Nov 07

Christmas cooking on the cheap

For some, Christmas dinner is the best meal of the entire year. We want to bet these are people not paying for or cooking said meal! Is it really worth the expense for just one meal?! Don’t panic! There are a few tricks for doing your Christmas cooking on the cheap.


The Bird

Roast chicken

Free range and organic turkeys can be expensive (£51.90 for a 4kg-6kg one in Waitrose, which feeds 8). But buying TWO large chickens (1.58kg each) would cost only £19.76. With the right zingy seasoning they will be a fabulous alternative.

Zingy Festive Roast Chickens

Ingredients (serves 8-10)

  • 2 x 1.7kg chickens
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste (Barts spices)
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • salt and pepper
  • I onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
  • 100ml red wine
  • 500ml water + 1 chicken stock cube (Oxo fine)


  1. Rub the ginger paste and sesame oil all over the chickens then place in a roasting tin on top of their giblets and onion wedges. Sprinkle over salt and pepper.
  2. Pour round the wine and stock.
  3. Roast for 30 minutes at 220 degrees celsius them turn down the heat to 170 degrees.
  4. Cover the dish with a huge dome of foil, to keep in the moisture, and roast for another 90 minutes.
  5. Check to see if it’s done by seeing if the juices run clear (or if they’re bloody) at the point where the leg meets the body. Remove the foil and brown the breast if it’s not already.
  6. Add more stock if the liquid is in danger of burning – this can then be liquidised (take out the giblets first) to make your gravy – add a little cornflour, water from boiling your veg and a tablespoon of honey and/or Madeira/sweet sherry if you fancy it.


The Trimmings

Bowl of Brussels Sprouts

Don’t buy ready made “garnish packs” of sausages wrapped in bacon etc. Make your own – so easy you don’t need a recipe to roll bacon rashers around sausages, cut them in half and then roast them for 15 minutes around the bird.

Always get your veg fresh and do all the trimming/chopping yourself – it’s cheaper than pre-prepared, although it takes extra time. I go for sprouts because they’re traditional (although savoy cabbage, red cabbage, or any green veg such as broccoli are good alternatives, and probably more popular). I also have carrots, sweet potatoes chunked with butternut squash and roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper. Plus potatoes. This year I may roast them but usually I am lazy and they are simply boiled as a neutral foil to all the richness.

And then we come to cranberry sauce: isn’t there some statistic that Ocean Spray owns all the cranberries in the world, or something? Anyway their original cranberry sauce is only £1.49 for 190g so I would actually plump for that. They are the experts with cranberries, after all.


The Pudding

Christmas pudding

As for pudding – a traditional xmas pud can be bulked out to make a lighter alternative by crumbling it and mixing it through vanilla ice cream, then refreeze to make an Xmas Pud Ice Cream. I tend to stir through a 200g tub of creme fraiche too, to cut the richness and sweetness.

Fruit is the cheapest and healthiest dessert of course – lovely clementines, peeled, de-pithed and sliced, with cream – it can’t be beaten.

A Swedish traditional Christmas pudding is Ris a la Malta – rice pudding to you and me. But it’s made with cream, gently bubbled on the hob and served with sliced oranges. Short grain pudding rice is only 89p/500g so it will feed a crowd cheaply.


The Nibbles

Christmas nuts

Nuts and nibbles can be made cheaper by spicing them and toasting them yourself!

Spiced Nuts


  • 500g Mixed Nuts
  • 1½ tsp garam masala or curry powder or cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp soft light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp chopped rosemary


  1. Toast the mixed nuts in a dry frying pan for 3 minutes.
  2. Sprinkle over 1½ tsp garam masala or curry powder (or just cumin if it’s what you have).
  3. Add 1 tsp salt, 2 tbsp olive oil and 2 tbsp soft light brown sugar.
  4. Swoosh around for a bit taking care not to burn!
  5. Cool on baking parchment then serve in bowls with 1 tsp chopped rosemary sprinkled over, still warm.


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excellent blog…very interesting…thank u


I’m so glad you’ve suggested chicken instead of turkey as a cheaper alternative. I’m unhappy about the articles around on cheap turkeys. Cheap turkeys are usually battery-farmed, have a miserable life and are often fed dodgy stuff. I had a friend who bought a cheap turkey that tasted of fish as they had fed it on fish meal! Cheap turkeys should be avoided – go for zingy chicken instead.

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