Tips for making savings on Christmas meals

Christmas lunches and dinners account for 25.4 percent of our Christmas budget, according to Deloitte's Christmas Spending Survey 2021

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Christmas lunches and dinners account for 25.4 percent of our Christmas budget, according to Deloitte's Christmas Spending Survey 2021.

Christmas lunches and dinners account for 25.4 percent of our Christmas budget, according to Deloitte’s Christmas Spending Survey 2021. The Spanish spend an average of 160 euros per head on food and drink during the festivities, around half of the average monthly supermarket spend, according to the Family Budget Survey of the National Institute of Statistics (INE).

There are two reasons for this elevated expenditure at this time of year:

  1. We buy far more than we need due to a mixture of tradition and family/social obligations.
  2. We buy the typical Christmas products whose price is much higher at this time of the year (the law of supply and demand).

Most of the best tips for making savings on the Christmas menu seek to address these two issues. These are the most effective formulas to reduce your spending on Christmas meals.

Draw up a realistic menu

At Christmas, it’s almost an obligation to stuff ourselves like turkeys. Does it really have to be like this? Adapt your Christmas menu to what you really are going to eat, and forget those lavish meals where you’re already almost full by the starter.

You can cut back on starters, the main and second courses, and even on the typical Christmas turrons. It’s true that they are traditional, but it’s also true that very often they just sit there with barely anyone touching them.

The key lies in applying what you already know about mindful consumption to your menu planning.

Buy ahead

You’ve almost certainly got your Christmas menu in your head already. It’s what you’ve eaten since your childhood and what everyone expects to eat at this time of year.

The problem with traditions is that at this time of year everyone seems to eat the same thing. The result is that most people are after certain foodstuffs and consequently their prices go sky-high as we get nearer and nearer to the festive season.

The annual survey conducted by the Spanish Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU) puts a figure to these price hikes. Their research measures the prices of different foodstuffs at three specific times: one month before Christmas, around the Spanish public holiday period of 6-8 December, and just before the festivities.

The difference between the first and the last periods in certain fresh goods can exceed 50 percent. Here are the results:


ProductFirst surveySecond surveyThird surveyDifference between 1st and 3rd surveyDifference between 2nd and 3rd survey
Red sea bream41,1148,2469,4668,9%44,0%
Galician barnacles69,7074,72105,3751,2%41,0%
Oysters (dozen)21,7422,7124,9814,9%10,0%
Carpetshell clams16,7719,8819,0313,5%-4,3%
Iberian cured ham (50% grain fed)57,2056,9859,704,4%4,8%
Sea bass9,339,209,481,7%3,1%
Red cabbage1,361,371,35-0,9%-1,3%
Beef fillet14,4013,6813,82-4,0%1,0%
Roasting chicken10,217,237,07-30,8%-2,1%

Price (euros/kg) – Since 2020

The solution? Firstly, buy ahead any products you know are going to go up in price as time goes by, and freeze them.

Secondly, try the following option.

Try alternative menus.

To what extent do you insist on serving prawns? Or lamb, or sea bass? You’ve seen how the prices of certain products rocket around Christmastime. A very easy way of making savings on your Christmas menu is to avoid buying them.

Think about which foods you really, really want, and rule out the rest. For example, you could change lamb for chicken, or sea bream and hake for other types of fish.

Even if you love those dishes, you can plan an alternative menu and leave the more expensive foods to enjoy at another time of year when they are more affordable.

The same applies to drinks such as champagne, so typical at this time of year, but which don’t have to be essential. If you’re not keen on champagne you can raise a toast with cava or whatever else you happen to be drinking.

Shared lunches and dinners

If a lot of family members tend to get together at Christmas, you can share the costs of the Christmas dinner or lunch or, better still, get everyone involved in them. One fun way of doing this is to make each family member responsible for one dish.

Another option is to do every meal in a different house and compete to see who is the best host on the same low budget.

Don’t forget the time-honored tips

Finally, just because it’s Christmas doesn’t mean you should forget those time-honored money saving tips you use for the rest of the year:

  • Use a list whenever you go shopping and stick to it. This will stop you impulse buying.
  • Take advantage of own-brand products, especially for items that are not so important to you.
  • Look out for special offers on typical Christmas products, such as turrons and charcuterie. Thanks to these offers you can buy more and better on the same budget.

At the end of the day, the idea is not to let yourself get carried away by the Christmas spirit, but, if you do, then make sure it’s for something you really value and not just because of tradition.

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