It’s quite possible to spend so much on Christmas that you are still paying for it at Easter or even by the summer. This seems a bit pointless, as it’s quite possible to rein things in so that the meaning of Christmas is there without the financial hangover afterwards. Ideally you should have been putting away 1/12 of your spare income each month with the festive season in mind. We’ll start with planning for a good but economical Christmas dinner.
Turkey – Fresh is nice, and makes it easier to avoid food poisoning as it doesn’t need defrosting, but if funds are tight, choose a frozen bird but plan ahead carefully and allow it to defrost properly (See the British Turkey website at http://www.britishturkey.co.uk/cooking/cooking-calculators.html for a clever online tool to help you calculate the time required, but you should be allowing as long as 120-144 hours to defrost a 12 pound turkey in the fridge, for example, or 36-48 hours in a cool room or garage, and 24 hours at room temperature. If you are really struggling financially, turkey joints provide a tasty alternative, as do large chickens. If you are having a cheaper turkey, add flavour by putting an onion into the cavity, as well as strips of bacon over the breast, before covering with a double layer of foil and cooking.
Vegetables – Again, if you can’t afford fresh, or haven’t got a lot of time to prepare on the day, then go for frozen, as they have all of the vitamins and fibre and the family will hardly notice.
Stuffing – Try putting the following into a blender to make your own stuffing: a few pieces of stale bread, a handful of sage leaves out of the garden, a sliced onion, some salt and pepper, an egg, a little milk if it seems quite dry. Blend on high for a minute until it is all mixed up, and then take out and place in a loaf tin, use to stuff your bird, or roll into little balls and bake on a baking sheet covered with parchment.
Sausage and bacon rolls – The frozen ones are fairly indistinguishable from fresh once cooked, and can be bought from mid-Autumn onwards when there is a special offer.
Christmas pudding – The cheaper ones are surprisingly good, and I have it on good authority that some restaurants have been known to buy these from leading supermarkets and serve them as their own. Serve with cream for minimum effort, or Sweet white sauce (see recipe elsewhere on blog) or custard.
Cranberry sauce – Again, the cheaper brands are often perfectly acceptable. A dollop of red wine or port and a bit of orange zest will bring them to life.