Christmas on a budget: 20 ways to save money on your Christmas food shop

Whether you’re hosting Christmas dinner, providing nibbles for visitors over the Christmas period or taking food as a goodwill gesture for friends and family as you descend on them, the weekly food budget is unlikely to suffice!

But, by being mindful of your budget and following these tips, you can save money on your Christmas food shop and get everything you need without breaking the bank. Be creative, keep it simple and remember that the holiday season is about spending quality time with loved ones.

Here’s how to cut back without spoiling the fun…

1. Set a budget

Start by determining how much you can / are willing to spend on your Christmas food shop – think about what you’ll need for the main dinner, snacks, hosting and other treats and make a detailed shopping list. Having a clear budget and plan in mind will help you to avoid impulse purchases, and you could always use cash envelopes to help keep things on track. Download and print my FREE Christmas Budget Planner to help you stay on budget.

free, printable, download, christmas budget planner, family, frugal mum, tracker, fill in

 

2. Reduce waste

One trap to avoid is overbuying. So much food goes to waste over the Christmas period, so try and plan the right amount for guests and buy freezer bits for any last minute visitors – they’ll keep for ages and can be used up in January if need be!

Any extras that don’t get eaten, such as biscuits and other sweet treats, don’t wait for them to go out of date; pop them into your local food bank collection and spread the Christmas joy! Most supermarkets have a food bank drop off point, particularly at Christmas time.

 

3. Avoid convenience foods

Pre-packaged, convenience foods are usually much more expensive than preparing meals from scratch, and personally I think it usually means you compromise on taste too! Cooking from scratch will usually save you lots of money.

To save time on Christmas morning, and make things feel more manageable, peel and chop your potatoes and veg the night before, and keep them in cold winter in the fridge so they’re ready to boil when you need them. (Just drain the water before you cook and replace it with fresh water.)

If you want to make things really simple, you can do your roasties even more in advance and parboil weeks before, just pop them into the freezer and they’ll be ready to roast when the big day comes.

 

4. Share the load

If you typically host a big Christmas dinner, get everyone on board and doing their bit instead. Ask guests to each bring something for the meal – there will be so much less cost, stress and effort involved that you’ll enjoy yourself more too.

If we do the main lunch, family will bring the food for the evening buffet, and vice versa. It means no-one has the burden of doing it all, and everyone can cook to their talents too!

frugal mum family eating christmas dinner in the kitchen

 

5. Shop in advance

Buy non-perishable items early to take advantage of sales and offers, it also helps to split the cost over a few weeks too. For things that do go out of date, make the most of your freezer – buy when things are reduced and store until the big day.

Work out the best time to visit your local supermarkets for the biggest ‘yellow sticker’ reductions – there will often be items reduced to pennies. You’ll most likely save at least 50-75% off of the original price, and it’ll be ready to defrost when you need it over the Christmas holidays.

 

6. Buy veg last minute

Take advantage of the supermarkets offering crazily cheap veg just before Christmas – you can get what you need for your festive dinner for pennies. I always buy extra to make casseroles and soups for the freezer for after Christmas as well – might as well make the most of it being cheap!

 

7. Stick to the essentials

Focus on the essential items that you’ll need for your Christmas dinner – the roast is the star of the show, so don’t get hung up on the rest of it. Homemade treats will keep everyone going in between times, so stock up on flour, sugar, eggs and butter for those, and try to avoid anything too fancy or complicated – my kids just live on sausage rolls, mince pies and cookies!

frugal mum children baking in kitchen, christmas biscuits

 

8. Compare prices

Compare prices at different stores, both in-store and online – take advantage of price comparison websites and apps to find the best deals, and have a good hunt in budget shops and supermarkets too.

 

9. Use vouchers and coupons

Look for money-off vouchers, coupons and discount codes that can be used for Christmas food items. Lots of supermarkets, like Sainsburys and Tesco, allow you to collect points every time you shop too. Save them year round to enjoy a big saving on your Christmas food bill when December arrives – you’ll be able to enjoy some festive luxuries without spending a penny!

 

10. Turkey wisely

Turkey is one of the most expensive things on the Christmas shopping list, and research shows that we cook enough turkey for one for every three people! Having said that, if you’ll utilise leftovers in turkey curries, pate, volovants and boxing day sandwiches over the Christmas period then you can make it go a long way.

To avoid overbuying, check the packet – it will usually advise on how many people it will feed, so don’t go crazy if you’re not a leftover user. It’s also much cheaper to buy your Christmas meat from frozen – just make sure that you leave enough time for it to defrost thoroughly.

turkey for christmas dinner

 

11. Choose frozen over fresh

Most of the time, frozen vegetables, fruit and meat is much affordable than fresh options and it’s often more nutritious too. Utilising your freezer reduces waste (as you’ll use only what you need), it also allows you to buy in advance, and often food is pre-chopped so it reduces your prep time too.

 

12. Opt for seasonal produce

Choose fruits and vegetables that are in season, and grown here in the UK – they tend to be less expensive and fresher too. So, when you’re doing your meal planning for visitors and parties over Christmas, think about which recipes will make the most of what’s in season.

 

13. Ignore best before dates

You’ll need to listen to use-by dates, but this isn’t the case with best before – if it looks ok and smells ok, it’ll probably taste ok! Make some bruschettas for your Christmas buffet with stale bread, or a yummy bread pudding for boxing day.

Crushed / broken / soft biscuits can be used as a base for cheesecake, lemon possets or chocolate fridge cake too. Fruit and veg past its best can be used to make soups, pies or smoothies. Vegetable soup is always my go to when we have vegetables looking sad in the fridge, and it’ll freeze beautifully to be enjoyed throughout January.

bruschetta leftovers for stale bread

 

14. Love your leftovers

Plan to use leftovers creatively in the days following Christmas to limit waste and save on future meals. Use the internet to find recipes to suit what you have, or check out my many posts on leftovers for lots of ideas, to make sure you waste as little as possible.

Most things can be turned into new meals or treats for later in the week, or fill your freezer and you’ll eat well all January…

Meat: Leftover meat can be used to make easy dinners like curries, soups, quesadillas, pies and stir-frys. And chicken or turkey can be quickly and easily turned into pate for an easy lunch with toast – check out my simple recipe.

Vegetables: Roast any leftover veggies with some tomatoes and blend to make soup or pasta sauce. Freeze into small portions, to defrost another day for an easy dinner.

Another delicious option for leftover veg is bubble and squeak. Mix with mash potato and cabbage for a tasty breakfast the next morning – quiches are also a fab way to use up leftover veg.

Potatoes: Roast potatoes can be frozen and recooked when needed – they’ll be nice and crispy after a second roasting too, so don’t bin the spare spuds!

Treats: Cake can be frozen so if you have any leftover don’t bin it – slice and pop into a freezable container. It defrosts really quickly so just get out in the morning to enjoy by lunchtime. You can also use leftover mince pies (or other yummy treats like yule log) to make delicious ice-cream – check out my recipe, it’s so easy!

 

15. Limit alcohol purchases

We don’t really drink now we’re old 😂 but alcohol can be a significant expense during the Christmas holidays, especially if you’re hosting others. Opt for budget-friendly options, try some DIY cocktail recipes and ask guests to bring a bottle, so that you don’t end up footing the bill alone.

 

16. Grab freebies with Olio

If you’re not yet on the Olio app then you’re definitely missing a trick. Food items that are almost out of date are listed for free for you to collect locally – it’s a great way to cut your shopping bill and try new things. Just request items you would like and let the lister know when you’re able to collect.

Pop your goodies into the freezer to keep things fresh, and plan your festive meals and treats around what you’ve collected. It’s great way to reduce food waste and your shopping bill at Christmas time and beyond! Check out my Olio post for more info: What is Olio? Stop waste and slash your food bill with the free food app!

olio food waste advert

 

17. Boycott brands

Where possible go for the supermarket’s own brand products. Branded items can be ridiculously expensive, and they’re often manufactured in the same factories as the store’s own brands. Be brave; swap and do a taste test on a cheaper alternative –  avoiding branded products could save you up to 30% off of your shopping bill!

 

18. Check use-by dates

This tip is largely for my husband 😂 – always check the use-by dates when you’re shopping to avoid waste. Last year, we ended up cooking up food planned for Christmas get-togethers before the big day – as the dates were short and my freezer was packed. So, check that the dates will work with your meals, and ensure that you’re not buying more than you can use before things expire.

 

19. Save your reward points

Lots of supermarkets, like Sainsburys and Tesco, allow you to collect points every time you shop. These points can be a great way to make the most expensive food shop of the year a little easier on the wallet – just save them year round and enjoy a big saving on your Christmas food bill when December arrives. You’ll be able to enjoy some festive luxuries without spending a penny!

tesco clubcard points

 

20. Do your own thing

If you’re not a fan of a roast, or your budget won’t allow for a big turkey, there’s nothing wrong with cooking something less expensive, or something you’d prefer to eat. My Sister-in-Law isn’t a fan of turkey, so we cook chicken instead when they come for Christmas dinner.

If you’re cooking for lots of people and want to keep it simple, you might just want to make a big batch of chilli to serve with baked potatoes, or a big curry. You can absolutely choose to make Christmas easier, cheaper and how you’d like it to be. So if money is limited, or you don’t fancy going down the traditional route, start your own tradition instead. Christmas is about people, not fancy meals or things, so do whatever makes you happy.

frugal mum family christmas photo

Trying to have an inexpensive Christmas?

Check out my article: Christmas without money – 30 tips for a DIY family Christmas on a small budget.

 

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