Christmas Dinner on a Tight Budget

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Okay, okay, I know it’s still only November, but Christmas will be upon us before we know it. There is already enough worry surrounding this time of year with thinking about buying the kids what they want without breaking the bank, without having to worry about how we are going to save money on the food shopping too. Most of us have someone round for a meal during this family time of year, and the last thing we want is to appear mean or stingy with the spread we are going to serve them. So how do you ‘do Christmas’ on a budget?

Starting early is the main thing. Those who leave things until the last minute will never be able to get ahead of the game. I have to admit to sounding slightly smug here, but I am one of those who tend to prepare as much as possible beforehand so that I can sit and watch the kids opening their presents without running around the kitchen like a headless chicken! And may I add, I will be sitting there sipping a well-deserved glass of Carolans at the same time, (Baileys is too expensive!)

I start my food shopping for Christmas round about now. I buy sprouts and parsnips while they are still at a reasonable price and not labelled as ‘Christmas fare,’ and spend an evening in front of the TV with a small table and a couple of saucepans in front of me. I prep the veg and then par-boil it, before open freezing on trays and then bagging and labelling the following day. It’s surprising how quickly (and easily!) this boring task can pass when you are engrossed in Corrie! I also do the same thing with my potatoes; they freeze really well and can save you tons of time on the big day. Just get them out of the freezer on Christmas Eve and pop into the fridge.

Another thing I prepare in advance is my super sausage-meat stuffing. I use a pack of budget sage and onion as my base, but enrich it with the addition of a large sliced onion, (cook in the microwave for a few minutes with the amount of water the stuffing pack indicates,) a pinch of dried sage, or a handful of fresh if I have any, and then I add some sausage-meat. This I usually buy from the butcher loose as it is cheaper than the pre-packed varieties available just before the big day. I also wrap thin smoked bacon around sausages and freeze them at the same time. Don’t buy chipolatas for this; they are too expensive. Just use normal sausage, (but make sure they have a high proportion of meat,) and cut them in half. This works out far cheaper than purpose-made little ones.

One thing my family doesn’t like is Christmas pudding so I have stopped buying it ‘just in case.’ It always ends up being chucked out in January, so I don’t bother anymore. Instead, I prepare a trifle on Christmas Eve, using a cheap Swiss roll, a tin of fruit and a jelly for the base. Chuck on a tin of custard and some whipped cream on Christmas day and you have dessert ready in under ten minutes.

So get ahead, prepare now and enjoy a stress-less Christmas day with your family…and did I mention, after all that hard work, get hubby to do the washing up!

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