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.
|Deadline||Adult 1||Adult 2|
|Wrap presents for children’s teachers and take to school||Last day of term|
|Organise family visits.||15/11|
|Book hair and beauty appointments||15/11|
|Inform relatives of presents children would like, and ask parents of other children the same||15/11|
|Order Christmas tree (by 1st December for 10% discount) from company such as http://www.thechristmastreefarm.co.uk for delivery on 22nd or 23rd December.||30/11|
|Buy Christmas cards||1/12|
|Buy Christmas stamps from Post Office||1/12|
|Buy gift wrap and ribbons, brown parcel paper, sellotape||1/12|
|Create address labels for Christmas cards||1/12|
|Invite people for New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day.||1/12|
|Make sure dates for children’s Christmas events are in the diary (usually last week of term)||1/12|
|Organise leave or early departure from work to attend children’s carol concerts and/or Christingle services.||1/12|
|Plan for bad weather with extra de-icer sprays and screen wash.||1/12|
|Clear out kitchen cupboards to make space for Christmas supplies.||4/12|
|Secure online grocery delivery slot for 23rd December and/or 31st December. NB: This must usually be done first thing on 4th December and 10th December, the day the slots are released three weeks ahead.||4/12|
|Help children write their Christmas cards.||7/12|
|Plan menus and order groceries for later delivery||7/12|
|Order turkey from the butchers for collection on Christmas Eve.||13/12|
|Post UK Christmas cards by 17th December (see Post Office schedules for overseas and second class posting deadlines)||17/12|
|Present shopping (see spreadsheet)||17/12|
|Write Christmas cards||17/12|
|Bring down decorations from loft.||23/12|
|Check groceries delivered don’t have short use by dates.||23/12|
|Decorate Christmas tree.||23/12|
|Collect turkey from butcher||24/12|