Ah, Christmas. Probably the only time of year you’ll ever find yourself in a (normally) packed supermarket with a trolley filled with fancy gravy, a board of cheese you’ve never heard of and a huge pudding that nobody even really likes. Because if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it at Christmas, right?
But is it really worth splashing the cash on fancy ingredients for your Christmas dinner? In true Pick the Premium style, we’re here to debunk the myths surrounding your Christmas food shop – and help you save your pennies where it counts! Here goes…
1. Choose Wisely
It’s always worth having a bit of a think about what you’re going to be using your ingredients for when deciding how much to spend. We are big fans of sea salt, but if you’re just chucking it in boiling water with your veg, try table salt instead. Then use that nice sea salt as the finishing touch on your meat and roasties to bring out their flavour. Likewise with brandy: maybe don’t buy premium if you’re just going to be drowning your Christmas pud in it! And mulled wine? It’s traditionally made with cheap wine anyway – the spices will add all the flavour, so you needn’t splash out on a fancy bottle.
If you’re going to splash the cash on anything at Christmas, make it your meat. Take chef Ebbers’ advice and aim to spend most of your budget on it – it’s once a year, it’s celebratory, and it will mean your meat is better quality and better sourced, so will be tastier too. The rest of your ingredients can be cheap!
2. Do It Yourself
A lot of us will be spending a bit more time at home this Christmas… making it the perfect time to do your own versions of things! For example, the cheese board. Pre-made ones will almost always set you back more, so why not put together your own?
Here are our top tips for designing a cheese board:
3. Get Clever With Your Cheaper Ingredients
Christmas’s worst-kept secret? You don’t actually need to buy premium ingredients for it to taste premium! Go for cheap potatoes and root vegetables to keep costs down, but pay attention to what you do with them. Try tossing your roasties in a colander to rough them up, giving you nice crispy potatoes! Level up your root vegetables with herbs like rosemary, thyme and oregano, or toss them with honey before roasting for a touch of sweetness. Finally, don’t throw away the lovely juices from your veggies – use them to make your gravy! That’s what’ll make the biggest difference to your plate.
4. Go For Familiarity
For most of us Christmas is about nostalgia and tradition. You can splurge on more ‘premium’ ingredients, but if you’re used to cheap gravy granules, chances are that’s what you want. Not to mention that some chefs can’t even tell the difference between premium and budget gravy! The same goes for other essentials like cranberry sauce. Our advice? Don’t go too crazy with fancy ingredients – you don’t need to reinvent a classic at this time of year. And remember, you want everything on your Christmas dinner plate to work together. There’s no point splashing out on premium items that’ll overpower the rest of the dish – keep it simple!
5. Make the Most of Your Leftovers
No matter what you do, it’s always difficult to avoid over-buying at Christmas. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing… Leftovers = more meals just waiting for you! Make the most of your leftovers and transform them into a ton more tasty meals. Got extra turkey? Try making a coronation sauce. Brussels sprouts? Pop ‘em in a pasta bake. Potatoes? You’re looking at bubble + squeak. And if you’re still left with more than any human can possibly consume, stick it in the freezer for future meals.
Got all that?! Essentially, we recommend you aim to stick to these budget tips for a great Christmas that won’t break the bank: