in your shopping, you can afford to create that Norman Rockwell/Thomas Kincaid/Martha Stewart look and feel to your holiday entertaining and family gatherings without breaking the bank.   It also allows you to save money where you can to be able to put it towards other fine quality items either in your menu, your home or gifts for others. Truth – All this food buying, preparing, bustling and festooning is leading to memories.  You leave the people around you with happier memories if you yourself are not stressed-out, short-tempered and complaining.  Do so by avoiding situations which create those reactions: Over spending, angry shoppers, over planning and over complicating things.  Shop smart.