Christmas is a time for celebrations and traditions. For many the ritual of familiar brings comfort and reassurance. However, with price rises in just about every part of our lives, some financial adjustment is inevitable. With that in mind and with a little forward planning – perhaps a few small changes – it should still result in having the best Christmas celebrations, without breaking the bank.
Make it yourself
Homemade gifts can have a little bit of a reputation as being well-intended but not quite... well... that good. However, with a little care they can be presented to a high standard and should be warmly received.
Try these delicious mincemeat muffins. I have made these for the past 3 years as part of my Christmas tradition. If giving them as a gift, bake them close to the time they will be opened. Either pack them in an airtight container or a card gift box. Including the recipe is a nice touch, too. This biscuit recipe is also good. And, if you are good at icing, you can add names and fun messages.
Shopping and storage
Please forgive me for stating the obvious, but buying more food than you can eat or even store properly will only result in waste. The shops are only closed for 2 days. Filling the fridge and freezer to bursting point won’t allow room for any spare cooked food to be stored post Christmas day. In the run up to the Christmas period check what you have in and what needs to be used up. I had a look in my cupboard this morning and I have a bit of work to do.
The price increase of gas and electricity cannot be ignored. Add to this food price increases and any steps to be more efficient have to be taken.
Use your cooker efficiently
When creating a large meal with a variety of dishes take a moment to work out the most efficient way of using your oven and hob. Can you work out a way to completely fill the oven rather than cooking in batches?
If you have a microwave you may want to consider using this too. Often microwave cookery comes in as the most cost-effective way of cooking. Naturally, you need to have one in the first place and certain styles of cooking can’t be done in a microwave. However, all of your vegetables can be done this way. Effectively you will be steaming them, so it's healthy too. Christmas puddings are also easy to cook in the microwave.
A stacker steamer is my personal favourite. A three or even four tier pan cooking a variety of vegetables with only one power source.
Don’t waste any of the ingredients
I was recently at a conference addressing price increases in the catering industry. One of the speakers had some great suggestions on how to get the most out of your budget. These were his suggestions.
Swap or reduce ingredients
Some recipes can be easily altered to incorporate cheaper ingredients. Just about any soup, curry, chilli, nut roast, stir-fry etc. can be chopped and changed.
Even when baking you don’t have to be rigid with the ingredients. Dried fruits can be swapped for cheaper generic mixes, nuts can largely be interchanged, and even the amount of sugar can be reduced without impacting the flavour and texture of your pudding or cake.
Use up all leftovers!
The Christmas season can bring all sorts of leftovers, from cooked vegetables to nut roast, veggie sausages, the list goes on. I’m sure you will have a Boxing Day fry-up. With a little imagination you may be able to reinvent leftovers in new ways. Try these fritters, simply add some of your cooked vegetables to the basic recipe. In fact, we have several types of fritter recipes that can be easily adjusted to add whatever you have spare.
Swap out left-over vegetable for the cooked vegetables in this delicious korma. Simply add the cooked vegetables towards the end of the cooking process.
Alternatively add whatever cooked vegetables you have to this comforting and hearty cottage pie.
Whatever you decide to do and make, have a wonderful Christmas.
Check out Chef Alex’s Christmas demo too on our Facebook page, Wednesday 7 December, from 2–3pm.