Christmas food shop: how to cut the cost

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Go anywhere near a supermarket and you would be hard-pressed to believe that we are in a recession as shoppers pile their trollies high with all manner of festive treats.

Yet scratch the surface and Brits are planning to spend around 13% less on their Christmas grocery shop this year, according to research from Santander, down to an average £77 from £89 last year. So how can we cut the cost without cutting the indulgence?%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%

Make a plan
Christmas is probably the one time of year when even the least organised among us will sit down, ponder over who is coming to stay and make some sort of plan. Work out what meals you are making, how many you are feeding and exactly what you need. Take a look in your cupboards, fridge and freezer and make note of what foods you already have, this will help you to avoid doubling up when hitting the shops.

Buy own-brand
We all like to treat ourselves at Christmas, upgrading from the regular or own-brands to the 'luxury' ones with pretty festive packaging, but think twice before mindlessly picking up the pricier option. If you're buying crackers to go with your cheese for example, no one will know you've bought the cheaper own-brand version if you throw away the packaging and lay them out on a platter.

Wise up to offers
Supermarket shelves are awash with special deals at Christmas, purporting to offer big savings on the festive food shop. Yet offers such as buy-one-get-one-free and three-for-two rarely offer good value, and usually just lead us to spending more than we need to. Stay focused and only buy things on special offer that you planned to buy anyway.

Shop online
Shopping online not only saves your sanity at Christmas, it also saves money by preventing impulse buying. Without the temptation of attractive displays and strategically placed goodies, it is easier to stick to a list and buy only what you need. Online shopping also makes it easier to keep track of how much you are spending and review your groceries if you do go over budget.

Don't overbuy
Before grabbing that extra packet of mince pies or sausage rolls for unexpected guests that might pop by, think realistically about the chances of this actually happening. Buying 'just in case' can lead to needless waste or you simply overeating to avoid throwing away. Equally, when making meals measure out portions so you don't cook up more than you need.

Love leftovers
Think carefully about your leftovers to avoid throwing anything away. Leftover veggies can be spruced up in bubble and squeak, and cheese turned into a quiche, tart or soup. Once you are bored of turkey sandwhiches and curry, use your imagaination to turn the bird into tasty salads, stir-fries and pies. Transform Christmas pudding into ice cream or strudel; and panettone into a festive bread and butter pudding.
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