Christmas dinner is one of the priciest meals of the year, but it doesn't have to be that way. It's easy to be bamboozled by all the supermarket offers, discounts, and price promises on Christmas food, but when it comes to getting Christmas dinner for less, the biggest factor dictating how much you're going to spend isn't actually where you plan to shop or how cleverly you juggle discounts: it's whether you're going to buy fresh or frozen.
We reveal the enormous difference this makes to a basket of festive food, by comparing the price of a Christmas dinner of frozen food, one of fresh food, and a third one made of organic produce. For the sake of a fair comparison we will use the supermarket that came out middle of the pack in our recent comparison of the cheapest Christmas food - and we'll use the prices on the shelf at Tesco today. In our basket we selected a few Christmas favourites: turkey, carrots, sprouts, potatoes, stuffing and chipolatas.
It's not a huge shock that the frozen basket works out as a cheaper option - at £24.05. What is surprising is the incredible difference that buying frozen makes to the cost of your shopping - because all this comes in at less than the cost of a fresh turkey. Adding it all in, the fresh festive food costs £37.44. If you take advantage of free range or organic options where possible, the total bill comes to £50.77. This is more than twice the price of the frozen Christmas dinner.
In some ways the frozen food is superior: you get your roast potatoes roasted for you, your stuffing formed into balls, and your carrots sliced - plus eight extra chipolatas. However, in others frozen food is vastly inferior. Anyone who has ever eaten a frozen sprout, for example, is unlikely to want to repeat the experience in a hurry.
It's also worth bearing in mind that because the frozen food has been through more manufacturing processes, you'll pay more for frozen sliced carrots than fresh unsliced ones and more for your pre-roasted potatoes than for a Sack of King Edwards, so not all frozen food is cheaper.
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What should you buy?
On balance, therefore, the big savings (without going near the frozen sprouts) are on stuffing balls and the turkey. The only way to find the right balance between cost and taste is to experiment - and try them for yourself.
It's worth taking into account that you're gong to have to work a bit harder to make the frozen turkey taste good, and try every trick in the book to keep it succulent. However, if you can halve the cost of your Christmas shopping, it's surely worth the effort of considering the freezer section of the supermarket for more of your festive food shop this year.
Medium Turkey (around 5kg)
Free range £41.25
Frozen Sliced carrots £1.40
Potatoes (per kg)
Fresh King Edward 80p
Frozen Aunt Bessies roast potatoes £2.15
Stuffing balls (around 300g)
Fresh sage and onion stuffing £2.39
Frozen Aunt Bessie sage and onion stuffing balls £1
Frozen 20 for £2.50
Fresh 12 for £1.70
Both are priced at £5 per kg
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