Christmas on a Budget: Food
Christmas and good food: name a more iconic duo. But it’s hard to enjoy a delicious meal if you’re anxious about how much it all cost. We’ve put together this guide to cut down your Christmas food bill without compromising on this special time with friends and family.
Read more: Christmas on a budget: Gifts
MAKE OR FORAGE BEFORE YOU BUY
New Zealand is full of tasty treats waiting for someone to stumble across them. You can go berry-picking in the days leading up to Christmas to find the perfect topping to the pavlova. It’s a fun activity that the whole family can get stuck into, and it can help you save heaps on the food bill come dinner time. Start here with Stuff’s awesome article on popular foraging spots for everything from fruit & nuts to herbs & spices.
If you don’t fancy foraging, you can still save by taking the time to make Christmas treats you’d normally buy. Gingerbread, pavlova, even Christmas cake isn’t tough to find solid recipes for, but remember: make sure you practice before the big day if you aren’t already a whizz in the kitchen. You might end up wasting ingredients if you mess up, and that can cost more than just buying a pre-made option!
DON'T BE AFRAID TO BREAK TRADITION
Don’t be afraid to be rebellious! A lot of traditions we have in NZ are based on the cold winter Christmases of the UK and the US. This is your chance to try something new, save some money and make it your own!
First, rather than going out and spending money on the very American (and very pricey) turkey, have a look at what’s already in the pantry that could work for a Christmas meal. Making a list is a good idea, and see if you can pair dishes together before heading to the supermarket. And don’t be afraid of making an animal protein (chicken, beef, ham, whatever you’re going for this year) a side dish rather than the main event. With the rise of alternative diets, there’s a huge choice in plant-based dishes out there.
Of course, if you’re set on going all-out on the meat, consider going for a cheaper cut. The BBC has some great budget recipes to up the whanau without breaking the bank.
MAKE IT AN EXPERIENCE, NOT JUST A MEAL
It’s not (only) about the volume of food at Christmas: it’s about the experience. Rather than going for quantity, try going for quality this year and save some cash along the way. Here’s a few easy tricks:
Split the one big Christmas dinner out into multiple meals. You could have a Christmas breakfast or brunch and a smaller dinner, ensuring that people don’t starve themselves in anticipation of the gluttonous feast at the end of the day.
Also make sure you use any leftovers at the end of a big meal. The BBC has a lots of helpful leftover recipes that turn Christmas dinner into Boxing Day breakfast, lunch, and maybe even dinner again.
Don’t be tempted by extravagant recipes that call for two dozen or more ingredients, most of which you’ll never use again. Instead, keep it simple. Dress up something basic or try just one extra ingredient to make it special (sausages + bacon = pigs in a blanket). You could even take a recipe you’ve mastered and serve that at Christmas. Here are a few everyday recipes that could be Christmas-ified with a little bit of thought into presentation. And here are some more, if those don’t tempt you.
It wouldn’t be a Christmas meal without a well-set table with decorations either. Try making your own this year to save some money and add a personal touch. Here’s a simple DIY decoration guide, or head over to our complete guide to budget Christmas decorations.
COLLABORATE AND SAVE
Christmas is a time to come together and celebrate; why not extend that to the kai as well?
The more guests you have at Christmas time, the more expensive it gets. You can reduce the cost by asking people to bring a plate. For best results, frame it as an opportunity for the whanau to show off their skills in the kitchen and to really find out who does the best roast potatoes. Pro-tip: if you’re going for a classic Kiwi Christmas BBQ, just ask people to bring any meat they’d like to put on the grill. Then all you have to do is deal with the vegetables.
Speaking of working together, have you considered cow- or lamb-pooling with your friends or neighbours? This is when a big group of people chip in to buy a whole or half ‘beast’ and divvy up the products between them. Everybody saves money, you get a wide range of meats that’ll likely last you the whole holidays, and it’s as simple as putting in an order. You’ll find a few examples of places you can order from below.
It does require some planning, so make sure you get onto it sooner rather than later.
SAVE AT THE SUPERMARKET WITH A CHRISTMAS CLUB
All the major supermarkets have a Christmas Club. Being a member of one of these clubs usually involves having a special savings account that you top up throughout the year. Come December, the supermarket will release the funds and give you an extra 5% of whatever you’ve put in. It’s designed to give you a little more at Christmas time. The sooner you get in, the better the bonus, so make sure you consider joining as early as January if possible.
Of course, if you’re reading this close to Christmas, that isn’t much help! Instead, check out our guide to saving on grocery bills for easy ways to reduce your spending right now.
Happy holidays from the Avanti Finance team! If you’re looking for other ways to reduce how much you need to spend at Christmas, check out our other guides on budget decorations, activities, and gifts.