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1 Dec 2021

12 ways to save money on your Christmas food shop

How to cut the cost of your festive food shop and avoid excess waste
Serving Christmas dinner

Christmas comes with certain expectations. These may be different for everyone, but there's no doubt there's often plenty of pressure to spend.

The cost of festive feasts can really add up, especially with the current squeeze on living costs, but there are ways to cut the cost of your Christmas dinner - and avoid getting stuck with excess food waste.

We've rounded up tips and tricks to help save money on your food shop this Christmas, including being clued up about which supermarket is cheapest (and has the tastiest food) and knowing how much turkey you really need to feed all your guests.

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1.Plan your meals and write a list

Writing a shopping list

It sounds obvious, but pre-planning meals and writing a list of exactly what you need is one of the best ways to save money. It should help you stick to buying the essentials where possible, and reduce waste too.

The earlier you plan, the more you can factor in shopping around, or buying in stages to spread the cost, if you'll have the time.

For example, festive spices such as cinnamon sticks and star anise are normally better value in health food stores than in large supermarkets (where you'll get a small handful in a tiny jar).

Planning ahead should also mean you don't have to head at the last minute to a smaller convenience store , which can often be pricier.

If you've got a fixed guestlist, you might also be able to cut costs and waste by buying a Christmas food box instead:

  •  Tesco's Finest Christmas Dinner for two costs £17.50 per person and includes turkey with all the trimmings, plus a bottle of champagne, a Christmas pudding and some Christmas crackers - available from Tesco
  •  The Hello Fresh Christmas box -includes all the main ingredients, plus a non-traditional dessert and optional extra cheeseboard, also starts from £17.50 per head but can cater for up to 10 people - available from Hello Fresh

Our Christmas food and drink taste tests also uncovered plenty of great-value supermarket buys this year: discover the best mince pies, champagne, red wine and ground coffee.

2. Prep at home where you can

Making homemade gravy

If you've got the time, it can help to make some dishes at home, as buying premade convenience food is often more expensive.

Gravy, for example, can be made using roasting juices from your meat (and giblets if you have them), a spoonful of flour - and a splash of wine if you've already got a bottle open. You can add a stock cube if juices are thin on the ground.

Buying individual cheeses rather than a ready-made cheese board can sometimes be cheaper, too, and avoid you getting stuck with a solitary cheese that nobody really likes.

Mince pies, pigs in blankets and mulled wine are just a few of the other popular festive treats that you can make at home, some of which you can make in advance to minimise effort on the day, including making your own Christmas pudding.

See our guide on how to make perfect slow-cooker mulled wine or watch our video below to find out how to make mince pies.

3. Choose a cheaper supermarket

Depending on where you shop, switching supermarket could shave money off your shopping bill, according to our monthly price analysis.

Each month we compare prices for a trolley of groceries at eight of the big supermarkets to reveal the cheapest place to shop.

This month, we also compared supermarket prices for typical Christmas dinner ingredients, and Aldi came out cheapest, closely followed by Asda.

See the full breakdown in our story on the cheapest supermarket for Christmas dinner, and keep an eye on our regularly updated supermarket price comparison guide.

4. Know when to buy own-label over branded

Food in a shopping trolley

Don't be fooled into thinking paying more for big brands will guarantee great-tasting food and drink.

Own-brand foods are usually much cheaper, and our taste tests have found plenty that are actually rated better in blind taste tests than their premium alternatives.

Find out which own-label products topped our tests, and the big brands our tasters do think are worth forking out for in our round-up of the best food and drink.

5. Sign up to food waste apps

Taking a picture of vegetables on a phone

Cut costs and help to prevent perfectly edible food products from being thrown away by signing up to a food waste app.

The Too Good To Go app allows you to buy and collect 'magic bags' from different supermarkets, cafes, health stores, butchers and fishmongers near you. Each bag normally costs around £3-£5 and includes a selection of food and drink depending on the retailer.

You can't pick what goes in the bag, and the best-before dates will usually be quite short, but you can always freeze items.

You could also link up with your neighbours using the Olio app, which allows you to connect with people nearby to help share out surplus goods.

Watch our video review of food waste apps.

6. Get the right-sized turkey

It's worth working out how much food you'll need per person as part of your planning, to minimise over-buying.

For joints of meat, you can normally work this out by weight. For example, you will need 300g to 400g of turkey per person, so for four people you'll only need to buy a 1kg turkey crown.

Supermarket offers are terrible for temptation, too. 'Half price' and 'Buy one, get one free' stickers will be everywhere in the lead up to Christmas, but remember it's not a good deal if you don't really need the extra items, particularly if they have a short shelf life.

Hosting more than four guests? Find out what size turkey you'll need in our guide on how to cook a turkey crown. Or, head to our list of the best luxury salted crisps for some top-quality nibbles.

7. Freeze what you can

From freezing leftovers to stocking up on reduced-price freezable fresh items, your freezer can make staying frugal much easier.

It's also worth looking at what you can buy frozen instead of fresh - the food will keep for ages, it's less likely to be wasted and you can use only what you need.

Fruit and veg is a particularly good place to start. You'll quickly notice the cost savings, too. Per kilo, you can expect to spend around £1.57 for fresh broccoli and only 86p for frozen.

It can be healthier too - frozen veg are steam-blanched immediately after harvesting, and flash-frozen, to ensure they're preserved at their peak taste and nutritional value.

Frozen turkeys are typically cheaper, although you'll need plenty of space in the freezer. You can see which frozen supermarket turkeys are best in our guide to the best places to buy your Christmas food.

We've also got results for the best frozen roast potatoes if you're looking to save time prepping food on Christmas Day.

8. Check the reduced items

Reduced food at a supermarket

While it's best to avoid offers you don't need, keeping an eye on the reduced aisle can be handy.

As we get closer to the big day, supermarkets might start to drop the prices of some surplus Christmas-themed food and drink, so you may be able to bag some bargains.

Just double-check the use-by date and be sure it's something you'll use.

See our top tips on how to spend less at the supermarket.

9. Consider alternatives to turkey

Cooked roast chicken

Turkey might be the traditional Christmas meat in the UK, but if you're looking to cut costs it could be worth considering a swap.

Chicken is much cheaper (and some might argue tastier) and will go perfectly with your roast potatoes and stuffing. A shoulder of pork is also a more affordable option for meat eaters.

Or if you're looking to cut back on meat - why not try a veggie centrepiece instead?

Find out what all the big shops are selling this year in our supermarket Christmas food guide and supermarket vegan Christmas mains round-up.

10. Make the most of money-off schemes, loyalty points and coupons

Using shopping coupons

Coupons can really help your budget go further. You can find them in supermarket magazines or promotions on food packaging. Supermarket newsletters regularly feature offers, and websites like SuperSavvyMe and CaringEveryday provide printable coupons direct from the manufacturer.

You can also download money-saving coupon apps such as Shopmium and Checkoutsmart.

If you aren't a regular online grocery shopper, most supermarkets have introductory offers. These can have quite a high minimum spend, but this could work out well if you're planning a big festive shop.

Simply search your local supermarket and 'discount vouchers' to find out what's on offer or head straight to the retailer's website.

Sign up for reward cards, too. On top of collecting points to redeem and make savings later on, they often send vouchers for money off food. Balance this with shopping around for deals and you can maximise your savings.

Find out how the most popular reward schemes compare in our guide to loyalty cards.

11. Plan for leftovers

Leftovers aren't necessarily a bad thing - one of the joys of a big roast can be not having to cook for several days afterwards.

But to avoid waste (and mountains of leftover turkey) think about what you will use them for in advance. This could save you from buying another day's worth of food.

A traditional turkey sandwich is a good way to pack in leftover condiments, cheese and even stuffing, but there are plenty of alternative options.

Veg can bulk out a soup (and you can make stock from the leftover carcass of your bird) or be used in a terrine.

See more ways you can make the most of festive leftovers.

12. Ask everyone to bring a dish

Dishes covered in foil

If you're having lots of people over this Christmas, don't be afraid to ask them to bring a dish. This means that the burden of cooking - and the associated costs - doesn't fall on just one person.

If you're the host, try making a list of all the dishes that need cooking and use it to make suggestions, or let people pick what they'd like to bring.

Breaking from the traditional roast and having a variety of dishes can make it easier to manage, and make for a fun and inclusive gathering.

Complete Christmas dinner menu - from the turkey crown and red cabbage to roast potatoes and Christmas pudding, we round up top tips from chefs and easy-to-follow recipes to see you through your Christmas cooking.