With even more pressure put on those getting ready to produce a Christmas dinner that tops last year’s, check out these 12 tips for planning your Christmas dinner on a budget.
1. Plan ahead
By planning ahead and creating a menu plan for the holidays, you’ll be able to get straight into shopping with a clear idea of what’s needed. Not only will this save the added stress of potentially forgetting something, but it will prevent you from buying too much and reduce the amount of leftovers or unused food. Create your shopping list and try to avoid the temptation of special offers or food you and your family are unlikely to eat over Christmas.
2. Shop In advance
Often regarded as a sure-fire way to save money on your Christmas food shop, shopping in advance eliminates the possibility of retailers raising prices in the countdown to the big day - effectively saving you money. Purchasing over a period and freezing foods ahead of time reduces chances of a shock panic and also means you’re guaranteed to get all of your festive favourites before they sell out.
3. Purchase in moderation
Estimating the right amount of turkey needed you for and your family never seems to get any easier. Instead of overindulging on the turkey, think about adding extra servings of vegetables or stuffing so it doesn’t feel as though you’re missing out on more meat on your plate. With loose vegetables typically cheaper than turkey, compare the price per kilo to ensure you’re getting the best possible price.
4. Become chef for the day
With the exception of treats such as Christmas pudding, most traditional Christmas foods can be made from scratch and for a much cheaper price than their store-bought counterparts. Stuffing can be made using ingredients already in your cupboards, and gravy can be conjured up from the giblets, roasting juices, flour and a stock cube. Make the most of those around you and have a day preparing the vegetables. To spice up the taste of cheaper mincemeat you can try adding some orange zest, ground cinnamon, dried fruits or nuts.
5. Consider cheaper alternatives
There are elements to a traditional Christmas dinner that are simply fundamental for some. However, this doesn’t mean the most expensive option is the only option. Seek cheaper alternatives, such as smoked mackerel or salmon trimmings made into a salmon pate instead of smoked salmon. Try a sparkling white wine in place of champagne as you make Bucks Fizz, or use cheaper wine to make your very own fruit punch. If turkey is only on your plate for the tradition of it all, why not make the switch to a different kind of meat, such as chicken? Your tastebuds will hardly tell the difference, but your purse definitely will.
If you’ve carefully crafted your Christmas menu and remained loyal to your shopping list, chances are you might not even have any leftovers to work with. However, if you do, seek out online recipes using the ingredients leftover in your cupboards and fridge, you’ll have made savings and won’t be throwing anything away.
7. Freezing food
With the ongoing energy crisis, your freezer should already be your best friend. Make the most of it this Christmas time so you don’t have to deal with the struggle of preparing everything the day of or the day before and let it defrost as needed. Portion ahead of time by dividing everything up into containers. Take advantage of your freezer when it comes to any leftovers as well.
8. Know how to spot a good deal
While it does require a bit of time commitment, comparing costs between markets is a surefire way to guarantee you’re getting the best possible deal. So keep an eye out and watch the prices of food you know you’ll need - combine this with purchasing in advance and your savings will be ten-fold.
9. Don’t do it alone
It can be very easy for all the cooking to fall to the one person, but Christmas is about family, friends and spending quality time together. Bring all hands on deck this Christmas and get everyone involved in the cooking process, making it less stressful for everyone. Plus, if you know you’ll be getting an extra helping hand in the kitchen, you’re less likely to buy products that are more convenient to cook and, as a result, higher in price.
10. Check your cupboards
While it may seem self explanatory, you never know what you might have in the back of your cupboard. You might have tins of peas or carrots ready to go for your Christmas dinner and not even realise it. As you’re making your shopping list, double check everything before adding it to your list.
11. Pre order your food
Many top supermarkets provide the opportunity to pre order your Christmas meal, with the likes of Sainsbury’s, Tesco, M&S and more offering a food-to-order service at the festive period. Being sat at home choosing what you want to eat on the big day and subsequently adding it to your trolley for checkout means you won’t get any nasty surprises at the till, with the total price on show before you commit. This way, you can appropriately weigh up whether or not you can afford all the added extras you’ve chosen, helping you budget and excluding any tempting factors in-store.
Additional reporting by Lyndsey Hodgkinson and Maisie Laughton