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5 Christmas dinner on a budget ideas

A Christmas table set up with candles, sprigs of foliage and cups filled with drinks. In the middle is a roasted chicken in a pyrex dish surrounded by onions and other vegetables.
5 festive recipe ideas that won’t break the bank this Christmas. 

Many of us like to indulge at Christmas time, but indulgence usually comes with a hefty price tag. The cost of living crisis means food is more expensive right now than many of us have experienced before. Festive treats are becoming more and more unaffordable, alongside the other usual Christmas expenses. But, with a dash of savviness and a sprinkle of careful thought, you can still provide a delicious Christmas dinner on a budget.

Cheap Christmas dinner ideas

1. Starter

Steer away from pricy seafood and shellfish and choose a vegetable-based dish to start your meal. A hearty vegetable soup with bread is warming and economical. Choose a seasonal vegetable base like parsnip, beetroot or celeriac for best value. Welsh rarebit, potato fritters or a warm winter salad would work too.

2. Main

If turkey or other meats are too expensive, or you’re cooking for just a few people, why not choose chicken as your main event? You could even go vegetarian and try a vegetable tart or roasted squash as your showstopper.

Take advantage of the supermarket vegetable wars’ before Christmas. The big five supermarkets reduce their Christmas vegetable offerings to as low as 19p a bag. Frozen vegetables are also a thrifty alternative to fresh and could reduce any fresh vegetables going to waste. 

To reduce your energy costs on the big day, try roasting smaller pieces of meat in a tray with vegetables to reduce the time you spend cooking in the oven. You can also steam vegetables in the microwave if you have one. An air fryer is a handy and energy efficient way to cook pigs in blankets and stuffing balls.

Vegetable tops, peelings and cauliflower leaves can be used to make gravy but there’s no shame in granules. Make up your granules with the water from boiling potatoes or vegetables and add the cooking juices from roasted meat to add extra flavour. 

3. Dessert

Shop-bought mince pies with some cream is a simple but satisfying dessert. Frozen fruits can be used to make a crumble or pie. A piece of cheddar with some crackers will satisfy the cheese lovers. This chocolate orange steamed pudding is cooked in the microwave and uses a packet cake mix for speed and value.

Other budget Christmas food ideas

Buffet food

Pre-packaged buffet food can be really expensive. Good old fashioned sandwiches are always a winner and can be served alongside affordable dishes such as vegetable sticks and dips, potato or pasta salad and coleslaw.

5. Leftovers

Make sure you use up any leftovers! Turn your leftover meats and vegetables into stews, curries, bubble and squeak, or make sandwiches. Just be sure to store them appropriately and use them within the recommended time frame.

The last thing anyone needs right now is to get into debt over Christmas. There’s no shame in passing on Christmas meals out, festive drinks or taking part in a Secret Santa if money is tight – it’s okay to say no. 

If you do find yourself struggling over Christmas and you end up in debt, find out what CAP services are available near you.

Ruth holding a sign that reads 'There is so much need. I'm at my limit.'
Ruth, Co-Debt Centre Manager

We urgently need your support to reach every person in poverty.

Ruth holding a sign that reads 'There is so much need. I'm at my limit.'