How to spend less on Christmas food and drink

As we get closer to Christmas, it’s time to start picking up some of your fave festive food and drink. But if you don’t pay attention it’s easy for all these treats to burn a hole in your wallet.

When people choose their favourite meal, they often say Sunday roast. Well for me it’s Christmas dinner. The king of roasts. Love it.

Throw in everything else consumed on the day, and I’ve pretty much always eaten too much. I think that’s OK. It’s nice to allow ourselves a little bit of indulgence at Christmas. But the flip side of this excess is that we also waste a huge amount of money.

A big contributor to this overspending is buying more than we need. That’s more than we need even after overeating. There’s still always loads leftover. For many that means a huge amount of grub ending up in the bin. You may as well have thrown the cash itself away.

But there’s also the extra cost of more expensive things we wouldn’t buy the rest of the year, from big turkeys to posh chocs. It’s nice to have these luxuries, but not if you can’t afford it.

So how do you still enjoy your festive feast, but get the best value possible? I’ve got a few ideas.

Shop smart

Make a list

Really basic, but it’s the best money saver. You’ll know who you need to feed and when, whether that’s just yourself or whether the whole family is over. So work out exactly what you’ll need, and write it all down. Then only buy what’s on that list. Don’t forget to check your cupboards and freezer for any ingredients you already have.

Be wary of the offers

While you’re rolling your trolley around the aisles, you’re no doubt be tempted by special offers. But if you don’t need three bottles of coke, don’t buy three bottles.

Though of course, if there’s something you need on offer, nab it while you can – just make sure you can use it all before the expiration dates. 

> More on the tricks supermarkets play

Shop around

If you have the time and have a few supermarkets close to you, it’s worth getting different things at different supermarkets. Say you want to get a nicer turkey from M&S or Waitrose, it’s far cheaper to get your veg from an Asda or Tesco. So if it’s easy to split the shop, then do it. The MySupermarket website and app is useful to quickly compare prices.

Here’s an example of the importance of shopping around from my Channel 5 series Shop Smart Save Money last year.

Prioritise where you want to pay more

At Christmas there are always certain things you like to spend a little more on. It could be going for a posher brand or higher quality. But do too much of this and it can blow your budget. So you need to pick the ones which really matter to you. For example, I think it’s really important to get a free-range turkey, so that will always be picked first.

Go own brand

For those non-priorities, you can spend less by trying own brand equivalents. You might always buy a bottle of Baileys, but most supermarket own-brand versions taste exactly the same – but cost less. M&S for example usually has half-price offers on their versions. I picked up their tasty chocolate coconut version for £6.

Check the value of festive packs

We had some friends over for Christmas drinks at the weekend. I got some cheese from a nice local cheese shop (saving money thanks to Amex’s Shop Small promotion), but picked up a variety pack of biscuits at Asda. The quantity was pretty good in the box, but when I opened it, around a third were Jacob’s cream crackers – which I hate! And there were only four of my favourite – a digestive. I’d probably have been better off buying three packs of standard biscuits.

Book your online delivery slot

Slots are bookable at all the major supermarkets, but some those slots around Christmas could already be taken. So if you’re relying on a delivery you better book it quick.

Wait for some reduced deals

Longtime readers will know I’m a little addicted to buying reduced food! I’m both slightly ashamed and proud at the same time. Well, the days before Christmas are some of the best days of the year to snap up clearance food.

Since many shops will shut both Christmas Day and Boxing Day, there’s a lot of food that will need to be cleared from the shelves. And if you work somewhere like the City of London where the small supermarkets usually shut their doors on a Friday, they might not even reopen on Christmas Eve – this year on a Monday. So there could be even more days of food to be sold off!

It’s obviously a risk if you want Christmas food, but if you do fancy a Christmas Eve trip you will hopefully pick up some bargains. Just make sure there’s room in the freezer!

Eating and cooking

Do it yourself

Yeah, I know. With all the stress sometimes you just want to make catering easier. But if you’ve got a little time, you can make some extras for the table for less than buying pre-made.

Sausage rolls are a great example that don’t take too long and taste better. Pigs in blankets too. It’s literally bacon wrapped around a small sausage.

OK, I get it can be a stressful day cooking for everyone, so some pre-prepared food can be a big help – and that’s the only excuse I’ll accept for anyone buying a tray of roast potatoes rather than a pack of spuds.

Use your leftovers

Turkey sarnies, turkey curry… It’s possibly the one time of year where we actively enjoy using up leftovers – but think about everything you’re cooking, not just the turkey, and how you can reuse it.

Also don’t forget to check the use by dates of anything in the fridge so you use it up before it goes off.  If you don’t think you can finish them before that date, many Christmas goodies can be frozen, including stuff like cheese and cake.


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