Ace Christmas dinner in the spending stakes and you’ll be set to entertain anyone on a budget at any time of year! Welcome to my recap of ITV’s Save Money Good Food series two episode five. Are you hungry?
If we are saving for a big goal like a house deposit, this programme shows us how to get better value for money on food by using up leftovers, and avoiding overbuying in the first instance.
My first posts were mainly property-focused, but I wouldn’t have been able to buy my first house without setting some spending priorities. Getting the best value for money from food was one of the areas that made a bear-sized difference.
I thought I was already the budget queen in the kitchen, but this show taught me lots of extra tips to last a lifetime. It’s also a good place to start if the only mixing you do normally is in a cocktail glass.
Here’s what I’ve covered below:
The Problems: Christmas dinner and parties!
Recipe #1: Party food – Ham & Onion Tart (+Rolled Steak Bites & Baked Camembert)
Recipe #2: Prawn Cocktail
Recipe #3: Christmas Dinner
Recipe #4: Christmas Pudding
How to Get Better Value for Money
Other Ways To Save: Cheap Wine
Taste Tests: Mince Pies
I explained the premise more in the episode one recap. Basically you should find this useful if:
- You want to spend less than £1 or £2 on each dinner
- You want to know how to batch cook, freeze, and reuse meals
- You want to know how to cook flexibly without exact recipes
- You don’t want to spend too long cooking
- You want nutritious food without getting a PHD in food science first
- You want variety without blowing a budget
I am not a nutritionist, or talented with a spatula, and I like to spend as little time as possible cooking. I’ve learned how to make quick cheap meals without having a death wish, so I don’t see why anyone else shouldn’t benefit from this knowledge. While the volunteers on the programme are families, we can use the same lessons if we’re only feeding ourselves or a couple.
Want to save in other areas of food and fitness?
Try these recent posts:
Save Money Good Health Series 2 Recap
Save Money Good Food Episode Five
The Problems: The Hoopers from Scarborough loved Christmas and all the trimmings for Christmas dinner. However, they would spend too much especially as they host others for Christmas dinner, and they overcook whenever they try to make a banquet from scratch. Brits spend £75 on Christmas Day food including Christmas dinner and £90 on parties.
In a welcome twist, Matt brought a Santa sack with him instead of raiding the cupboards completely. In exchange, his challenge was to make a three course Christmas dinner for less than £5 per head.
The ingredients he contributed included cranberry sauce, mincemeat for mince pies (and to make leftover ice cream), chestnuts, and puff pastry. From The Hoopers’ kitchen they used the Camembert and a steak for one for the party food (canapes).
Recipe Ideas For Christmas Dinner And Parties
Chopping board and knife
Large bowls for mixing (or use a spare saucepan)
Recipe #1: Party Food – Ham & Onion Tart (+Rolled Steak Bites & Baked Camembert)
For the Ham & Onion Tart
Bacon or Parma ham
For the Baked Camembert
For the steak bites
For the tart
- Turn a baking tray upside down and place puff pastry on the bottom (so you don’t have to chisel it out later)
- Prick the pastry so it puffs up
- Spread creme fraiche on top and sliced red onion
- Layer bacon or parma ham on top
- Bake at 190 for 20mins or so
For the Camembert
- Remove plastic from the camembert and place back in its box
- Insert garlic and thyme in the top with a knife
- Place the lid on the bottom and bake (the lid will catch any drips)
For the steak bites
- Oil the meat to cook in one piece
- Let it rest
- Cut the steak into strips
- Roll up and skewer on cocktail sticks
Total cost: £3.03 for 20 tarts, £2.60 for the Camembert if put with crudites and dip, or £9.30 for all three platters.
The Hoopers would normally spend £100. Even if they tripled the quantities it would still be a huge saving.
Recipe #2: Prawn Cocktail
Prawns or avocado
- Mix the ketchup, mayo, lemon, cayenne pepper, and worcester sauce to make Marie Rose
- Slice (white) bread in half and bake for melba toast
- Pop the prawns on lettuce
Total cost: £6.12 for a platter or 77p per person.
Recipe # 3: Christmas Dinner – Roast Turkey with Hasselback Potatoes, Stuffing and Veggies
1 tsp Sage
For the veg
White wine (optional)
- Put a rub of butter and rosemary under the skin of the turkey crown
- Sit on chopped celery in the dish to cook it evenly
- For the hasselbacks, skewer peeled potatoes
- Cut the outsides and fill the gaps with butter and garlic
- Bake at 180/90 for 30 – 40 minutes
- For the stuffing, grate the chestnuts and slice spring onion
- Mix the sausage meat, chestnuts, spring onion, tsp sage, and breadcrumbs
- Mush everything in a bowl and roll into balls
- Roast for 15 minutes at 180
- For the veg, slice the brussels thinly and sautee with onions, bacon and thyme
- Add a splash of white wine if there’s any already open(!)
- Parboil the carrots then fry in butter, salt and pepper
- Soften the parsnips in a pan, then drizzle honey and mustard on top
- Remove the turkey and deglaze the pan with hot water – don’t tip away
- Add cranberry sauce and flour to the turkey pan to make gravy
Total cost: £33.80 total or £4.23 per head for all three courses (pudding coming up!). The average Christmas dinner is £56 for eight people not including a starter.
Recipe #4: Christmas Pudding
4 tbsp treacle
Dark rum (optional)
- Freeze the butter so it will grate later
- Mix brown sugar, mincemeat, cranberry sauce and the treacle
- Beat the eggs and add
- Splash some dark rum
- Add flour and grated butter
- Microwave for 20/25mins
Total cost: 50p per person. They made this before the Christmas dinner, so it left them £3.73 for the main, but Matt did it for less anyway.
How To Get Better Value For Money On All The Recipes
For the Ham and Onion Tart, bacon is cheaper than Parma ham if buying especially. The steak bites turns a steak for one person into 20 pieces.
Using sirloin they costed at £4.12 for 215g, whereas they costed Bavette at £2.51 for 215g.
Making the Marie Rose for the prawn cocktail cost them 33p/100g versus 88p/100g to buy it premade. They costed frozen prawns at £4/400g versus £5.96/400g for fresh; Lidl seafood is even cheaper.
They suggested avocado instead of prawn for vegetarians; again the discounters are the cheapest for this. Aim to get a pack of four for £1.45 (£1.09 on offer is the lowest I’ve seen).
The biggest cost saving in the prawn cocktail starter is in putting it all on a platter for people to help themselves. Trying to make individual starters for lots of people would use a lot more ingredients.
Christmas dinner savings
One of the ways they kept the cost of the roast down was using a turkey crown because it’s cheaper than a whole turkey. It’s also quicker to cook and there’s usually less leftovers because there’s no faffing with carving meat off a carcass. (Or intentionally buy a whole turkey or a bigger crown than needed for one day with the idea that the meat will go towards many meals. Freeze the excess meat for curries and soups etc later in January).
Of course, not eating meat at all solves this entirely.
The stuffing cost them £1.25 and this could be done for even less if vegetarian. They said when we buy a box we are basically paying for seasoned breadcrumbs!
The Hoopers were used to buying lots of party snack food in small packets, but these are expensive for their weight. In the fridge they also had Camembert, Wensleydale, halloumi, more Wensleydale, more than one type of cheddar, parmesan etc. Cheese is quite expensive by weight also, so making a few diverse snacky bits is a lot cheaper than trying to provide an entire cheese board!
The dark rum in the Christmas pudding burns off, so it’s not alcoholic for younguns and there’s no need therefore to make a separate pudding at extra cost. Freezing and grating the butter was more of a culinary tip. It means the butter runs through in layers instead of all sinking to the bottom. Although if this makes it taste as good as or better than shop-bought, then it’s still a money saving tip.
As ever, check this page for the cheapest places to buy common ingredients:
100+ Best Value Food Ingredients
Other Ways To Save: Cheap Wine
Susanna met Victoria Moore, an award winning wine journalist to find out the costs behind cheap wine. She said supermarket brands often source really good wine from top wineries because they want their product to be good despite the low price.
This is how the cost of a £5 wine breaks down:
- £2.16 of our bottle goes on alcohol duty
- 56p on packaging and logistics
- 83p on VAT
- £1.08 is the profit margin
- The wine itself is only 37p
The costs of logistics etc don’t change per bottle, so that’s why spending more usually means you are paying for the wine itself, so it can sometimes mean a nicer wine. If we want to pay less though these are Victoria’s swaps for better value:
Instead of Rioja, try a Tempranillo from a different part of Spain.
Instead of New Zealand white, try a Bordeaux white.
Instead of champagne, try Cremant or supermarket sparklies.
And in a series one taste test, £6 prosecco got the thumbs up.
Forget breakfast, it’s turkey sandwiches all the way for the carnivores, let’s be honest.
Christmas dinner for most also means turkey sandwiches and frozen turkey meals for the rest of January and February…
They specified white bread for the prawn cocktail. I find white bread about as enjoyable as I imagine eating glue would be. Wholemeal has more fibre anyway.
People say that party food is their nemesis because having a bite here and there makes it hard to keep track of how much we’re eating. Having prawn cocktail as a sharer rather than individual starters would probably lead to less overeating for the sake of it as people can just have as much or as little as they like. Meanwhile most of us won’t waste a starter even if we’re not really hungry.
Visitors at an ice rink chose Coop over Aldi and Morrisons.
Coop and Morrison’s mince pies were six for £1 and Aldi’s were six for 79p. They didn’t compare with a big brand.
Save Money Good Food Series 2 Episode 5
That’s a (turkey?) wrap.
The big savings this episode were:
- Making party food from scratch
- Making starters to share instead of a setting for each person
- Maximising the flavour on a few veggies instead of having too much choice
- Choosing a turkey crown over a whole bird
- Homemade everything!
So what do you think? How much do you normally spend on Christmas dinner, or for parties? Would any of the above make a big difference? Let me know in the comments.
Do you own the Save Money Good Food book too? Have you made back what you spent by using their tips and recipes?
Episode Six is about packaged food ruts. Here’s what they made:
Recipe #1: Beef Koftas
Recipe #2: Fish Pie
Recipe #3: Chicken Curry, Rice Pilaf and Saag Aloo
Save Money Good Food so far
This was the first time they tackled Christmas dinner.
If you want to go back, episode four was about using every last leftover, and included recipes for Cheese and Tomato Pastry Spirals, Thai Green Curry, Chocolate Rice Balls and Moroccan Tagine.
Episode three was about quitting takeaways and included recipes for Strata, Homemade Fish and Chips, Chicken Chow Mein and Szechuan Pork-Filled Lettuce Cups.
Episode two was about quitting gourmet ready meals, and included recipes for Chicken Corden Bleu, Salmon Fishcakes, Molten Chocolate Pudding, and Steak with Potato Gratin.
Episode one was about picky eaters and included recipes for Salmon Carbonara, Hidden Vegetable Meatballs, and Chicken Nachos.
I’ll be recapping the rest of the episodes, so join the mailing list if you want to keep up with all the Save Money Good Food series 2 recipes. I’m also sending out other tips to rocket your savings and earnings in the emails for the timebeing.