Cooking a Christmas Dinner on a Student Budget
Published Monday, 09 December, 2013 by Jane Glover
Feeling a bit like Ebenezer Scrooge this December? The days of feeling flush when your loan came in are long gone and there is really nothing worse than having to scrimp and save at this time of year; a time of giving and of course a time of absolutely fantastic food! Well, the good news is that you don’t necessarily have to compromise on the food part….
Preparing a traditional Christmas dinner may seem like an expensive task, a task that, let’s face it, we’d rather leave to our parents! But if you like the idea of sitting down to a Christmas meal with your housemates before you head home for the Christmas break then you’ll be pleased to know that with a little forward planning and an eye for a bargain, it is possible to create a Christmas dinner with all the trimmings on even a student’s budget!
So here are some suggestions to help you create an enjoyable Christmas dinner that won’t break the bank:
Preparation, compromise and research!
How many people are eating? Do you need a whole turkey? Might it be cheaper to have a turkey breast? How much does each person want to spend? These are questions you and your housemates should discuss before heading out to buy the ingredients. There will also be some compromises to be made, what is more important to you, the meat or a few extra roast potatoes on your plate? Can you all live without the cranberry sauce but definitely must have the stuffing? Perhaps you’d even prefer to go without a certain food item and invest in some crackers or party hats instead! Preparation and compromise are essential if you don’t want to pay over the odds or run out of money mid-shop, so grab a pen, take some notes and then you can get busy comparing prices! Supermarkets prepare super early for Christmas so you can get some idea of what you can afford in advance, do some research! The website www.mysupermarket.co.uk is a particularly handy tool allowing you to compare prices from all the major supermarkets.
For instance I managed to gather these prices in 2 minutes:
- 700g Asda turkey breast joint = £5.50
- 650g Tesco butter basted turkey breast = £5.00
- 2.15kg Tesco medium turkey breast crown = £17.00
Vow to try to make everything yourself – aka avoid dear old Aunt Bessie!
You may assume it sounds more expensive to make things from scratch but you’d be wrong. Take making your own gravy for instance, this can be done by simply using the roasting juices from the meat and a spoonful of flour, maybe add a chicken stock cube or a splash of wine if you happen to have either handy in the cupboard. Compare this to buying Bisto gravy granules, which the helpful Asda.com tells me is £1.25, and it’s a no brainer!
Peeling and chopping your own vegetables is also far cheaper than buying ready prepared or frozen alternatives. For example, a 2kg bag of carrots is £1.18 and a broccoli a mere 60p, compare this to a 500g bag of frozen Aunt Bessie roasted vegetables at £1.69 and it’s obvious which choice you need to make. What’s more a 700g bag of frozen roast potatoes is £1.00 whereas a 2.5kg bag of Maris Piper potatoes is priced at £2.25.Note that the frozen variety will never feed as many people! Also don’t forget that the more yummy roast potatoes you cook, the less important the meat may become (maybe you discussed this as one of your compromises). Just peel, chop and roast, don’t be intimidated by a little prep work!
Stick to your budget religiously!
When you’re actually in the process of doing your shopping, do not be won over by festive packaging! Just because an item is in a pretty merry box, it doesn’t automatically mean that it is going to taste better. Do not be fooled by the aesthetics, you’ll only end up spending more than you need to (or than you have). Make sure your research pays off; you didn’t spend all that time comparing prices and discussing compromises for nothing!
Finally, get home, get cooking and enjoy the fruits of your labour! Merry Christmas!