9 Ways to Save Money on Christmas Food

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Christmas is all about food and feasting. But what if you’re on a budget? Here are nine ways to save money on Christmas food and still enjoy a wonderful Christmas.

Christmas dinner has always been a big affair in our family. Roast turkey and roast pork along with all the trimmings. And later, Christmas pudding.

Two years ago I took over the cooking of the Christmas meal (well, I exaggerate, mum still did some most of it). After a long day in the kitchen cooking and washing dishes, I promptly decided that this is one Christmas tradition that can be laid to rest.

“We’ll have a simple fare, this year,” I announced to mum. And as mum is hosting Christmas this year, she was more than happy to agree.

On alternate years, we spend Christmas day with hubby’s extended family, and the Christmas meal is more of a casual bring-a-plate affair – one only has to provide a salad or a dessert or a BBQ chook. This makes Christmas dinner easy and inexpensive for everyone involved, including the host, but no less enjoyable.

Entertaining during the Christmas season can be almost as expensive as gift-giving, especially if you are hosting dinner for a crowd. Here are some ways to keep the cost of the Christmas dinner to a minimum, while still serving up a feast that celebrates the special occasion.

9 Ways to Save Money This Christmas on Food

Don’t forget to factor food into your Christmas budget. Here are nine ideas to keep the food budget down.

1. Set a budget and stick to it

It can be easy to go overboard at Christmas. Decide in advance how much you’re willing to spend on food and entertainment and pay cash not credit in order to stick to your budget.

2. Keep it simple

Christmas dinner doesn’t have to be a feast worthy of the cover of Gourmet Traveller magazine. Whether it’s a roast, or prawns on the beach, a simple meal, using seasonal ingredients, will taste delicious without costing a fortune.

3. Plan your menu in advance

Write out your Christmas menu, everything from drinks and nibblies to dessert and coffee and then write another list of everything you will need for the day. This will not only save your sanity, but you can also decide whether your menu plan fits your budget.

4. Track prices and time your purchases

Now that you have a Christmas day menu plan and shopping list, you can watch the store prices and buy items when they go on special. Meats can be purchased ahead of time and frozen. Nibbles and drinks can also be purchased when discounted and stored for the big day.

5. serve 5-star portions

The Christmas meal doesn’t need a belt-loosening, stuff yourself silly kind of fare. Just enjoyable.

Most of us worry about Christmas dinner going to our waist. Just as importantly, we don’t want food to go to waste either. Combat both possibilities by cooking and serving adequate instead of large portions. Guests can always go back for seconds and you can utilise the leftovers.

6. cook from scratch

Convenience foods save time, but they add up. Save by making your own nibbles and stuffing; buy fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables and prepare them yourself.

7. Scale back on the nibbles

There’s nothing worse than not being able to enjoy a lovingly prepared meal because you’re full of peanuts and potato chips. Nibbles can be pricey, so serve a small selection of choice appetisers to leave room for the main attraction.

8. Ask your guests to bring a plate

Apparently, bringing a plate is an Australianism – a beaut idea, which means it probably originates in New Zealand.

A family friend tells of when she was asked to bring a plate to a function, not long after she moved to Australia.

So she brought a plate.

In fact, she brought one for each of her family, thinking the host must be short on crockery.

Asking your guests to bring a plate means the burden of hosting a large Christmas meal doesn’t fall one just one person. In our family, the host organises a list of general dishes (‘salad’ or ‘dessert’ for instance), and everyone picks out what they will bring. That way you make sure that not everyone turns up with half a dozen bread rolls.

9. Drinks

The easiest way to save on drinks is to ask your guests to BYO. Alternatively, start early and keep an eye out for specials on both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. These can be stored months prior to the day.

Punch is a great way to serve alcoholic beverages because the cheaper juices stretch the more expensive alcoholic drinks further and may even help deter Uncle Bob from singing carols in his underwear.

Christmas dinner doesn’t have to blow the budget, even if you’re feeding a crowd. Plan ahead, buy food on sale and cook simple foods from scratch and you will have a feast for the occasion without the New Year budget hangover.

What are you having for Christmas dinner this year?

9 Ways to save money on the Christmas feast

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  1. Christeen says:

    Hi Had to laugh at #8. This happened to my hubby who is Dutch. He came to live in Australia with me and in the 2nd week at his first Aussie job there was a morning tea being arranged. A lady in the office told him to ‘just bring a plate’ which he thought was a little strange but he to thought that maybe they were short of plates when they have these events. Luckily he mentioned it to me and I naturally asked him what he want to take. He said we would just take one of the old Tupperware plates we had. I looked at him strangely and then it clicked that he thought he would just be taking a plate. When I explained that it meant you have to bring a food item to share he thought that we were crazy and why don’t we just say that. Anyway he told the lady at the morning tea and they had a good laugh about it. In fact it is still joked about at his work 10 years later.

    1. Melissa Goodwin says:

      Glad he had a laugh about it :). I’ve heard quite a few people who have moved here from different countries have similar stories.

  2. My extended family is huge, so we’ve always had everyone bringing something different to make up the meal, and it works well. We also do a Kris Kringle so everyone buys one present and gets one present.

    I’ve heard other stories about people being confused by the “bring a plate” thing. The funny thing is, if I was to ever have a party at my current place, I would need people to bring plates because I only own three :)

    1. Melissa Goodwin says:

      We need to do Kris Kringle in our family too. There’s just too many people to buy for otherwise. This year I just said ‘no presents!’ but a Kris Kringle would be better!

  3. Gabriele M Doyle says:

    One of the nicest things anyone gave me for Christmas was homemade cookies. They weren’t expensive, felt like that person was sharing their precious time, and were delicious. Years ago when I was flat broke, I found a can of antique gold spray paint, found some tins at Goodwill, and got fresh tissue paper. The people I gave them to never had time to bake and were just thrilled. This year I’m planning a repeat but with my homemade toffee. Also, I shop clearances all year long and store the gifts in my closet. I’ve been able to get nice items at 90% off that I would never have been able to afford otherwise.