England

Can you cook Christmas dinner for £1?

Christmas dinner Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Does this have to be the most expensive meal of the year?

The cost of Christmas dinner, the annual festive feast of turkey and all the trimmings, is at a four-year high. With an average dinner and drinks now coming in at £10.71 per person, is it possible to cut costs or is the financial overindulgence as unavoidable as repeats of the Great Escape?

Figures compiled for BBC News suggest the average cost of a typical dinner for six has risen by 14% since 2015. Spending £64.25 on one meal will be out of the reach of many but, whether you can afford it or not, what's the best way to get a good deal ahead of the big day?

BBC News spoke to food bloggers and chefs to find their Christmas dinners aimed at bringing the price down as low as possible.

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Quids in?

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Media captionChef Miguel Barclay shows us how to cook Christmas dinner for £1

Londoner Miguel Barclay publishes his one pound meals on Instagram where he has attracted more than 130,000 followers.

Using supermarket budget ranges and substituting turkey for chicken, he says Christmas dinner can cost as little as £1 per person.

He says: "A chicken leg costs 50p from a budget supermarket, it's the cheapest cut for the amount of meat you get."

He recommends deboning the chicken leg (a turkey leg would serve two) and then rolling it into a ballotine with cranberry stuffing.

He substitutes sausages for stuffing balls for his pigs in blankets and suggests making your own rather than buying a pack of ready made which often results in food going to waste.

When he posted his other £1 recipes online he said the number one meal people requested was a cheap version of Christmas dinner.

"It's the ultimate meal of the year, people threw it down like a challenge because no one could fathom that it could be done."

He will be serving his £1 Christmas dinner to his family at a get together before Christmas Day.

Image copyright Dan Jones
Image caption Stuffing balls instead of sausages and chicken instead of turkey means this meal costs less than £1

Meal breakdown:

  • Chicken leg 50p (£2 for a pack of four)
  • Stuffing mix: 10ml cranberry sauce 3.2p (80p for 250ml), stale bread, and half an onion 5p (six onions for 55p)
  • Pigs in blankets: 30g dried stuffing mix 6p (170g dried stuffing mix 35p) and one rasher of streaky bacon 7.5p (14 rashers of streaky bacon £1.05)
  • Potatoes 200g for 9.4p (47p/kilo)
  • Gravy granules 1 tsp for 5p
  • Sprouts 30g 6p (500g/£1)
  • Total: 92.1p

Get the kids involved

Image copyright Lorna Cooper
Image caption Lorna Cooper says getting the family involved in preparing food can avoid the expensive shortcut of buying ready peeled and chopped veg

Lorna Cooper, who shares recipes at Feed Your Family for £20 a week, says Christmas is the ideal time to get the kids involved in cooking - both for the main meal and to make foodie presents.

She lives with her husband John and son and step daughter in Paisley, near Glasgow and has two older children who live away from home.

She says: "You can easily make Christmas cakes, Yule logs, mincemeat and mince pies, chutneys, jams, fudge etc to give as presents or to keep and use over the festive period.

"Get the kids involved and it will mean more to Granny and the kids will be happy."

She recommends buying something extra every week with your weekly shop in the run up to Christmas as many items are cheaper when bought in advance but with long enough expiration dates to last up to Christmas.

Dinner winners

  • You can make your gravy ahead of time by using a chicken carcass or some cheap chicken legs, wings or thighs and then freeze it
  • Sausage meat stuffing can also be made ahead of time and frozen. Buy cheap or reduced sausages and squeeze the meat out. Bulk that meat out with egg, onions and breadcrumbs and/or a stuffing packet mix
  • Don't be tempted to buy prepped veg, pre-stuffed turkeys and all the other expensive short cuts. Get the whole family involved in prepping the big meal
  • Make a couple of pots of soup to have as a starter and also to reheat over the next few days
  • Schedule a supermarket home delivery and book your slot early to avoid shopping stress and spending on lots of extras

But she says the most important thing about Christmas is not the presents or the meal, it's about spending it with the people you love.

"Think back to Christmases from your childhood, do you remember what was on the table or in your stocking? Most probably not. What you remember is pulling crackers, playing board games and laughing at grandpa when he falls asleep with his party hat on."


Trolley dash

Image copyright Paul Akroyd
Image caption Paul Akroyd says a last minute shop can save pounds off Christmas dinner or fill your freezer for January

Paul Akroyd, who shares money saving tips with other parents on Feed Your Family on about £20 a week, says supermarkets "turn their discounts up to 11" just before they shut on Christmas Eve.

The single parent, from Leicester, says a last minute shop is "not for the faint hearted" but there are huge savings to be had if you're prepared to let availability dictate what you eat.

He adds: "If this is a step too far go anyway and stock your freezer and shelves ready for a cheap January."

When it comes to cooking on a budget, he says portion control and waste are key.

"Think about how much you are buying and will it all be eaten, have a plan for leftovers. The easiest way to control your portions is to use smaller plates," he says.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Brisket is a cheaper cut "which can match the finest piece of beef"

The father of three children, aged nine, 18 and 19, says he will be going for a cheaper cut of meat for Christmas dinner such as brisket, gammon or belly pork.

"If you cook these with care (as a general rule of thumb the cheaper the meat, the longer and slower you cook it) they are a match for the finest turkey or piece of beef."

And when it comes to dessert consider school pudding classics such as treacle pudding and jam roly-poly.

"We got them at school because they are easy and cheap to make, they are also comforting and full of memories so ideal for the festive season."

He suggests boiling the turkey or chicken carcass with celery, carrot and onion to make a delicious stock for Boxing Day risotto.

If you are going for the classic Boxing Day turkey curry he has another top tip: "I tend to get most of my spices, beans, pulses, sauces and marinades from local Asian/continental shops because they tend to be cheaper than the supermarkets."


Festive twists

Image copyright Sarah Barnes

Blogger Sarah Barnes, from Taming Twins, says when it comes to meat, frozen turkey can be a cheaper option than fresh because it costs the supermarkets less to store.

She suggests starting to shop for festive food as soon as possible.

"I'm a big planner. Six weeks in advance I'm thinking about Christmas food," she says.

"Offers change every week, use supermarket comparison sites to see what's on offer when."

The mum-of-two, who lives near Birmingham, also recommends avoiding spending more on a ready made pudding.

"Think of what you want for dessert and give it a festive twist, I make a Pavlova shaped like a Christmas wreath."

She says leftover Christmas pudding can be mixed with vanilla ice cream to give it a Christmassy flavour.

Leftover dinner can be packaged into smaller portions for children and frozen for a future easy meal.

But the main thing is to stay calm: "We do get caught up, thinking 'there has to be so much food' but you can't actually eat that much."

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