For many of us, the big Christmas food shop is one of the last festive preparation tasks we undertake.
Coming last on the list, it can mean that by the time we hit the supermarkets, our Christmas budgets are almost at their limits, and the thought of spending around £159.50 (the average household reportedly spends on festive food and drink each year) may well seem eye-watering. But, fear not, because even at this time of year, there are ways to keep your costs down and save money. Read on for our top tips.
Make a plan, and a list
Sitting down in the few days before Christmas to plan out what meals you’re going to have, who you’re hosting and when, will be a big help - not only to your sanity during the festive period, but your wallet too. Before you head to the supermarket, look back at your plan and make a list of the ingredients and other bits you need for each meal or occasion. This is especially handy if you’ve started shopping early and can’t remember what you already have in and what you really do need to buy!
You can even take into account what leftovers you’ll have and plan to use them, so you don’t find yourself with lots of half-finished things that end up wasted in the bin.
Consider an alternative roast
The price of turkey goes up at Christmas time, so swapping it for a different roast, or a vegetarian alternative, can be a brilliant way to save a considerable sum. Plus, it’s not even that traditional - did you know that turkey has only been our go-to Christmas roast since the 1940s? Before that, beef or goose were the most popular. And, even now, according to a 2020 YouGov poll, only 54% of us have turkey on Christmas Day anyway. 88% of us have roast potatoes, though, which is clearly where Christmas dinner is at!
Make what you can
It’s well known that pre-prepared versions of our festive favourites often cost more than buying the ingredients and going DIY. Take pigs in blankets, for example. They’re relatively simple for many people to prepare themselves, so why pay more to have it done for you?
When we checked with a leading UK supermarket*, a pack of their top-range, pre-prepared pigs in blankets cost £2.60 – or 26p per pig in blanket, since it’s a pack of 10. This isn’t too bad, but in this example, each pig in blanket is just half the size of a regular sausage!
If you were to make your own pigs in blankets instead, 12 full size chipolatas and a pack of streaky bacon will set you back £4.60. That’s £2.60 for the sausages, and £2 for the bacon. Quite a bit more to spend, but because of the size difference, you’re getting the equivalent of 24 pre-prepared pigs in blankets. When you do the sums, that means 19p each – a saving that’s definitely not to be sniffed at!
*Prices checked with Tesco on 14th December 2021. We don't receive any financial gain for displaying supermarket products.
Frozen food is the unsung hero of a Christmas food shop on a budget - particularly for party food and other nibbles, which come with a relatively short shelf-life. Shopping from the frozen section can work out much cheaper than buying fresh nibbles that you’d probably freeze when you get home, anyway.
Buying frozen can also be a great way to minimise your food waste over the festive period. Simply defrost and cook what you need, and the rest will still be ready and waiting the next time you need it.
Make the most of loyalty points
If you’ve been hanging onto your loyalty points and vouchers all year, then using them on the big Christmas food shop can be a great way to bring your bill down. Depending on the scheme, they can give you money off your total bill, extra points to spend another time, or coupons for specific items. If you use a coupon, though, make sure it’s for something you’d still buy at full price. If you’re only buying it because there’s money off, then you’re not getting the full benefit of the saving.
Ask everyone to bring a dish
Just because you’re hosting Christmas doesn’t mean you have to shoulder the responsibility for buying and preparing all the food and drink. Asking each of your guests to bring something can be a great way to share the load, both financially and in terms of responsibility. A word to the wise, though: make sure your guests let you know what they’re bringing and keep an eye on who’s bringing what. Otherwise, you could find everyone brings the same thing and you’re without a crucial component of your spread!
Disclaimer: All information and links are correct at the time of publishing.