Nine tips to save money on Christmas dinner

Hosting the big Christmas dinner this year? Here’s how you can make a festive family feast without breaking the bank.

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Roberto Caruso

This year, we’re having a group of 14 for dinner at our house. It’s going to be a blast, but we’re not planning to break the bank. You don’t have to either – below are nine tips to help you make a festive feast without spending more than you can afford:

1. Make a list and stick to it: Heading to the grocery store to pick up stuff for Christmas dinner? Stick to your list and ignore all those tempting displays of chocolates, cookies, and other items that aren’t on it. Avoid those impulse buys and keep your wallet and your waistline in shape for 2014.

2. Make from scratch: It’s tempting to buy pre-prepared foods like microwavable bags of green beans or pre-cut pieces of squash to save time, but they’re more expensive. If you can, take the time to cut up your own squash, prep your own beans, and peel your own potatoes.  

3. Scale back the appetizers: Fancy cheeses, pates, and crackers are expensive – and they encourage your guests to fill up before the main event. Instead, choose lighter and cheaper options: olives or homemade popcorn jazzed up with a bit of salt and homemade paprika can keep costs down.

4. Go potluck: Everyone has a favourite Christmas dish, so why not ask guests to bring something to contribute to the meal? Vegetable casseroles and homemade cranberry sauce are easy items for people to bring. They’ll save you time and money and allow other guests to bring their traditions to your table.

5. Go for quality: The one big Christmas splurge in our house is our turkey. We order it ahead of time from a butcher at the farmers’ market and we pick it up on Christmas Eve. It costs more than what we’d get at the grocery store, but it’s ten times better. I’d rather dole out a bit less meat and keep the quality and flavour high.

6. Make a frugal stuffing: Sure, nuts and dried fruit make a wonderful stuffing, but they’re expensive and turkey is a big bird to fill. Use more bread, vegetables, and fresh fruit and scale back on the pricier stuff. And since you need stale bread, head right to the day-old section to save even more money.

7. Do your homework on wine: You don’t have to spend a fortune for a good wine to go with the meal. With a bit of research you can find tasty bottles that go beautifully with a turkey for under $15. At this time of year, the shelves are also well-stocked with delicious bottles of Prosecco that don’t cost a fortune and add zing to your dinner.

8. Homemade Christmas cookies: A box of good Christmas cookies costs big bucks. Instead, get creative and make your own. Try your hand at one or more of these festive cookie recipes — there’s over 100 to choose from!

9. Homemade desserts: Fancy Christmas desserts can cost a bundle. Why not make mince tarts, cookies and other treats at home? You can serve them up with homemade hard sauce or a bit of ice cream. Kick it up by putting out a lovely basket of clementines. A great and cheap way to finish your meal.