Remember that a traditional Christmas dinner is simply a slightly fancier version of the average Sunday roast, with a few extra trimmings. Plan a menu and set a budget, write a shopping list, and you’ll feel a lot more confident. This will also make you a lot less likely to panic buy, which is where the most money is usually wasted.
If you have time, cook as much as you can from scratch. The costs quickly spiral if you start using ready-prepared vegetables, fancy centrepieces, starters, side dishes and desserts. There are plenty of reliable recipes that you can find online for free, so look out for ones that have loads of positive reviews or high user ratings.
This year, a frozen turkey from a budget supermarket beat all the luxury fresh turkeys for flavour and texture during blind taste tests carried out by Good Housekeeping. Buying the most expensive foodstuffs doesn’t always mean that you’ll be getting the best results, so don’t feel pressured to spend money that you know you can’t afford just because something says ‘deluxe’, ‘gourmet’ or ‘connoisseur’ on the packaging.
If you’re only feeding four to six people, you really don’t need a massive turkey, so don’t buy one. Consider a smaller bird, a turkey crown, or for the biggest savings you can make a dish with turkey portions. For example, you could buy some boned turkey thighs from your local butcher, and bake them filled with stuffing.
It’s your day. You can have anything you like for your festive dinner, so you could find a great deal on some beef, chicken, other poultry, ham, or fish instead, or make a vegetarian alternative. Warning: if you do this, you might be surprised at the number of guests who admit that they don’t really like turkey!
Several studies have shown that the more food you put out, the more most people will eat, especially if they’re serving themselves at a social occasion. Control portion sizes by having the chef share out slices of meat and other expensive foods, or by making individual pots of dessert. That way you’ll be sure there’s enough to go around. Serving water at the table and spreading the courses out at a leisurely pace can also help people to eat more sensible portions. Saves on indigestion remedies too…
Generally speaking, the first glass of drink is the one that people taste the most, so serve one pricey drink first, and follow that with less expensive ones. Chill cheap white wines down well, and decant budget reds to make them taste and look more luxurious. If you’re making mixed drinks, such as the classic Buck’s Fizz, don’t use the finest champagne – the flavour will be overpowered by the flavour of the orange juice mixer, so go with a cheaper cava or prosecco instead.
It’s nice to have a few leftovers, but not too many. Cool cooked turkey faster by removing it from the bone, then refrigerate or freeze soon afterwards. Some of the post-Christmas leftover classics include turkey and cranberry sandwiches, a cold cuts buffet with salad and chutney, bubble and squeak with sprouts and potatoes, and turkey pie, stew or curry. Leftover Stilton cheese can also be crumbled into winter soups or used in quiches.
The shops might be shut for a day or two, but you’ll be just fine and there’s no need to make a massive stockpile of food and drink. The only exception is if you’re living somewhere really remote where you might find yourself snowed in for a few days, but that doesn’t apply to the vast majority of the UK. Fight the hoarding instinct and stick to freezing a little milk and bread in case of emergencies.
If you’re hosting a large get-together and you’re very low on funds, don’t try to be all things to all people. Be honest, and ask friends and family to do their bit to help out. Borrow crockery, cutlery and chairs instead of buying them, for example. Have an evening or afternoon where you make your own crackers or other table decorations together, to get in a festive mood. And don’t be scared to drop a few hints about people bringing drinks, sweets or side dishes along – anyone who doesn’t chip in can do the washing up!
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1Monthly cost - Representative monthly direct debit costs based on a non-economy-7, dual-fuel, medium user (3100 kWhs elec. and 12500 kWhs gas) paying in advance by direct debit, including online discount. All rates correct as of 23/08/16, but may go up or down.
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