7 Top tips for planning your Christmas dinner

With festivities kicking off early this year the Christmas dinner wars are hotting up already. There’s no need to compromise on quality, flavour or abundance this Christmas if you’re on a budget. By starting early and being prepared, you can spread the cost and take advantage of various offers and discounts – perfect for saving money at this expensive time of the year!

Shop around

This might seem obvious but it’s easy to forget with everything else that’s happening. Lots of shops and supermarkets will be offering discounts in the run up to the festive season and you can check most of them out online with supermarket comparison sites to get the best prices and offers. You’ll often find one is offering a bargain price for veggies, while another is the best place for turkey.

Smart food swapping

Instead of compromising the flavour and abundance of your Christmas meal, why not consider swapping out pricier ingredients for cheaper varieties? Don’t be fooled by the phrasing and promotional language shops use to trick us into thinking that the priciest option is the best. It’s a simple but effective trick and none of your guests will be any the wiser. Supermarket comparison site MySupermarket includes a ‘trade down’ option to help you out.

Choose your meat wisely

This will probably be the most expensive item on your Christmas table, with cost varying from as little as £12 for a 4kg bird to a top-end bird coming in closer to £80. Thankfully, there is a middle ground with free-range white turkeys if you and the family are set on having a turkey. However, if you are looking to try something new then gammon joints are pound for pound cheaper than buying a turkey, and there’s no question that a succulent and simple glazed roast ham makes a mouthwatering centrepiece.

Buy a bigger bird

This might seem counterintuitive, but if you’re thrifty when it comes to using up leftovers you could make your bird stretch to several other meals. It’s often cheaper per kilo to buy a large bird, especially when buying from online or the farm gate.

Or buy a smaller bird

However, if you often end up throwing away leftovers you’ll be better off buying only what you need. You can even opt for a smaller bird than you think. Keep costs down by replacing some of that weight with a sausagemeat stuffing. Make it even more cost-effective by bulking it out and adding texture with breadcrumbs and an egg or two (freeze stale crusts throughout the year to make breadcrumbs).

Make it yourself

Yes, it might be more time consuming, but if you plan ahead then making your own Christmas goodies can be a lot of fun. Foods that you prepare yourself will almost always be cheaper than ready-made versions from the supermarket. Why not try making your own gravy? The giblets and the roasting juices will provide all the flavour you’ll need, along with a spoonful of flour, an optional chicken stock cube and a splash of wine if you’ve got a bottle open. Why not try this traditional gravy recipe or this vegetarian recipe instead?

And finally . . . before you buy anything, check your cupboards!

Many of us have forgotten old jars of mincemeat, half eaten packets of dried fruit and a selection of tins and boxes in our cupboards. If this describes you, then before you start anything take stock of what you already have in your cupboard and you could be halfway towards making mincemeat or even your own Christmas pudding or Christmas cake.