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How to save on your Christmas dinner

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Christmas is a time of excess but there are still ways to save money. Here's how to enjoy your Christmas dinner this year even if you are on a tight budget.
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Christmas spending doesn’t just involve buying gifts. If you’re hosting Christmas Day, there's also the food to think about. Follow these 8 top tips for getting a good deal.

1. Use your points

If you have collected supermarket loyalty points throughout the year, you can use them at Christmas to save on your Christmas food shop.

Many retailers will have offers on Christmas products and you can collect points on these in the run up to Christmas. If you start collecting early enough, you will be able to save money by paying for your shop with points.

Always check your points online or on the app to keep track of how many you have before you go shopping.

2. Try something new

The Christmas turkey is the centrepiece of the Christmas dinner table. It may seem counterintuitive to move away from tradition at Christmas. But if you are open to change, you can make some great savings on the cost of your dinner.

Think about choosing a different meat this Christmas. Cheaper options for your Christmas dinner include goose, beef, chicken or pork. If you must have turkey, buy a frozen, rather than a pre-stuffed bird. You will usually pay half the price of a stuffed turkey and you're free to choose your own filling.

It’s also worth using an organic veg box. If you haven't subscribed to an organic or farm veg box before, take advantage of one of their offers for new customers this Christmas. Choose a box with the vegetables you would usually have for your Christmas dinner to save on buying organic vegetables at full price elsewhere.

3. Cater for everyone

If you're in charge of Christmas dinner this year, why not have a “free-from” meal to save costs as well as the hassle of multiple dishes? Meat and game are typically more expensive than vegetarian options, so something like a nut roast could mean you save on your budget (just watch out for allergies).

If you're cutting out dairy, swap out butter for oils like rapeseed or olive which you can continue to use for your general cooking. Use dark chocolate to create a dairy free dessert like dark chocolate truffles.

If you're buying ready-made foods it can be hard to avoid gluten but the traditional Christmas dinner can easily be made without it. Gluten free bread can be expensive but you can get it for a reduced price if you buy it near its expiry date. Freeze it straight away and take it out to make breadcrumbs when you're preparing the stuffing.

4. Start planning early

Christmas food is on sale as early as October so spread the cost and purchase over time with your regular shop. Keep an eye out for special offers, check expiration dates before you buy and keep a list so that you don't forget what you already have!

Stocking up on non-perishables is easy, but you can also buy items like cheese in advance and freeze them. Just make a note to take them out in plenty of time before the big day so they can defrost.

Use the vouchers you get along with your receipts to save money on specific products. It's usually cheaper to buy in bulk so if you buy a bigger turkey than you need, plan for turkey based dishes on Boxing Day too.

Check your cupboards for unused seasoning and unopened tins of food. If you do this in advance you can find ways to use them over the Christmas period. For example, beans can go into one-pot stews along with leftover meat and vegetables. You can also use it to make a side dish on Christmas Day.

5. Ditch the big brands

There's no need to pay over the odds for big brand names, even if they do have fancy Christmas packaging (which will probably go straight in the bin). Try swapping out the big brands for supermarket own-brands to see if anyone notices the difference. You’ll certainly notice a difference in your food bill.

6. Make your own

Alcohol is one of the most expensive grocery purchases at Christmas. If you serve mulled wine you can use a less expensive bottle of red and save on your alcohol budget. Making it in your kitchen will add a wonderful Christmas scent that will fill your home. Mulled cider could work out even cheaper and both are very easy to make.

Canapés and roast potatoes are also easy to make and cheaper than buying ready-prepped options. You can save even more money by avoiding pre-chopped vegetables and getting others involved in this prep instead.

If you can fit it all in, save on heating costs by cooking your meat, potatoes and vegetables at the same time. This means you won't have to reheat one dish while the others are being cooked.

7. Take advantage of introductory offers

If there is a supermarket you haven’t shopped with online before, look out for money off vouchers for your first shop (so long as they deliver to your address). Or, if you want to buy wine in bulk, look for discounts with wine clubs like Laithwaites, Naked Wines or Virgin Wines. If you don’t want to use them again, be sure to cancel your subscription. 

8. Start new traditions

This Christmas could be the time to decide if you even want turkey. What are your family's favourite dishes? You don't have to follow a rule when it comes to what you eat on Christmas Day.

Find inspiration online and in supermarkets for ways to add elements from a traditional Christmas dinner into your favourite foods. If they are in season they could result in a cheaper dinner this year.

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About Salman Haqqi

Salman is our personal finance editor with over 10 years’ experience as a journalist. He has previously written for Finder and regularly provides his expert view on financial and consumer spending issues for local and national press such as The Express, Travel Daily, and The Daily Star.

View Salman Haqqi's full biography here or visit the money.co.uk press centre for our latest news.

About Salman Haqqi (personal finance expert)

View Salman Haqqi (personal finance expert)'s full biography here or visit the money.co.uk press centre for our latest news.