Potatoes: $5.00. Ham: $65.00. Seafood: $100. Wine: $300. Christmas feast with loved ones: priceless.
While this is a nice sentiment, it’s also wildly untrue. Christmas is far from cheap. We spend more in one day than we might in a standard week. Why? Well, presents, of course, but also, food—and lots of it.
If you’re anything like my family, Christmas is centred around food. We start with a big breakfast which is almost always followed by exclamations like, “I’m so full I couldn’t possibly eat lunch.” And yet half an hour later we will be snacking on grapes or crackers. We then have a “small” sandwich that certainly wouldn’t constitute lunch and graze our way into dinner which is followed by a second helping and then dessert.
Feeding twelve people for twelve hours comes with a pretty hefty grocery bill. But there are some things we could do to reduce it. Read on to buy less, eat less and waste less this Christmas.
It might seem like common sense but most people don’t actually set a budget for the festive season. If you know how much you have to work with it’ll prevent you from going overboard. Start with an overall amount and break it down into categories so you know exactly how much you’re spending and where.
Write. Everything. Down. Think about your day and the number of guests you are expecting and write a grocery list that includes everything you will need along with the exact amounts. From breakfast to dinner, and everything in between—and don’t forget drinks. Not only will this prevent you from perusing the grocery aisles (read: buying what you don’t need), it’ll ensure you haven’t forgotten anything come Christmas day when it’s too late.
Once you know exactly what you need, make sure you don’t already have it on hand. You probably have a pantry full of food that could be used if you think creatively. Planned for cous cous but have quinoa in the cupboard? Be flexible with sides that won’t detract from tradition.
Although the festive season might seem like the busiest time of year, you’ve had 365 days to prepare for it. You knew it was coming. Get organised by looking for deals early and store/freeze them for the big day. Even starting your Christmas shopping early in December (as opposed to the week before) could save you a lot on the final bill.
It may seem like a lot of forethought but buying in bulk and storing what will keep for December could make a big difference. This is particularly helpful for things that you will actually use all year round, like wine and meat. Buy deli meats in large quantities and slice them yourself.
For me, cranberry sauce is Christmas. It’s strange but I love it. Perhaps for you, it’s gravy or tomato chutney that fills the festive hole. Whatever your can’t-celebrate-without Christmas item, convenience foods add up so instead of buying them, try making your own. In fact, DIY wherever possible. This includes stuffing, nibbles and more. But remember to prep prior to December 25th to save time (which is money).
I’ve already admitted that my family are grazers. On Christmas day we snack a lot but it’s safe to say we’re not alone. Picking is one of the main reasons we all over-eat during the festive season. Cut back on the nibbles you have in between meals and your wallet (and scales) will thank you.
All of the major supermarkets now include a range of “imperfect” fruit and vegetables that are sold on the cheap. They may look a little odd but they taste just the same and the ugly ducklings can be up to 50% cheaper than their more fortunate siblings.
Not only does seasonal produce tend to taste better, it’s cheaper, too. If you’re in Australia, make a pavlova and fill it with mangoes and berries. It’s fitting for this time of year.
If you’re planning for a large number of guests, asking them to bring their own boozes is totally acceptable. Alcohol can be the most expensive item on the list (and often the largest quantity) so cutting back on this one can certainly help. If you’d like to supply some yourself, why not make a punch? It’ll make the spirits—and your guests—last longer.