Thrifty Christmas: 8 ways to feed them for less


portrait of woman with plate...

Most people go mad at Christmas, stocking up on fancy food and drink which doesn't always get eaten. If you plan your shopping list carefully, are willing to shop around and get creative in the kitchen, you can save a fortune on your food bill...

Save on turkey
The turkey is likely to be the most expensive part of your Christmas dinner – especially if you're cooking for a big family. As a rule, a 2kg bird will feed 4-5 people. You'll need 4kg for 8-9 people and 6kg for 12-13. Although this will depend on how hungry your guests are, of course! If you tend to throw away leftovers, don't be tempted to buy a bird bigger than you need (or can fit in your oven!). If you're a dab hand at making turkey curry, it makes sense to go bigger and use the leftovers for extra meals. If you're only cooking for two, consider buying turkey thighs, which are often sold at bargain prices. Frozen turkeys tend to be cheaper than fresh.

Create your own canapés
Avoid pre-packed party food and make your own – it costs less and will taste much better. If you're short on time, buy ready-rolled puffy pastry cases and fill with what you have in the fridge, such as cheese with baked red onion or cheese topped with a baked cherry tomato.

Make your own breadcrumbs
Likewise, it's cheaper to make your own breadcrumbs than buy ready-made. Whizz up a cheap white loaf - crusts and all - to use in starters, stuffing and bread sauce. If you have any left over, freeze it so there's no waste.

Ditch smoked salmon for pâté
Smoked salmon might be a family favourite at Christmas but it can be expensive. Smoked salmon pâté is surprisingly easy to make, and you can use smoked salmon trimmings, which cost less than half the price of smoked salmon. Alternatively, save even more by making pâté with smoked mackerel.

Jazz up cheap mincemeat
Homemade mince pies taste and look so much better than shop bought, and can be surprisingly cheap to make. Instead of buying posh mincemeat in jars, buy the cheap stuff and jazz it up with some freshly grated orange zest and a slosh of brandy. Stir in a few extra spices such as ground cinnamon, nutmeg or ginger, depending on your taste and what you have in your cupboard.

Check the cost of cheese
If Christmas wouldn't be Christmas until you bring out the cheese board, keep a close eye on prices. Pre-wrapped cheese can often be far more expensive than buying it from the deli counter. Always check the price per kilo before you buy. Fancy ready-made cheese boards look good but why pay out when you can make your own? Display cheese on a washed wooden chopping board with dried figs or dates and a bunch of grapes. To make it extra special, serve it with some homemade chutney.

Save on festive fizz
It's easy to get carried away, especially with all the supermarket offers, but do you really need to stock your drinks' cupboard with wine, beer, sherry and so many different spirits? Warmed mulled wine can be made with cheap vino and is easy to make. Don't buy individual boxes of spices – opt for ready-made sachets, which taste just as good and are better value. Make it go further by adding apple or orange juice. For those who want something stronger, make a festive fruit punch with bargain-brand vodka.

Look out for supermarket deals
Finally, look out for supermarket offers. Last year, Morrisons put together a Christmas dinner, which included a whole basted 3kg turkey with all the trimmings, pudding, fruit cake and mince pies for £2.49 a head. Asda had a Christmas dinner for a similar price, which included three turkey breast joints with Lincolnshire style stuffing. Your local market is a good place to pick up cheap fruit and veg – head there late in the day for the best bargains.

Watch our videos for more ways to save on your food bill, starting with Gordon Ramsay's guide to Christmas leftovers:
Gordon Ramsay's Tip for Christmas Leftovers