Saturday, 18 December 2010

Cutting the cost of Christmas food shopping

With the weather being so atrocious at the moment you may be simply grateful to get out and find anything in the shops but I’m going to suggest a strategy for cutting your Christmas food shopping bills. Which is not to shop with a preconceived idea about what you’re going to cook and just see what's on offer.

There is admittedly a danger that you’ll just snap up every bargain you find but if you buy things that will keep or which you can freeze you can pick up some really good deals as I’ve done a couple of times over the past week.

Last weekend I picked up some packs of game casserole in Waitrose, normally £4.69, reduced by 20% to £3.75 then slashed to 99p each to clear. We used them to make a game pie filling which we served with what I call floating pastry lids rather than as a pie, a trick that speeds up the cooking process, ensures your pastry remains crisp and can even leave you a couple of lids for leftovers.

Then this week I hit the jackpot in the Co-op with a leg of lamb for £4.94 which will do for dinner for six sometime over the Christmas period.

I also picked up an 800g pack of mince for a lasagne or a batch of bolognese, a 700g bacon joint for £2.50 which should feed four with lentils or butter beans and a Bury black pudding for 49p which the two of us had for lunch yesterday with a potato, apple and onion fry (all from ingredients already in the cupboard)

Tonight we’re going to have chicken casserole based on a £2.19 pack of Freedom Food chicken thighs with a 73p pack of chestnut mushrooms. OK, it will be zipped up with some leftover wine or cider and a little cream but it’ll still cost us no more than a couple of quid a head.

We’ve also decided as there are probably only going to be three of us on Christmas Day to take it to the wire and leave our shopping until the afternoon of Christmas Eve and simply see what we can pick up. That may result in us having a chicken or a joint of pork rather than a turkey but we can still make a stuffing and all the trimmings that go with the traditional Christmas lunch and I don’t think we’ll enjoy it any the less.

I admit I don’t always shop like this but occasionally it’s good to see how little you can manage to live on especially over Christmas when the pressure to spend far more than you need on food is at its greatest.

It's not as if we're laying in for a 10 day siege. (Well, unless you're unlucky enough to be snowed in). The shops will be back open again on Boxing Day and the chances are you've got enough in store to survive till the New Year even if they weren't. We certainly have.

How do you handle your Christmas food shopping? Do you find you tend to buy more than you need or have you developed strategies for keeping the cost - and waste - down?


Vanessa Kimbell said...

Excellent suggestion !

Kavey said...

People always seem to go crazy shopping at this time of year. We see trolleys laden with so much food that they'd feed 20 people for over a week, and still have leftovers!

We tend to shop as we always do, just for one or two days at a time, with regular visits to local supermarket.

That said, we have enough food in freezer plus general stocks such as rice, pasta, flour etc. that not being able to get to shops (or shops not being able to get deliveries) would be OK - we'd just do without fresh veg and fruit for a few days, and maybe milk.

Hardly the end of the world.

Last night we enjoyed a beautiful 1.8 kilo Leckford chicken which Waitrose had reduced to about £7. We ate far too much of the roast bird and then made stock from carcass, tonight is chicken risotto and tomorrow or day after we'll have chicken sandwiches or croquettes.

I looove left over roast chicken and if we were being more frugal we could stretch it to 4 meals for 2 of us easily.

Bethany (Dirty Kitchen Secrets) said...

We recycle everything. As is the case with Kavey, a roast chicken can stretch to 3 meals for 3 people. Our shopping habits don't change either; we continue to shop every couple of days, although we have already ordered the duck from the butchers for Christmas eve dinner. I tend to cook a lot of pulses which helps keep the food bill down although this is purely because we love pulses so much.

Robert said...

I work in retail and I'm still amazed by the stocking up in a siege mentality. As I'm home alone on Xmas day and going out to friends on boxing day. I'm planning a trip to waitrose and sainsburys to see what gets reduced cheap enough to buy just for one day. I don't see the point of gorging on food nor wasting it either. But I hope I can get the game casserole cheap enough as I love it slowcooked with mash.

Justine said...

This OH year parents are down. I am writing lists but only so we do not over purchase.

I have most of the luxuries and Christmas Dinner but still need to get fresh items and a few others things.

Fiona Beckett said...

Sounds like you've got it sorted Kavey. A reduced roast chicken is always a brilliant find - you can stretch it so far.

And Bethany, I love pulses too - especially cooked from scratch.

Good to see the shopping game from the other side Robert. You do wonder how people will get through all that food. Hope you get your game casserole! I often find it's the less obviously Christmassy things like that and beef joints you get the best deals on.

And lists are the other way to go Justine but I find plans so frequently change particularly in these unpredictable weather conditions that they can be hard to stick to.

Anonymous said...

What are pulses (forgive me, I'm American)?

Mary Eman

Fiona Beckett said...

Things like beans, chickpeas and lentils, Mary.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for answering - am I wrong in thinking you give the beans, chickpeas, lentils, split peas a "pulse" with a blender? I love lentil soup that I take about half out of the pot, use an immersion blender on what's left, and then return the rest of the lentils to the pot. Ditto split pea and navy bean soups. (I just like soup!)

Mary Eman

Fiona Beckett said...

I suspect the word predates blenders - there's a good entry in Wikipedia on all the foods that classify as pulses

Good idea though about only blitzing half your cooked beans or lentils. It's good to keep some texture in a soup.

Anonymous said...

I usually shop like this. Since moving to London I've found it more difficult as I can't nip into the supermarket at reduced time most days like I used to.

It's so satisfying making meals for whatever is on genuine special offer or a good deal reduced. Christmas is one of the few times when I do shop to a list.

I saw duck breasts reduced to £2 in my local Tesco Express yesterday. What a bargain.

Christmas for me means a break from making cakes! My cake tin is feeling so lonesome.