Let’s cut to the chase: Christmas is not the most pennywise time of year for even the most frugally conscientious amongst us.
There’s something about this time of year which demands a generous spirit, which, if you’re not rolling in cash (or just by nature a bit of a scrooge) can be a little challenging. It’s not just the gifts your great Aunt’s brother-in-law’s cat expects, or the postage for the 289 cards that you ‘must’ send to long lost contacts (despite talking to them regularly on social media), but the hosting and cooking can start to add up too. And if you’re anything like me, you don’t want to scrimp at this time of year; Christmas deserves a bit of luxury.
There’s also great joy in giving your guests a decadent festive culinary experience; no one wants to be a miser at this time of year. And if food is your go-to way of showing people you love them, then creating lavish festive fare can be a great way to show affection and care.
So how do you create mouthwatering Christmas meals without eating too far into your bank account? Follow these 4 simple tips:
Plan to use leftovers
I know the old adage of “fail to prepare then prepare to fail” is sacrosanct, but when it comes to catering for Christmas it really couldn’t be truer. And if you’re wise, you can plan to use the stuff that most people leave at the back of the fridge for weeks, or even worse, chuck in the bin. I take the principle of actually “planning in” my leftovers to my Christmas meal schedule, ensuring that the day after a large meal, I use up scraps of meat in a risotto or pasta dish, using the stock that I’d made from the turkey carcass.
I love making the most of roasted veggies and making soup for a tasty dinner, alongside the remaining cheese from the cheeseboard and some crusty bread. And there isn’t anything more satisfying than creating tiffin or rocky road out of the leftover chocolates that fussy scavengers leave in the bottom of the tin after a good rummage.
Make the most of humble alternatives
There’s no rule written in stone that Christmas day’s main event needs to be an 8kg Organic, Free Range, Bronze Turkey. Just because it’s tradition doesn’t mean you need to carry it on (unless you want to, that is). A humble joint of ham is significantly cheaper that a roast bird, but still extremely Christmassy (try poaching in ginger ale first then roasting in the oven, basting with a syrup of honey, ginger ale and marmalade). And typically festive treats like smoked salmon can be replaced by cheaper alternatives such as smoked trout (still lusciously rich and luxurious).
In terms of booze, Champagne can be forgone for a wallet friendly but traditional, good quality cava. Nobody will guess that the bubbles are not French.
Shop at German Supermarkets
Ok, so this is one of my grocery shopping absolutes at any time of year (I LOVE Aldi and Lidl, if you haven’t already picked that up), but Christmas is a particular forte of the German supermarket. Marzipan treats, spiced biscuits, chocolate covered nuts, Gluhwein, pannetone (prosecco and apricot flavour dontcha know) are just some of the festive items you can get at your local German supermarket.
Lidl and Aldi have really monopolised on the idea of ‘luxury for less’, and whilst I can’t vouch for the quality of some items, you can purchase things such as whole cooked lobster, and oak roasted dressed side of salmon, which give you waitrose-esque snippets of luxury at a snip of the price.
Bulk up the sides
Everyone loves a good roasted potato, or some pan fried brussels with a few bacon lardons (well, almost everyone- I’m aware that sprouts are not to everyone’s taste). Quality stuffing is to die for, and a creamy cauliflower cheese is the height of decadence.
Put simply, in the world of Christmas dinners, sides are king.
For many people, the accompaniments are even better than the main event. I’m a massive fan of parsnips (drenched in maple syrup and oil and shoved in a blisteringly hot oven) and could eat hundreds of them on Christmas day. Their uniquely comforting sweet-savouriness makes Christmas for me.
So, by making the most of scrumptious side dishes, you can cut down on the amount of meat you need to serve each person. To be honest, most people over estimate how much meat people can and should eat, so aiming lower on the protein, and bigging up the veggies can help financially, as well as on the health front too.
So enjoy your Christmas.
May it be merry, peaceful, and exceedingly pennywise.