Mouthy Money editor Edmund Greaves meets author and entrepreneur Robert Gardner to find out about…Read More →
Are you worried about how to keep the cost of your Christmas dinner affordable this year? There are ways you can save and here are some ideas to produce Christmas dinner on a budget.
Include your energy costs in the budget
With the soaring price of energy, if you opt for a large turkey as your Christmas centrepiece, cooking it in your oven will cost you more than previously.
The Mirror reported in August that the cost of cooking your Sunday roast had already increased to over £5, but could rise to £10 by Christmas (based on a 5kg turkey).
So what can you do to save energy if you are making Christmas dinner on a budget? Here I look both at sourcing cheaper ingredients and cooking them the most efficient way.
Shop at the discount stores
There is no doubt in my experience that, despite the adverts from the larger supermarkets telling us about all their price matches, Aldi and Lidl remain the cheapest places to purchase your groceries overall.
Both regularly come out top in the monthly comparisons of supermarket prices by Which?
This applies to their Christmas ranges as well. They offer pretty much all you will need for a good Christmas dinner on a budget.
Should you buy a pre-cooked turkey crown?
I have seen suggestions to purchase a pre-cooked turkey crown to save on energy. However, these seem more expensive on the whole than buying and cooking one from scratch, even taking account the cost of energy hikes.
For example, Sainsburys has a pre-cooked crown to serve four to pre-order at £29.95. It would be cheaper to purchase a small frozen turkey (serving four to six) from Aldi for £13.99 and cook it yourself.
If you fill the oven with your Christmas accompaniments, such as roast potatoes, parsnips and Yorkshire puddings, you will be using it more efficiently anyway.
However, if you can source a pre-cooked turkey at a better price, it is worth considering.
Buy a different joint of meat
Of course, you could forego the turkey altogether and buy a joint that cooks more quickly.
My daughters much prefer pork with crispy crackling anyway, which is cheaper to buy than a turkey and cooks more speedily, so the savings are significant.
Cook your meat in your slow cooker
If you own a slow cooker and it’s big enough, you could cook your meat joint in it. It’s non-traditional, but the meat retains its juices, so you won’t be faced with over cooked and dried out turkey!
For example, this slow cooker roast beef recipe from Slow Cooker Club makes delicious red wine gravy at the same time as cooking the meat. It uses topside beef, which tends to be one of the cheaper cuts.
Slow cookers are extremely economical to run, using about the same amount of energy as a light bulb.
Make use of your air fryer
If you have an air fryer, you can make crispy roast potatoes in 20 minutes. This is a good shout if you are buying pre-cooked meat, using your slow cooker or if you don’t have space in your oven alongside your turkey and other accompaniments.
Use a stackable vegetable steamer
Using stackable steaming pans on your hob (or even an electric steamer) will minimise the amount of energy you use for your vegetables.
I find this cooking method also keeps your veg crisp, so no more soggy sprouts!
Buy your Christmas desserts
Although I tend to advise that scratch cooking is cheapest, I haven’t found this to be the case with Christmas cakes and puddings.
This is especially so if some of the family don’t like these old favourites, which is the situation in our house.
Only me and my partner like traditional Christmas pudding and cake, so it’s really not worth the expense and the time making them. The ingredients aren’t cheap and the process is quite long and involved.
We find that a small, ready-made Christmas pudding from Aldi does the job for us, whilst the others tend to opt for an ice cream dessert. If we have cake, it is either shop bought or a homemade chocolate cake.
Don’t over cater
I am the worst for over catering. The thought of my dinner guests going home hungry fills me with dread, so I tend to buy and cook more than we need. However, we always use up the leftovers as quickly as possible.
This tendency is even worse at Christmas. How many times have you been left with far too much salad, for example? And cheese?
We buy these items for Christmas tea, but in reality everyone is always far too full to eat much on Christmas evening.
I find that meal planning is as helpful for making Christmas dinner on a budget as it is throughout the rest of the year.
Planning all of your meals, especially your main meals, means that you only buy what you need, you save money and you don’t waste food. Apply this skill at Christmas too, and don’t forget to plan to eat any potential leftovers.
Of course, buy extra treats, but only as many as you can realistically eat, and don’t forget that your guests are likely to arrive with even more. We have all faced mountains of chocolate, cakes, alcohol and crisps as we approach the new year.
Our new year resolutions inevitably include eating more healthily so food gets thrown away. Or we eat more than we need and feel guilty about it!
There are ways to create a delicious Christmas dinner on a budget, so try not to stress about it. Don’t forget it is only a few days so buy just what you need and enjoy it.
Shoestring Jane is a full-time self-employed mum of three daughters. Her frugal partner in crime is handyman extraordinaire, Mr Shoestring. They are constantly on the look out for ways to save and make extra money. Read more on her blog, Shoestring Cottage.