Christmas can still be special without spending a fortune, with these frugal tips to save money on Christmas dinner.
Expenditure for Christmas 2020 is estimated to shrink by around £2.3billion, with 37% of people planning to spend less on gifts this year, according to research* commissioned by The Nottingham. You can also find plenty of ways to cut the cost of food and drink too.
I reckon many of us are facing a different Christmas this year, whether catering for fewer people, cooking Christmas dinner for the first time, or celebrating on a tight budget.
So I’m delighted to take part in Nottingham Building Society’s #SaveChristmasShareSkills campaign, with these festive money-saving suggestions.
With a bit of planning and some savvy shopping, you can save loads on Christmas food that still tastes great.
Make a meal plan and a shopping list
Santa Claus isn’t the only person who should be making a list at Christmas.
Rather than panic buying the contents of a small supermarket, sit down and put together a meal plan, thinking about which meals you’ll make and how many people you need to feed.
Check the contents of your cupboards, fridge and freezer, to see what you already have in the house. Then write a shopping list with what you need to buy.
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Switch from fresh to frozen
The biggest saving I’ve ever made on Christmas food was switching from a fancy fresh free-range turkey to a frozen bird. It slashed a good £30 off my shopping bill, and I don’t believe anyone eating it could taste the difference.
This year, you might not need a 10-ton turkey, if you’re not feeding the five thousand. Choosing either a smaller turkey or a turkey crown will save substantial cash. Nabbing a small frozen turkey early could be a good move, if there’s a shortage of smaller sizes nearer the big day. If you can’t face loads of leftovers, you could even (whisper it) opt for a decent large chicken instead.
Shrink to fit
Don’t buy on autopilot, shoving stuff in your trolley just because you always have.
Adapt to the number of people coming, and what they actually like. For example, if you’re catering for fewer people, you might not need a massive cheeseboard and the biggest box of cheese biscuits.
Maybe you always buy stilton for Uncle Charlie and brandy butter even though only Grandpa likes it. If they won’t be there this year, save money and food waste by scratching those extras off your list.
Snap up cheap Christmas veg
In recent years, the supermarkets have flogged super cheap festive veg to lure Christmas shoppers. Last December, prices sunk as low as 15p a bag for parsnips, carrots and brussels sprouts. I’m hoping to take advantage of these savings and buy extra for roasts, soups, stews and stir fries after Christmas too.
Plan for leftovers
If you’re likely to have leftovers, plan how you’ll use them. I make sure I have mango chutney, as essential for turkey sandwiches, and a jar of curry paste for turkey curry. If you can’t face more turkey/gammon/cheese (delete as appropriate), freeze it for later. Throwing away food is like setting fire to fivers.
Make extras into main meals
I love festive food such as roast gammon, red cabbage and mince pies. However, instead of serving them as side dishes on Christmas Day, when everyone is full up from turkey and all the trimmings, I make gammon, mash and red cabbage as our main meal on Christmas Eve, with mince pies as pudding.
Weigh up the cost of pre-prepared food
I’m a big fan of saving money by cooking from scratch.
Here’s an example. Last year, Aldi sold 2.5kg of potatoes for 19p. Meanwhile Aunt Bessie’s Roasties can easily cost £1.65 for 800g. That’s eight times more, for a third the quantity. Sign me up for potato peeling.
However, making your own isn’t always cheaper, so do check. I buy ready-made pigs in blankets from Morrisons, as it costs less. than buying the bacon and sausages separately. I also prefer to spend a couple of quid on a small Christmas pudding, rather than wrestling with a small fortune in dried fruit, candied peel, suet and rum.
Don’t buy twice
If you find it hard to resist temptation, avoid buying Christmas treats too early.
The supermarkets have been piling the shelves with Christmas goodies for weeks now, encouraging us to spend. I’ve learnt the hard way that buying bargain boxes of biscuits or chocolates in advance doesn’t save money, if I scoff the lot and then have to buy them all over again (see also: Easter eggs).
Hold off until later, and your wallet and your waistline will thank you.
Alcohol can be one of the most expensive items at Christmas. Consider downshifting from big brands – Aldi and Lidl for example both offer award-winning gin. You could also try switching to a decent version of a cheaper alternative, such as good versions of cava or prosecco, rather than cheap champagne.
Take advantage of introductory offers
Get a great deal on a case of wine by signing up for an introductory offer with wine clubs such as Laithwaites, the Sunday Times Wine Club, Virgin Wines or Naked Wines. New customers can cut the cost of 12 bottles to about £60, which is a fiver each. Then remember to cancel your subscription, if you don’t want to receive full price crates in future.
Take advantage of the supermarket comparison app from Latest Deals, if you want to compare prices on big items.
Online supermarket deliveries make it easier to keep an eye on your spending and remove items if the total is getting too high. It’s also easier to see the price per kilo, when comparing different brands and pack sizes. Plus, online shopping is delivered direct to your door, if you’re nervous about visiting supermarkets during the pandemic.
Save on delivery costs by booking cheaper slots at less popular times. Just make sure you book any Christmas slot early – you can always go back and edit your order later.
Cash in loyalty points
See if you can save cash by swapping supermarket loyalty points for food. I’ve used Tesco Clubcard points, Nectar points, Co-op dividend payments, Morrisons More card vouchers and even Boots Advantage points to cut my Christmas bills. If you get cashback by shopping via websites such as Quidco and TopCashback, see if you earn a little extra by swapping your cashback for supermarket vouchers.
Boost local businesses
By sticking to my shopping list and shopping smarter, I save enough to splash out on some treats from our local high street. I like supporting local businesses and our local market where possible. I’ve bought chutneys, cheeses, chocolates and smoked fish from local producers, both for our own meals and as presents.
Make food into a festive activity
While we’re all spending more time indoors, make festive food part of the fun.
Every year, I look forward to decorating Christmas biscuits with the kids, making cranberry sauce as presents and whipping up mince pies while listening to carols. It costs very little but tastes great and makes lovely memories. After all, spending time together is what matters most at Christmas.
Now – over to you. What are your top tips to save money on Christmas dinner? Do share in the comments, I’d love to hear.
Visit The Nottingham’s blog, The Hub, for more festive savings tips such as 10 Last Minute Christmas Savings Tips and check out the hashtag #SaveChristmasShareSkills on social media.
This is an advertorial with The Nottingham.
*The adult population of the UK is 52 million people. Consumer Intelligence interviewed 1,009 people across the UK. They represented the demographic profile of the UK.