Most of us won’t be celebrating Christmas 2020 in the pub, or going to parties or to the panto, so food could be more of a centrepiece than ever. No matter how big or small your gathering, here’s how to save money on your festive feast.
Plan your meals and decide on a budget
On average, Christmas dinner for six, from major supermarkets, will cost £57.39 (£9.56 a head) compared with £67.19 last year, according to the online price-tracking website Alertr.co.uk.
With a fixed guest list it can be cheaper to buy a box of everything you need for the main event rather than ingredients. Some big supermarkets are offering these, and there are a range of price points. Asda’s frozen Christmas dinner bundle is £14.90 and serves eight, making it less than £2 a head, or Morrisons has a festive feast with the best trimmings box (£50 for four), which includes cheese, crackers and a chocolate yule log. The frozen food retailer Cook has a vegan Christmas dinner for two people for £19.25.
It is also good to prioritise your spending and go cheaper where you can – if mince pies aren’t your thing, don’t bother. If you plan to douse them with cream or brandy butter, you could get Aldi’s for £1.49 for six rather than paying £2.50 for six all-butter mince pies at Waitrose. Other budget stretches include making your own gravy and homemade stuffing, and using your lockdown baking skills to make your own cake. (It can cost as little as 16p a slice with this Jack Monroe Christmas cake recipe.)
Sign up to food waste apps
You can slash the cost of your groceries by signing up to a food waste app. The Too Good To Go App, for example, allows you to buy and collect a “magic bag” from one of its partners, such as Morrisons, for £3.09.
“Inside the bag, there’s at least £10 worth of fruit, vegetables, bread or items from the deli counter,” says Belinda Hallworth, a spokesperson for Too Good To Go. “If it’s near its best-before date and you can’t eat everything straight away, you could freeze the contents.”
Olio is another option – through the app you can connect with your neighbours and share surplus food.
Or you could become a Food Waste Hero for the site. Once you have completed online training, you look out for notifications of when there is food available at Tesco, for example, (the food is only offered if there isn’t a charity available to collect it) and collect it. You can keep 10% of the food and you give away the rest through the app to friends and neighbours.
“It can take two or three hours one day a week,” says Saasha Celestial-One, a co-founder of Olio. “But it’s possible to get a lot of groceries this way, as well as save food waste. We’re expecting to do about 2,000 additional collections over Christmas.”
Buy less but buy higher quality
During lockdown, when getting a supermarket delivery slot was like gold dust, many people tried direct delivering from local producers, and it gave them a chance to try different produce, says Abbie-Lee Hollister, the marketing director at Fresh Farm Deliveries, a Yorkshire-based, family-owned business.
She says: “A lot of new customers found us in 2020. And now they’ve tried our grass-fed, free-range meats, for example, they realise it can be better value than supermarket meat – you can buy less because it’s higher quality and it goes a lot further.”
Sites such as Pasture for Life are a good starting place for buying meat, or there is a turkey finder on Countrysideonline, and Farming UK has links for vegetables, meat and dairy. And you don’t have to buy a whole bird (slow-reared, pesticide-free turkey legs are £10, for two, at Fosse Meadows, for example).
For vegetables, look for similar options. The Community Farm, which supplies Bristol and Bath, has Christmas vegetable boxes from £21. “It’s a bigger box than usual,” says its managing director, Kim Brooks. “And there’s an option to add a £3 donation to our Covid-19 fund, for those in a position to help others.”
For vegetables, there are lots of options, although many are subscription services. Parsnips and Pears does one-off orders including a mini Christmas veg box for two or three people for £12.49.
Support local shops, markets, and online specialist shops
Many markets, wholesalers and local shops went online during lockdown. Do a local search or use an app such as Shopappy.com to find ones near you or try sites such as Big Barn. There are also new delivery services, which started very quickly when Covid-19 hit, such as Wellocks at Home (subscribe to its newsletter for 10% off), which previously supplied Michelin-starred restaurants.
The greengrocer and wholesaler North West Produce is another example. It delivers veg boxes (from £10) around the Chester and Wrexham area. “The home delivery service really took off during the pandemic,” says its company director Ashley Jones. “Now we’re putting together festive boxes, with vegetables, clementines and dates.”
For vegetarian and vegan food, you may have to go further afield. There are specialist online supermarkets, such as Alternative Stores, and Ethical Superstore, which offer reasonable prices for dairy and meat alternatives. And at the Vegan Kind supermarket there is 10% off first orders, and everything from Tofurkey, to vegan non-dairy selection boxes and dairy-free camembert in stock.
Use your freezer
Buying frozen vegetables and fruit can be cheaper and just as healthy as fresh produce, and in the run-up to Christmas you can save cash by using your freezer instead of throwing anything away. For example, if the bread’s going stale, grate it or whiz it into breadcrumbs first, freeze it and use it for your stuffing. Not sure what to freeze? There’s a great list here from Hubbub. Freezing leftovers means you won’t waste food in the run-up to the big day, so you may not need to buy as much as you think. For recipe inspiration, check out the recipe hub and the #Cook4Christmas campaign from Olio and Love Food Hate Waste, which encourages everyone to use up leftovers.
Give food as a gift
Giving and getting food as a gift can be a good way to reduce your grocery spend this year (although this works best if you decide with family members beforehand). This year you could give vouchers to spend in local restaurants, offer to buy a takeaway as a treat or buy your loved ones a foraging course, and, who knows, they could learn how to find next year’s dinner for free.