What comes to mind when you think of Christmas dinner? Turkey? Stuffing? Sprouts? Most of us have an idea in our heads of what Christmas should be like. And if our Christmas doesn’t look like the idea that we have in our head, we think we’ve failed in some way. In the run-up to Christmas, we are fed a constant stream of images of happy families sitting around tables piled high with food, with a huge, beautifully decorated tree in the background and hundreds of perfectly wrapped gifts at its base.

The idea that we need to have this perfect Christmas, which probably doesn’t exist, can lead to many of us spending more money than we can afford to, with a miserable January trying to play catch-up. But it doesn’t need to be this way, and I’m going to show you how you can save money on one of the biggest expenses at Christmas time – your Christmas dinner.

Make a list

Just as we do with our weeklygrocery shopping, make a list of what you plan to cook on the big day. Include, breakfast, lunch, and the main meal, and remember to include things like snacks and drinks too. Plan enough food for each person to make sure that you’re not left short, risking an expensive dash to the shops. When you hit the shops for your Christmas shopping, take the list with you and stick to it. Yes, you’ll see others rusing about and piling their tollies high. Yes, you’ll feel like you’re forgetting things and missing out, but ignore them. Tell yourself that you’ve done well in planning in advance and that everything you need is on your list. Ignore what everyone else is doing.

Buy what you like

So many of us fall into the trap of buying things we don’t like and know we’ll never eat just because it’s the done thing at Christmas. So many people dislike eating Turkey, yet they buy it year after year becuase, well, that’s what you do at Christmas, isn’t it? But why? Who says we have to do this? Turkey is around six times more expensive than chicken and it’s utter madness to buy it instead of chicken, which you may love, just because it’s a certain time of year. If you prefer chicken (or beef or nut roast for that matter) then buy that instead and save yourself some serious money. The same goes for brussle sprouts – they usually end up in the bin. So, if you don’t like them don’t buy them. It doesn’t mean your Christmas will be any less christmassy than someone who buyts these things.

Buy the right amounts

Just because it’s Christmas, it doesn’t mean you need to buy as if you’re feeding the five thousand! We’ve all done it and regretted it when we’re throwing all of the uneaten food a few days later. So, unless you’re having guests over (in which case you would have planned for and written a shopping list to include their food) just stick to similar amounts of food as you would on any other day.

Cook from scratch

It usually costs so much more to buy pre-prepared food, as you’re paying for the convenience of not having to prep it yourself. You can buy a packet of spuds for around 60p per kg. If you buy pre-peeled and chopped spuds, the cost jumps up to 89p kg. It’s the same for veg, stuffing, yorkshire puddings etc. If you have a large family, the savings made from cooking from scratch can be huge. So that you’re not slogging away in the kitchen on Christmas day, try to prep the day before and get the rest of the family to help too.

Join your supermarket loyalty scheme

Most supermarkets have some kind of loyalty scheme and if you join, you’ll earn discounts on many items across the store. If you shop in Tesco, a chicken might cost you £5.50, whereas if you join their loyalty scheme, that same chicken will cost you £4.50. Other savings are much more significant, such as saving £10 on a bottle of Bailey’s if you use your Tesco clubcard. Asda have their Asda Rewards app that allows you to build up a pot of cash within the app. You can then use this to get money off your shopping bill. So, check to see if your supermarket offers a similar kind of scheme and sign up to it.

Look out for deals

In the run-up to Christmas, many supermarkets drop the price of their veg, as they’ve ordered too much and need to get rid of it. If you time it right (usually a day or two before christmas day) you should be able to get a bag of carotts for just 19p. Potatoes usually drop to 19p too, as do various other vegetables. And while you’re there, see if you can grab any other seasonal bargains. One year, I managed to get 5 rolls of luxury wrapping paper for just 20p each. they were selling for £2 per roll just the day before!

In summary

There are plenty of ways to keep the cost of your Christmas dinner down. Being savvy with your spending means more money in your pocket to spend on the things you love.

Monthly budget spreadsheet