The average household Christmas day food and drink spend last year was £159 but with a bit of forward planning, Jill Smyth says there are still lots of ways that you can reduce your bills at the tills and still have a fabulous Christmas.
With Christmas now only weeks away, the shops are already full of tasty festive goodies but with many of us only having one pay day left before the big day, looking at ways we save on the festive shop is one way of spreading some seasonal cheer to our bank balance come January.
One of the first things to do is check out what you already have in the cupboards and in your freezer. This not only saves you money, it helps you reduce waste which is good for the environment. There will always be forgotten items lurking on shelves which are still in date and I always seem to have loads of bread in my freezer that I never use which could be used for making breadcrumbs. If you have frozen sausages, defrost them, remove the skin and mix in with the breadcrumbs, a few herbs, a chopped onion and, hey presto, you have your Christmas stuffing. Use frozen fruit in desserts and trifles and remember that you can freeze fresh herbs and vegetables for future use – never throw away!
Be adventurous and don’t just stick to the familiar. Shop around for offers or better value options and try out budget supermarkets. Sign up for news of when offers will be coming into stores, e.g. 25 per cent off six bottles of wine priced at £42 is a saving of £10.50 – enough for a couple of stocking fillers or huge box of chocolates – so plan your shopping trips and don’t miss out! Iceland do fantastic party foods and some super ‘3 for 2’ deals. They also offer a full range of Christmas fare including turkey, pheasant, roast beef, salmon and roast ham. These can work out much cheaper than buying from premium supermarkets, and can be bought in advance and put in the freezer, reducing the stress of hitting the shops on Christmas Eve. Lidl also do lots of unique and well-priced meats, vegetables, desserts and wines, as well as fancy boxes of biscuits and sweets which make great gifts. It’s also worth making a visit to your local bargain store to pick up napkins, table decorations, crisps, nuts, sweets and mixers.
No one should be trapped in the kitchen all Christmas morning, but if you solely rely on ready-made dishes such as mashed potatoes, pre-prepared vegetables, soups and sauces, think about making your own instead as it really does work out so much cheaper. Instead of buying fancy desserts, make your own. It’s much less expensive and you can involve the kids – as children, my sister and I used to fight over who made the Christmas trifle! Most kids love baking, so why not show them how to make their own mince pies or Christmas cupcakes? It will keep them occupied and save you money into the bargain.