For many of us, the best thing about Christmas isn’t unwrapping presents beneath the tree – it’s the opportunity to eat, drink and be merry. But while Christmas dinner is a meal most people look forward to for weeks, it can be so expensive that it leaves a sour taste in the mouth of whoever’s footing the bill.
UPDATE Christmas 2012 – to get our latest and most up to date inspiration for the season, including our Christmas taste test winners, gift ideas and financial advice, see our guide to having the best Christmas.
If you’re looking to enjoy festive food without the financial hangover this year, follow our seven top tips for cutting the cost of Christmas food and drink.
1. Compare prices and consider shopping online
Christmas food shopping is an annual ritual for many people – but trekking around the supermarket can be a torturous experience at this time of year. Online shopping isn’t for everyone, but it has certain advantages that come into their own at Christmas: you can order your groceries from the comfort of your sofa, you won’t be so easily tempted to spend on things you don’t need, and you
won’t have to fight fellow shoppers for the last bag of Brussels sprouts.
Better yet, you can compare the cost of buying your Christmas food online using MySupermarket.co.uk – a clever website that shows how much your shopping would cost if you ordered it from Ocado, Tesco, Sainsbury’s or Asda.
However, if you’re planning to order your festive food and drink via the worldwide web you’ll need to get your skates on and commit to a delivery slot. These get snapped up fast, so if you want groceries dropped off during Christmas week it’s a good idea to organise this now.
2. Take advantage of special offers
Those people prepared to brave the aisles are likely to find them littered with seasonal special offers. Buy one, get one free and 3 for 2 deals will be on offer from most supermarkets this Christmas, as the UK’s major retailers seek to outdo each other on price – so where these can save you money, take advantage of them.
Keep an eye on online forums such as HotUKDeals.com, where shoppers list the best bargains they can find. You may discover it’s worth making a special trip to a supermarket you wouldn’t usually visit if there are discounts available on specific items such as turkeys or champagne.
3. Budget and prioritise your Christmas spending
Indulgence is the name of the game at Christmas, but before you throw top-notch cranberry sauce and crackers into your trolley, ask yourself: are these really the items you want to splurge on?
Set yourself a budget before you start Christmas food shopping to ensure you’ll consider the price of items before you purchase them. Also, think about which Christmas foods you and your family really enjoy. Spend more on items you know you’ll savour, and go for budget options elsewhere.
4. Don’t believe the brand hype
During the festive season, common sense often disappears faster than chocolate Christmas tree decorations – but don’t let go of yours before you’ve done your Christmas food shopping.
High-end treats from top brands may seem especially tempting at the moment, but they’ll be no better value now than at any other time of year.
Smart shoppers know that posh packaging doesn’t always equal fantastic flavour – and this is backed up by recent Which? research which named Lidl’s £2.99 Christmas pudding a Best Buy.
5. Pick up bargain Christmas booze
Likewise, paying top brass for booze isn’t always worth it, as our taste testers discovered during the recent Which? review of champagnes.
While Lanson’s Black Label champagne (£28.99) was deemed the best tipple by the experts, Morrisons’ ‘The Best’ champagne (£19.99) ranked in second place, with Marks & Spencer’s De St Gall Premier Cru (£25) stealing third.
Other supermarket champagnes from the Co-Operative and Waitrose also performed well in the test, out-sparkling Moet & Chandon’s Brut Imperial and Veuve Clicquot’s Yellow Label champagne – both of which managed only mid-table rankings.
6. Do it yourself
Pre-trimmed and chopped vegetables certainly offer convenience and can be useful time-savers when you’re busy in the kitchen – but are they worth paying extra for?
Likewise, pots of premium, pre-mixed gravy and ready-to-serve gourmet canapés are tempting to the over-stretched chef. However, making as much food as you feasibly can from scratch will help stop your grocery bill spiralling out of control.
7. Don’t overdo it!
Finally, try to be realistic when Christmas food shopping. There is only so much a single family can eat, so don’t allow adverts, special offers and pretty displays to sway you.
Avoid buying 36 mince pies where 12 will do, and your wallet – not to mention your waistline – will be feeling far healthier in the New Year.
More money saving tips: Ways to save on Christmas | Ways to save on eating out
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