If there’s one thing sure to fill you with dread, it’s doing the big Christmas food shop. Jam-packed stores, stressed customers and people fighting over the last bag of cranberries. In the USA, people spend more than US$150 on putting the festive meal on the table, but if you’re smart and do a little forward planning, you can make big savings. Here are some great tips on how to spend less but still put on a great spread this Christmas.
1. Make a list – and stick to it
It’s easy to be seduced by tempting food and drink offers when you’re doing your Christmas shop. The easiest way is to make a thorough plan of what you’re going to cook over the holiday season, and stick to it. Be realistic, allow for a little more for each person (people like to overindulge at this time of year), but go food shopping armed with your list, and don’t grab those extra goodies, no matter how tasty they look. By sticking to your list, you’ll save yourself a considerable amount of money.
2. Plan meals around leftovers
It’s a certainty that there will be leftover food after the big day, so when planning your festive menu, bear this in mind. Think curries, stews, vegetable hash browns, and so on. Turkey curry is great spooned over jacket potatoes, for example – these jacket potatoes from McCain are a great time-saver, if you have guests over. They only take five minutes, leaving you to spend time with friends and family, not slaving over a hot stove. Christmas leftovers always go a long way.
3. Go food shopping on Christmas Eve
This is a serious point! There’s no doubt, the shops will be busy as people rush to buy last-minute things on 24 December, but it’s also the best chance of finding some bargains on the shelves. Stores usually close on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, so many of them will mark down items on Christmas Eve, as they’re keen to sell them rather than be forced to throw them away. If you don’t mind the odd elbow in the ribs, get stuck in and see which bargains you can find!
4. Economise where you can
This is a tough call. You have friends and loved ones, and you want to look after them and show them good hospitality, but you don’t have to blow your bank account to feed them well. Let’s start with the turkey. Do not spend a small fortune on the turkey – this is one meal where you’re going to serve plenty of sides, and there’ll be a lot of different flavours going on. No matter how good the turkey, when you consider they’ll be vegetables, gravy, cranberry sauce and stuffing fighting it out, this is one battle the turkey won’t win.
5. Make some dishes yourself
There’s a reason why pre-bought sides are expensive – they’re convenient and save you time. But to be honest, some of them are very simple to make. For example, it’s easy to slice up some Brussels sprouts, and toss them with chestnut pieces and smoked bacon, and it will cost a fraction of the price of pre-bought versions. The same goes for gravy and stuffing – both are dead easy to make, and are another handy way of saving some money at this time of year.
Retailers are smart – they know that families will be stocking up at Christmas time, so they discount some lines heavily. Take advantage of the buy-one-get-one-free offers, or generous discounts on single bottles. Don’t get too fussy over brand names – as long as you have a good stash of beer, wine, spirits and soft drinks, your guests are not going to go thirsty. And you don’t have to serve the very best throughout the day – it’s a fact that after a couple of glasses, your ability to tell a good wine from an average one drops noticeably! Here’s a handy guide if you’re planning a big Christmas party.
Planning for Christmas can be a stressful time, it’s true, but it doesn’t have to be. Nor does it need to be super-expensive, if you follow these tips. At the end of the day, Christmas is about spending quality time with family and friends, not about spending ludicrous sums of money in a bid to impress. Whatever you decide, have fun, and happy holidays!