Simple steps to save on your festive feast

Christmas dinner is what many of us look forward to most about the festive season – loved ones gathered around a table groaning with food and drink. But is this still possible when times are tough for many of us?

The answer is a resounding yes. Christmas dinner doesn’t have to involve unaffordable excess and, arguably, it shouldn’t. Shop carefully and be mindful of waste and energy use, and you can bring the cost of your meal down in ways that won’t dim the sparkle of your festivities. Here’s how.

Budget shopping

It’s obvious, but shopping at budget supermarkets, or choosing value brands, saves money (perfectly acceptable at Christmas). Keep an eye out for bargains, especially on bigger ticket items such as alcohol and luxury treats.
Also, head to the freezer section. Frozen vegetables are often cheaper than fresh, and because you only take out what you need, this reduces the risk of waste. Opting for a frozen turkey (whole or a crown) makes sense, too; it will taste just as good as fresh for a fraction of the cost – just remember to defrost it properly before the big day. Other luxe frozen items to look out for include lobster tails and prawns. If smoked salmon is on your menu, opt for ‘pieces’ rather than ‘slices’; these offcuts are much cheaper but exactly the same thing.
Alcohol can make a big dent in your Christmas budget, so consider joining forces with friends or family to buy a case of wine to share – the cost per bottle can be much less than buying them individually. And take advantage of all the 25 per cent off deals that are usually available before Christmas.

Save energy

To cook turkey, roast beef, a vegetable pie or roasties, you need to use an oven, which is expensive. To keep costs down, try turning the oven off 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time – the food will finish in the residual heat (This isn’t suitable for cakes, bread, and biscuits). If you have two ovens, opt for the smaller one whenever possible, as it uses less energy to heat up and maintain temperature.
Microwaves are more energy efficient, so make the most of yours. Use the microwave to par cook potatoes for roasting (you could do this the day before), then roast them to crisp perfection in the oven (or air fryer if you have one). Vegetables like carrots, peas and beans also steam beautifully in the microwave and can be finished off in a pan on the hob with butter and generous seasoning.
A slow cooker is another energy-saving appliance that’s perfect for cooking and reheating Christmas pudding. If you’re making one from scratch, prepare as usual but instead of steaming it on the hob, place it in a slow cooker. Fill with water until it comes halfway up the sides of the pudding basin, and cook for 10 hours on low. To reheat a homemade or shop-bought pudding, use the same method but cook for four hours only. Just don’t forget to put it on in good time.

Plan ahead

Most of us go over the top when it comes to festive food. But it pays to spend more carefully. Calculate how much food you need for the number of guests you’re feeding and stick to that, plus a little extra for second helpings or leftovers. You can slash your shopping bill doing this, and also reduce waste.

Dressing the table

There’s really no need to buy new decorations to make the table look fabulous. Scatter tiny pine cones, sprigs of fir or real holly for a natural look.
Crackers are a fixture of the festive table but they’re often filled with plastic and are a terrible waste of paper. Go all Blue Peter and fill loo rolls with thoughtful treats made from natural materials and wrap in recycled wrapping paper or spare bits of fabric.
But what about those festive paper hats? Why not make your own from newspaper festooned with spare Christmas tree decorations. The hats won’t be perfect but everyone can join in and it can make for a fun-filled start to Christmas as you sit down to your festive lunch. And that’s what really matters.

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