With the Chinese New Year (CNY) just around the corner, many families will be looking forward to tucking into a sumptuous meal with their loved ones for the traditional annual reunion dinner. However, things may be different if you’re responsible for hosting the dinner. While it may be nice to catch up with relatives you don’t get to see often, having to whip up a suitably lavish feast for so many people can prove taxing on your wallet. To help you enjoy the CNY traditions and festivities without fretting over your budget, we've identified three ways you can save on this annual feast.
Feature Affordable Alternatives In Your Steamboat
For many Singaporeans, the CNY reunion dinner is held steamboat-style, where a massive spread of ingredients gets thrown into a bubbling pot of soup for communal sharing. Several ingredients are 'must-haves' as they're thought to bring auspiciousness due to their pronunciations (in Chinese) and appearance. Fish, for example, is a symbolism for ‘abundance’ because its pronunciation ‘Yu’ sounds similar to that of another Chinese character, 余, which means ‘surplus’.
These auspicious dishes can get pretty expensive, though–especially if you opt for the premium options like Soon Hock (S$47.90 for 900 grams). To save, you can tweak your menu to feature more affordable options. You don’t need fancy ingredients just for tradition’s sake; cheaper alternatives still retain the needed symbolism, after all. Opting for Golden Snapper instead of Soon Hock, baby abalones instead of large abalones, and tiger prawns instead of Ang Kar prawns can help shave S$43 off your meal.
Get Your Yu Sheng From The Grocery Stores
Tossing ‘Yu Sheng,’ a raw fish salad, is the expected fanfare at almost every Singaporean’s Chinese New Year meal. Known as ‘lo hei’ in Cantonese, the act of tossing symbolizes reaching for greater heights – the higher you toss, the better. However, more often than not, Yu Sheng is very costly, especially when purchased from hotels and restaurants. For reference, the dish retails at S$179.75 (takeaway) at Goodwood Park Hotel and S$179.76 at Raffles Hotel. Given that many only eat a mouthful of the salad after all that tossing (since most of it ends up on the floor), there's no need to bother with buying more expensive options.
You can instead get a cheap 'token' platter to 'lo hei’. A pre-packaged Yu Sheng at Fairprice retails for a mere S$14.95. While the ready-to-eat salad doesn't come with the raw fish, you can easily order sashimi to your doorstep online at (S$14.50 for 160grams). Even when considering the total cost of both salad and sashimi, the final price would still be significantly cheaper than buying Yu Sheng from an upscale establishment.
Pick Up Your CNY Snacks From The Supermarkets
What is CNY without the seemingly endless snack tables filled with goodies like fragrant, flaky love letters and buttery pineapple tarts? To ensure that all your relatives have a good time both before and after the reunion dinner, be sure to stock up on plenty of CNY snacks. Given that 9 pieces of pineapple tarts from a specialty store can set you back by S$17.20, however, buying enough CNY goodies for your relatives to feast on can quickly put a dent in your wallet.
To save, pick up your CNY goodies from the supermarket and opt for house brands. Many supermarkets offer samples, so you can be sure that your purchases won’t differ too much in taste from branded offerings. In fact, if you decide to purchase cheaper snacks, you can shift the remainder of your budget to more central parts of the feast instead.
Make The Most Of Your Purchases During The Festive Period
If you're tasked with hosting a CNY reunion dinner, don't worry – it's entirely possible to do so without breaking the bank. Nonetheless, to make the most of your purchases, be sure to use a rewards credit card. Many cards offer up to 8% cashback on spend in key categories, including groceries. Some even provide cardholders with access to special discounts with Sheng Siong and Cold Storage through unique rebate programmes. Finally, consider signing up for supermarket loyalty programmes that also tend to offer special members-only prices.