With the average household planning to spend over £800 on Christmas this year, making your budget cover the entire celebration can be a daunting prospect.
However one great way to save a few pounds is to avoid buying expensive pre-packaged ‘festive’ foods and creating more yourself. It’s not only a cheaper option but a great way of adding a bit of your own personality to the Christmas meal.
Over the last few years many families have opted to drop starters from their menus altogether as the sheer size of the main meal can really negate the need for a first course.
But if you are looking for a starter on a budget, homemade soup can save you money while still being a delicious Christmas classic.
Melon is cheap, easy to prepare and it’s great for kids. It may have a bit of a bad reputation for being a boring choice but wrapping it in prosciutto or topping it off with ginger and lemon zest can radically add life to the starter and make it a great choice.
The turkey is the centrepiece of any great Christmas dinner experience and can be the hardest part to get right. The general rule of thumb when choosing the size of bird is roughly 2 pounds per person. If you’re planning on stretching the turkey out for the few days after the Christmas meal, you may find it economical to spend slightly more and get a larger bird.
On the other hand if you’re working to a tight budget, getting a smaller turkey is perfectly fine. When you include all of the other trimmings that will be included on the plate, a smaller portion of 1 pound per guest won’t even be noticed by most diners.
Frozen vegetables, especially brussel sprouts and parsnips, can be a convenient and cost-saving option. You may also find better deals on veg at local farmer’s markets if they are available to you.
And lastly gravy, sometimes overlooked as an important part of the meal. It is commonly store bought but great gravy can add so much to the flavour and texture of a perfect Christmas dinner. Jamie Oliver’s recipe requires you make it a few days in advance, giving you more time on Christmas day to manage the rest of the meal.
A cheese platter can be an easy and tasty way to end your Christmas meal. Checking your nearest supermarket for any cheeses on offer (3 or 4 are more than enough) and accompanied with a baguette or crackers, it’s really all you need. You could however spice up the platter even further with a homemade chutney.
But if you’re looking for something sweeter, you could always make a Snowy Chocolate Yule Log. Cheap and festive, it’s perfect if you’re looking for a quick and easy dessert that everyone will love.
Preparing your own bowl of punch can be an easy way to save money. Using any cheaper wine that may be gathering dust in your cupboard, punch can be a fun and festive treat without costing you a fortune. Or if you’d prefer not to use wine how about a snappy apple cider cocktail?
Buying pre-packaged food
Often making everything from scratch just isn’t an option if you’re cooking for a big family or are swept up in a busy Christmas season. If you are planning on using pre-packed items, the real trick is to shop around so you can avoid paying a premium.
It’s not unusual this time of year to find the shelves of your local grocery stores covered in foods with festive packaging. Mince pies, frozen appetizers, pâté, biscuits, crackers and cheese are just a handful of items that are commonly repackaged – and marked up – for Christmas.
When it’s all served, your family and friends won’t be able to tell the difference, so instead of spending extra on Christmas foods, focus on quality ingredients at the best price – ask yourself whether it’s worth spending an extra £1 or £2 on the so-called premium Christmas item when the same food in different packaging would taste just the same.
Aldi, Lidl and Iceland are just three stores known for their excellent and affordable Christmas foods so take the time to shop around. In a blind taste test by the Telegraph, shoppers chose Lidl Valley Spire Mature Blue Stilton over Harrods Christmas Stilton – the former costs £1.69, while the latter clocks in at £22.50, which simply goes to show the more expensive ‘luxury’ items are not always better.
Do you have any Christmas dinner tips or tricks?