There’s no denying that eating is one of the most important – and most fun – parts of Christmas.
However, the cost of Christmas lunch or dinner can quickly spiral out of control, especially when you have extended family visiting and there’s a lot of pressure to make sure everything is perfect.
It’s important to keep in mind, however, that what people enjoy about these experiences doesn’t have to cost a cent.
Think back to your best memory of a Christmas meal. What made it great? Was it the fact that there were three types of desserts and that someone had gone all out and bought special (read: expensive) festively decorated candles?
Or was it that you were with friends and family having a great time, laughing at old memories and making new ones?
This is something to remind yourself about when you’re tempted to get swept up in meal preparations and feel pressured to buy every Christmas-related item ever made: no one will remember that you bought the fancy ham instead of the Costco one or that you had four different cheeses on offer for guests instead of just one.
But they will remember gathering together and enjoying each other’s company. No matter your religious persuasion, that is what Christmas – or your other holiday of choice – is all about.
So, with that in mind, take a look at some of these tips and tricks to have both a festive and fiscally responsible Christmas meal!
(Psst…see the end of this post for a free bonus gift to help you set – and stick to – your budget this Christmas season)
Create a meal plan
Meal planning has so many benefits and is something that we should all be doing throughout the year, not just at Christmas.
It allows you to be totally organised. No opening the fridge one night and realising that you have nothing for dinner.
You’re healthier. By having food on hand and set meals in mind for the entire week, you’re more likely to be able to prepare the meal of your choice rather than throwing in the towel and ordering takeaway.
And, most importantly for our purposes, it is by FAR the best option for controlling your food-related expenses.
You will know exactly how much to buy – no more, no less. This avoids being at the supermarket and thinking you’ll grab that one extra thing “just in case”, which promptly goes off in the fridge because it wasn’t eaten in time. What a waste of food and a real waste of money.
It also means that you can buy everything you need for the week at one time.
No need to pop into the supermarket the afternoon that you realise that you’ve forgotten something. It’s been shown time and time again that the more you go to the supermarket, the more you tend to spend on food. After all, it’s rare to go in and only buy the one thing that you forgot. With a meal plan, you’re avoiding the temptation to buy more by limiting the chance to even be tempted.
And now we’re here to make it even easier for you!
Just click this link to download your free Christmas meal plan. Not only does it help you in planning your meals on Christmas Day itself, but it also lets you plan meals for the week around Christmas. We understand that this can be an absolutely crazy time, particularly if you have guests. Take away much of the stress involved in feeding your family and friends by downloading and printing the Christmas meal plan.
And did we mention that it’s free?
Grab it through the form below!
Include food in the meal plan that you can make in advance
No one wants to be slaving in the kitchen half an hour before your guests arrive. So take away some of that stress by including things like soups, stews, casseroles and even certain desserts in your meal plan that you can make in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
Not only will this avoid a lot of the stress involved in having to prepare food on Christmas Day itself, but it can stretch out the costs of your groceries over several weeks. For example, if you can make half of the meal in November and then buy the rest of what you need in the days before Christmas, this may help you with balancing your budget a bit more easily.
These foods also have the added bonus of being able to be easily made with a range of different vegetables that are both cheap and filling. Worried about how you are going to feed your army of brothers or your kids who are never not hungry? Bulk up the stew with vegetables (potatoes are a cheap and yummy option) or even some pasta for an inexpensive way to ensure that they won’t go hungry.
Include food in the meal plan that you can make in bulk
Those soups, stews, casseroles etc. that you made based on the last point?
It’s also really easy to make double the amount in almost the same amount of time it takes to only prepare one serving. You can then use the extra food as work lunches or, if you have people staying with you over the Christmas period, can use it to help feed them during the days before or after your main meal.
This is not only much easier logistically, but can help save much more money through buying ingredients in bulk!
Consider replacing some “traditional” Christmas dinner options with cheaper alternatives
While there are certain types of food that we are “supposed” to serve at Christmas, these are often also the more expensive options.
So rather than stressing over the added cost that serving (and the time to be spent preparing) a full turkey would involve, for example, keep in mind the most important part: that you will be sitting down with your loved ones, perhaps for the first time in a long time. And if they happen to be served chicken instead of turkey or pork chops instead of a full ham, then the only Christmas miracle will be if they notice.
Limit your perishables only to an amount that people will actually eat
Some people (*cough* my mother) like to prepare food for an army, no matter the number of people that are coming for dinner. While I understand the need to ensure that you don’t run out, particularly when you have guests, that was never ever a risk. Instead, there were always mountains of food remaining.
This is great when you can freeze it and eat it for the next week – but not so good for perishables. And really not so good for your wallet.
So, on that point, your guests will not die if they are only offered carrots and beans instead of every vegetable known to mankind. One type of bread roll as a side instead of a choice of three different types is more than enough.
Plan well and plan strictly according to the number of people that are coming. And if you are truly concerned about running out of food, see the point above about making food in bulk. If needed, you can always serve them more casserole.
Make Christmas dinner a potluck
Everyone appreciates what a hassle it is to prepare a meal for a large group of people. So why not make it a potluck and have everyone bring a dish?
You could offer to prepare the main but ask your sister to bring the salad, your cousin to bring the pie and your neighbour to bring the dessert.
Not only does this share the cost of preparing the meal, which can easily skyrocket depending on how many people are attending, but it also spreads the burden of having to actually spend time making the food.
Less time standing over the stove is always a win!
Don’t waste money on expensive brands
As mentioned above, no one remembers if you choose to serve something that has been made using a cheaper brand. Most of the time, they won’t even realise!
(I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember a dinner that I’ve attended where the jars and packets that were used to prepare the meal were lined up to impress the guests.)
In some cases, it may not even make the meal any better. A few years ago, a blind taste test was conducted in the UK of eleven different Christmas puddings at various price points. The cheapest one at £3.99 ($5.23) was found to be the clear winner, beating puddings that were more than double its price.
So if you are tossing up between imported pasta sauce and one made closer to home at half the price, go for the cheaper option. Your guests will absolutely not even know.
Need some help on saving money over the Christmas period in relation to gifts, decorations, food and drink, or travelling? Or want to learn how to make money this Christmas? If so, click here for more of our “We Wish You a Frugal Christmas” series.
By the way…it’s no secret that Christmas can be a difficult time financially. Why not make things easier for yourself by grabbing our completely free, interactive Christmas Budget?
Let us know in the comments your cheap and cheerful recipes that are your go-tos when time (and budget!) are tight!