Making a thrifty Christmas menu

tenner week festive prep penny golightly day 2

Today’s Day Two of our latest Tenner Week budgeting challenge, and it’s time to move on to the festive prep side of things. Today we are sketching out some festive menus and getting a few recipe ideas for food and drink that can be created ahead of time. If you can, try for a zero spend day as well.

Do you know where you’re spending the festive season this year? Are you hosting Christmas? Are you planning on having friends over for parties or New Year celebrations?

Have a look at your calendar or diary and start to make a rough plan of events, dates, and likely numbers of guests. This will give you plenty of time to start thinking about catering, finding recipes and making menus. That’s a lot better than doing everything at the last minute, and buying everything in ready made.

What could you make this weekend that would keep, maybe in the freezer or an airtight box? Start looking at a few food blogs and recipe sites and collect one or two good recipes.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Shortcrust pastry to freeze raw or baked blind (i.e. ready made pastry cases that just need filling and a final blast in the oven)
  • Mince pies to freeze
  • Bread or pizza dough, or fancy baked breads – great for starters, making meals go further, buffets or easy suppers
  • Soups, casseroles or stews – handy for when extra guests drop by unexpectedly, just add extra rice, bread or vegetables
  • Stuffing, pigs in blankets, brandy butter or other side dishes
  • Fruit cake or other cakes, such as sponge cake to freeze and later put in a trifle or tiramisu
  • Christmas pudding
  • Canapes to freeze (anything from mini fish cakes to pastry parcels or herby falafel)
  • Savoury or sweet fillings to go into pies
  • Sweet mincemeat, chutneys, pickles or jams
  • Infused oils, vinegars or spirits
  • Pickles, jams or relishes, or fruits in syrup or brandy

In short, anything that can be prepared ahead of time so that you can take it easier on the day and relax a bit more.

What’s happening here?

We’re hoping for a fairly low-key Christmas Day this year, nothing too fancy, but we’ll also be having friends over for drinks and meals so I’m concentrating on buffet food and snacks to have with drinks.

I’m looking for interesting bread recipes to make tear and share loaves, and some interesting soup recipes for seasonal ingredients. If there’s time, I’m also going to look for alternatives to mince pies, maybe some kind of mini bakewell tarts if these can be frozen.

What might you be thinking about making ahead of time, and maybe freezing?

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  1. This may make me sound like a misery but there we go, I see it more as freeing me up from the notion of the perfect Christmas.

    If someone turns up unexpectedly then if I don’t have anything in it’s just tough, someone once told me my house isn’t a 24 hour diner nor a hotel so if a cup of tea is all I have to offer then that’s fine! That single piece of advise has done more to ease the pressure than probably anything else.

  2. Hi thrift deluxe, it’s fair enough to say that people shouldn’t expect to be fed and watered if they drop by uninvited, and I don’t think that anyone should feel obliged to provide anything under those circumstances, especially if they’re having money trouble. I’ve written before about the dangers of trying to be ‘The Great Provider’.

    Our situation here is that some of our friends end up working crazy shifts at short notice, or they have freelance jobs that are not formally booked in or get cancelled at the last minute. They want to join us, but often can’t promise either way whether they’ll be free or not. Between us we all have to take a flexible approach, so we drop by as and when we can to see one another. That’s why I like to have a few mince pies or party bites in the freezer.

    This article / exercise today is mainly for thinking happy thoughts about what you want to have during the festive season, and finding a few nice recipes for that (you still need to eat and you might as well enjoy it, guests or no) 🙂

  3. Freeing myself from the idea of obligation is a way of thinking happy festive thoughts for me!

  4. When my dad was alive we used to make sausage rolls, mince pies and savory boats (sort of mini quiches) Xmas cake a pudding all from scratch. Loved spending that time doing it, in a few years when my girls are big enough I’m going to do it (cheat on pastry, not a fan of making).

  5. Hi JBM2 – family recipes are a lovely idea, especially when you cook them together. Lots of good memories to look back on, and something nice to look forward to as well.

  6. My Husband does all the cooking in our house – I do everything else!!!l lol!! We enjoy a simple traditional Christmas dinner for just the 4 of us, we don’t tend to buy more than we do on a normal week – I am with you thrift deluxe – if friends turn up unannounced they have to make do with a cup of tea and whatever is going spare. This year we have saved the vouchers from our match and more cards at morrisons – we normally by our food from Aldi but our petrol from morrisons – so far we have £40 in vouchers that we will use for food during Christmas week – we plan to treat ourselves so that we don’t have to be cooking any big meals and can spend time with the kids or relaxing.

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