As if the presents, wrapping paper and decorations weren't enough, the traditional slap-up roast turkey with all the trimmings only adds to the cost of Christmas. If you're on a budget and struggling to find the money to feed a houseful, here are a few tips on where and how you can save cash.
Check your cupboards
Before you head out for a mammoth shop, it's wise to check your kitchen cupboards for staples that might come in handy or serve as an alternative. For instance, frozen peas can easily fill in for the more traditional Brussels sprouts, and if you have the ingredients to make pastry, you could save yourself a few pennies by making your own mince pies as a dessert. Nuts, dried fruits and bread crusts could also be used as the basis for stuffing.
Buy only what you need
When shopping for food at Christmas, it's tempting to go overboard and get more than you need. If you're a dab hand at using up those leftovers and have lots of extended family or friends round for the festive season, then a turkey may still be your best option, but if not, consider a much cheaper alternative. Since most Brits only eat roast turkey at Christmas, you're likely to pay a premium for the traditional fare, so go for chicken or pork instead. That way you can still serve up all the trimmings but it won't cost you a fortune for the meat.
The traditional Christmas dinner comes with a whole host of seasonal vegetables, and because they're in season, they'll be at their tastiest best and relatively cheap. You can make your roast joint go further by bulking up the meal with these sumptuous sides and still find your family enjoying that full-up post-Christmas dinner snooze.
Bring a bottle
Alcohol is one of the biggest expenses of the festive season, so if you are having guests round for the big meal, you can save yourself a bundle on booze by asking each to bring a bottle. And if you've invited close friends and family, you could even ask them to bring a dish of some kind, be it some homemade mince pies, a pudding, or some appetisers. There is the element of pot luck, of course, but it could mean you don't have to worry about before and after the bird.
There are some great deals on shop-bought Christmas puds in the shops this year, but if that's still stretching your budget, opt instead for an alternative dessert. A jar of cheap mincemeat can be easily dressed up with some grated orange rind (or a touch of brandy if you've got some in the cupboard), and will go a lot further as mince pies than a small Christmas pudding. There will likely be excellent deals on traditional fruit such as clementines too, which might just take the edge off the Christmas food coma. And if you're planning to serve up a cheese board, don't be tempted by the pre-packed supermarket versions. The chances are you can get a much better deal at the cheese counter, so just buy three or four of your favourites to offer guests.
These days many of us compare prices on everything from groceries to TVs, and according to the Good Housekeeping Institute, it pays to shop around at Christmas. Having compared prices on a Christmas dinner for eight (with all the trimmings), the Institute found that it was possible to feed everyone for just £21.31, or £2.66 per person.
Among the frugal finds were a turkey from Lidl at £9.99, Aldi's sprouts at 49p for 750g and carrots for 49p for 1.2kg. Tesco came out on top when it came to parsnips, at 90p for 750g, while the Co-op's spuds were just £1.50 for a 1.5kg bag. Sainsbury's Basics range offered two Christmas puds for just £2, and eight puff pastry mince pies for 65p a pack.
If shopping around isn't your bag, however, Iceland will be your best bet. As well as bargain frozen goods, the store offers fresh Christmas fare, and the festive basket came in at £27.83 for a family of eight.
Have you managed to cut the cost of your Christmas dinner? What advice would you give to others on a tight budget this year? Leave your comments below...