Festive Frugal Feasting


Every year I used to tear my hair out around Christmas. Between the numerous gifts for people I wouldn't even consider close friends, the organic free range goose, the 16 bottles of obscure spirits and liqueurs, the decorations and the nibbles I'd be left after Christmas with a bloated stomach and a bare bank account. No more! Now we have a much leaner (both financially and physically) festive season and can enter the new year without a hint of remorse.

Food is one of the main areas where most of us tend to go over the top at this time of year. According to the Love Food Hate Waste campaign, the equivalent of 2 million turkeys is thrown out by UK households every festive season.

Feeling sick yet? Here are a few tips to help you have a frugal festive feast rather than a financial flop!

Pool resources with your family


This year, we are providing the food for brunch, my mother is buying the booze and my in laws are cooking the Christmas meal.

Our shop this week came to just over £50 including all the ingredients for our brunch, some food for
the week and cat food. If you're having family over, don't be afraid to ask them to contribute somehow. They'll probably be happy to!

Only buy what your family will eat


When you pick up 36 mince pies for your 6 person family think "do we all like mince pies?" and "will we want 6 each!?" The same goes for veg and other trimmings. Anything left can be whizzed into a soup or made into bubble and squeak patties, but surely it's best not to overbuy and be left eating the same food for days on end, or worse...binning it!

If you've bought a huge turkey, dig out some recipes for the leftover meat and make sure you have the ingredients to make them with. If your family really can't bear the thought of yet more turkey, why not whip up a big curry on boxing day and freeze it into portions for dinners later in the year?

If you're frightened of running out of food don't just panic buy. Why not prepare an extra family meal in case of a food shortage emergency and freeze it? I'll bet my bottom dollar you end up eating it in January!

Spend time rather than money


The aforementioned brunch is a bit of a Christmas tradition in our house.

I spent all day yesterday in the kitchen making pastry, quiches and preparing hor d'ouvres which we will all nibble on whilst my daughter opens her Christmas presents.

I could buy a cheap quiche in the supermarket, but it wouldn't seem like a treat. I've made homemade flaky pastry and my filling is prepared using eggs from our chickens and other ingredients that are cheap or reduced. Something made with love will always taste better than a prepackaged, additive-ladened supermarket alternative, and getting the kids involved doubles the exercise up as a free way to keep them entertained.
Another hour d'ouvres idea I picked up from the BBC show Eat Well For Less? was bacon wrapped hasselback potatoes. All I had to do was slice deeply into small potatoes, wrap in bacon and cover in a generous grinding of black pepper. A kilo of potatoes and a pack of bacon yields about 25 hefty nibbles, which is sure to be a crowd pleaser.

All I'll need to do on Christmas morning is pop them in the oven for half an hour.

Know where you can use cheap ingredient cheats


Smoked salmon trimmings

Smoked salmon is a classic Christmas breakfast treat, but a pricey one! I whip up a pâté using smoked salmon trimmings, value cream cheese, lemon juice and herbs. Served in a dish with a garnish it looks luxurious and appetising, but is a frugal alternative to ladening bagels with huge slices of premium fish.

Baked Goods

Bread freezes beautifully and is often the easiest thing to find reduced in my local supermarket. From November, keep an eye out for reduced bagels, posh breads and whatever other treats your family like to eat during the festive season. I often manage to pick up organic seeded loaves for around 20p - that's cheaper than it costs me to make them!

Cava

Every year we have Bucks Fizz with breakfast (because if you can't start drinking at 10am on Christmas Day, when can you?!) Here is where I must admit we've had years where the Bollinger is cracked out, but as soon as you slosh in a load of orange juice, the wine itself becomes practically indiscernible from your run of the mill sparkling wine. Do yourself a favour and pick up a cheap sparkling wine for a fiver - if you're worried about what your guests think then make up the Bucks Fizz before they arrive and serve it in a fancy jug.

Know your basics

I've never had any issue with value range flour, and basics blue cheese is great in a quiche - try them before you turn your nose up at them, and you could save a pretty penny. Quite often basics goods are either priced the way they are because of packaging or -in the case of vegetables - because they aren't shaped the way we expect them to be!


I'm still learning how to balance my wallet, my time and our enjoyment of life, but I'm certain Christmas this year will be just as wonderful as it was when I spent thousands...and I know I'll enjoy January much more!!

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