Christmas dinner on the cheap

28 November 2008

With the cost of Christmas lunch likely to set you back around £60, it's little wonder that many households are planning to cut back on the amount they spend on food and drink over the festive season.

The traditional dinner with all the trimmings - from the centerpiece turkey through to bread sauce and Christmas pudding - costs £62.33 at Asda, £66.95 at Sainsbury's and £67.47 at Tesco, according to

Compare this to the average weekly shopping bill, and it seems crazy to spend so much for just for one meal.

Cutting back on the biggest meal of the year doesn’t mean you have to resort to miserly offerings that make noveau cuisine portions look like generous. A few tweaks to your budget and a change in attitude are enough to ensure you still enjoy your Christmas dinner without choking (on the price of) it.

Follow Moneywise’s top money saving tips on how to cut the costs of your seasonal food bill:

1. Packaging

“Don’t be seduced by packaging” says Gillian Hollcombe, author of ‘How to feed your whole family a healthy, balanced diet with very little money…’. It’s easy to get carried away with gorgeous packaging, only to discover that beyond the pretty paper and fancy labels there is no difference between your luxury Christmas pudding and its lowly relative in the economy range.

2. DIY Party food

Supermarket Christmas canapés are a prime example of style over substance. Miniture snacks at overinflated prices are not a very economical way to feed your guest. So while you might not fancy cooking Christmas pudding from scratch, party food is an area you can definitely cut back on costs without having to make a huge effort.

A pack of dates split and filled with cream cheese requires minimal effort, as do home roasted nuts seasoned with curry powder and cumin. Keep it simple and you can get all the taste without the cost.

3. Christmas dinner – without all the trimmings

“There are so many bits to Christmas lunch that you only need a little bit of each.” Says Hollcombe.
“I’m amazed how many people tell me their families demand Yorkshire pudding with their Christmas Dinner. Mine never have, but if they did they still wouldn’t get it. Equally with mashed and roast potatoes I only do one.”

Remember that it’s only one meal and even if there are more people round your table than normal – that doesn’t mean you have to feed them a week’s worth of food in one meal.

4. Ditch the turkey

Although cold turkey leftovers on Boxing Day fill very few people with Christmas joy, it’s still tempting to buy a huge turkey. “People buy far too big a turkey – don’t be silly and get a huge bird and then be left with loads days after that you won’t eat,” warns Hollcombe.

“There is the notion that smaller birds are not as tender; however, you can still buy a medium sized bird and that should be more than enough.”

5. Under-buy

“Always assume you’ll have too much.” It’s easy to stock up on drinks, chocolates and other sweet treats for those ‘just in case’ occasions when visitors pop by. But, they are just as likely to be dropping off another selection box or bottle of wine for you.

6. Don’t opt for the cheats

Understandably, cooking Christmas lunch can be a stressful occasion. However, some of the supermarkets’ cheat foods come with a heftier price tag too. McCain Simply Gorgeous Roasting Potatoes costs £2.28 at Asda for only 550g compared to £1.98 for 2.5kg of maris piper potatoes – that’s over four times as many.

Pigs in blankets, bread sauce and brandy butter are other examples of food you can easily make yourself without resorting to pricier convenience versions. Hollcombe has also worked out a Christmas budget on her blog at, that feeds a family of five from 21–27 December for £75.

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