Holiday Entertaining: Where Should You Splurge vs. Save?


If you're hosting for the holidays, there is undoubtedly a lot to do and a lot to buy. You probably have a budget you're looking to stick to, but then you make the mistake of wandering in to Williams Sonoma…and there goes your bottom line! There are places to save a few bucks so you can make a few worthy splurges. Here's a guide that will help.

Splurge: Good cookware

The quality of your cookware can have a big impact on the quality of your food. If your pots and pans have seen better days, it's a good time to splurge on a few high-end items, like this Swiss Diamond 10-piece set, made of cast aluminum with a PFOA-free nonstick coating. Consumer Reports rated the set the "best pots and pans for your holiday feasts." 

Their lab kitchen evaluated "cooking evenness and how well nonstick surfaces release fried eggs when the pan is new and then again when scratched," along with nonstick durability and "how quickly a pot takes to bring 4 quarts of water to a near-boil. Testers measure how hot the handle gets during heating and use an instrument to access its sturdiness. A big part of nonstick's appeal is easy cleanup, so we note how difficult it is to wash away a sticky bechamel sauce."

The Swiss Diamond set includes 8-inch and 9-inch frypans, 1.4-quart and 2.2- quart saucepans, 3.2-quart saute pan, 8.5-quart stockpot, and glass lids.

Save: Good cookware

The Consumer Reports article shows how, with a little research, you can find high-quality products without spending high dollars. Their top choice for nonstick frying pans? This $100 Zwilling J.A. Henckels version in stainless steel with an aluminum core. But in second place: A $20 Red Copper nonstick pan from Amazon.

Splurge: Amazon Prime

This is a splurge that's really a save, if you think about it. The service that costs $99 for a year ends up saving you money on all those last-minute gifts and things you forgot to buy and don't have time to get to the store for because there are rooms to set up and closets to clean out and food to prepare. Amazon Prime also includes free two-day shipping on more than 50 million items, plus you get access to tons of movies, TV shows, songs, and Kindle e-books.

Save: A trip to Costco

Yes, it's going to be crazy. Yes, you're going to have to wait in line. But the stuff you can't find elsewhere (or at least all in one place) will be worth it. Top of our list: Masterpiece plastic plates and Reflections Silverware. They're nicer than your average disposable stuff and you'll be grateful when you don't have to do dishes 12 times a day. And don't forget to buy lots of toilet paper, paper towels, and Chunky Artichoke & parmesan Dip (seriously, you'll be happy you did!).

Splurge: A cleaning crew

It may feel like an extravagance to hire a cleaning crew to come before your guests arrive or after they leave - or, who are we kidding: both! But it's an extravagance that will save you time and peace of mind, which is always important, and especially so when family is in town!

Save: Your kids

The children may think holiday breaks are for catching up on sleep or TV, but you know better, right? Homes that have to be prepared for holiday guests needs lots of hands to clean out closets and organize pantries.

Splurge: A good set of knives

Or at least one good multipurpose knife. With all that cutting and chopping you're about to do between now and the New Year, it's time to get a real knife. Food and Wine's best knife is this MAC MTH-80 Professional Series 8-inch Chef's Knife with Dimples, which is $145 on Amazon. They praise its "hard, super-sharp blade" and "simple wooden handle that's extremely comfortable and feels secure in the hand." Their best value knife is the Mercer Culinary Renaissance 8-Inch Forged Chef's Knife, $38 on Amazon, if you're only looking for a mini-splurge.

Save: Cutting board

Yes, it would be lovely to have a giant two-inch-thick butcher board (and it would make for nice Instagram pics). But you don't have to spend gobs of money - this Walnut cutting board from Williams Sonoma is $155–399 depending on size! - to get the function you need. The Spruce broke down the best cutting boards of 2017 and found this 10.5" by 14.5" inch OXO Plastic board to be its best overall choice. The price: $15 at Amazon.

This plastic board from OXO "is a true workhorse," they said. "It is just the right size—a bit larger than a piece of letter size paper - so it's ideal for most chopping tasks. The soft, tapered handles on two edges make it easy to grip and carry from your counter to the stove, and because it can go in the dishwasher it's ideal for cutting up raw meat and fish." If you'd rather have wood, they have several options listed, including a $36 butcher block.

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