How to cook Christmas dinner without breaking the bank
It’s the most wonderful time of the year but, as anyone in charge of the family purse strings will tell you, Christmas can also be the most expensive.
By the time you’ve totted up presents, heating and any transport you might take the festive season can be very pricey.
And that’s before you’ve even got started on the food.
So here are eight budgeting tips to help you keep the cost of this Christmas down.
1. Check your cupboards before you buy ingredients
There are few things worse (or more wasteful) than buying an ingredient or food you later find has been gathering dust in your cupboard.
Unfinished packets of dried fruit like figs and raisins, cartons of mayonnaise, jars of mincemeat (can be used for home-made mince pies), lemon juice, pepper and sunflower oil are just a few of the ingredients used in a Christmas dinner that might be lying in your cupboard.
So, clear your stores out and do a thorough stock take. It will help you avoid spending money on food you don’t need.
2. Know your recipe like the back of your hand
Make sure you know how many people you are cooking for and exactly what ingredients you need.
Buying too much food can cause your bill to spiral, but buying too little and your party may go hungry.
Use the BBC’s classic Christmas Dinner recipe as a handy guideline. It serves eight – so use the ingredients they list to work out exactly how much food you will need for a group of your size.
3. Vouchers, vouchers, vouchers
The hunt for a bargain reaches fever pitch as we approach the festive season, with supermarkets locked in a price war that makes great deals available for shoppers.
So keep your eyes peeled and your ears to the ground to make sure you don’t miss the best deals this Christmas.
4. Talking turkey
We know this might sound blasphemous: but turkey is expensive and gammon or ham offer a tasty and cheaper alternative.
They may even fit in your oven a lot easier – making the whole stressful hosting process that bit easier.
But if you are set on Turkey, then consider carefully which one you buy – the price difference between the cheaper supermarket birds and more expensive, free-range and slow-reared bronze options can be huge.
Keep an eye on the size of the turkey you’re buying as well. If you’re disciplined about reusing leftovers then a big bird could stretch across several meals, making it pretty cost effective.
It’s difficult to know how much turkey can feed one person but a good rule of thumb is 500g on the bone per person (so a 2.5 kg turkey, for example, would serve 5 people).
Top Tip: Considering cheaper alternatives across the table will help you make savings. Instead of lavishing your guests with smoked salmon, why not use mackerel to make a delicious salad as a starter?
5. Make your own gravy
There’s no excuse for not making your own gravy.
Whipping up your own gravy using a chicken stock cube, gravy giblets, meat juices, a bit of flour and a splash of red wine can help you shave money of your bill when you reach the checkout.
We like this easy and cheap gravy recipe from food.com.
6. Make your own mince pies
Like tip 5, this is from the DIY school of Christmas catering. One you’ve followed the instructions to clean out your cupboard, you might find an old jar of mincemeat lying around – perfect; you can use this to make mince pies.
One pack of six mince pies will set you back £1.30 from Sainsburys – a cost of 22p per mince pie.
Top Tip: Once you’re done making your own mince pies, freeze any leftover pastry so you can use it at a later date.
7. Buy drinks in bulk
Drinks – and in particular booze – are where the Christmas bills really start to sky-rocket.
Stick to limited options if you’re responsible for buying all the drinks. Buying the same items in bulk can save you money because supermarkets will be offering attractive offers.
Go with cava instead of champagne, and own brand lemonade for the kids rather than Schwepps.
And buy crates or cases of wine; try out Morrison’s USA Six Pack, for example. At £35 for six bottles of wine it works out at £5.80 per bottle; not bad if you need to keep a big group merry.
8. Wrap up warm
OK – we’ll admit it’s a bit cheeky this last one. It’s not really food related, but being sensible about heating can be one of the most effective cost saving measures you can take so we had to mention it.
Fuel bills can soar throughout the festive season so wrap up warm, turn unneeded radiators off and make sure all draughts are blocked.
Now we’re not saying you should let your friends and family freeze (turning the thermostat down on your shivering mother-in-law may not be a good idea for family relations), but where you can, pull on a jumper and keep the boiler off.
And that’s it – all that’s left is for us at A Spokesman Said to wish you a very merry Christmas!