How To Plan Christmas Dinner On A Budget?

Family Around the Christmas Dinner Table.

Christmas is a time for family and friends to come together and celebrate the season! But it can also be a time of financial stress if you don’t plan ahead. That’s why we think you should consider making this year’s Christmas Dinner on a budget! If you’re looking to save money on your Christmas food while still making it feel like the most magical time, read on for some top tips on how to slash the cost of the biggest meal of the year!

Plan What Recipes To Make For Christmas Dinner

Let me tell you something! A family of four spends around $150 in the US on Christmas Dinner alone. In the UK, a Christmas dinner for a family of 4 or more is expected to cost £291 on average in 2022.

If you are on a tighter budget this year, these numbers must immediately send you into panic! But don’t worry, we’ve got you! Plan a lower-cost Christmas dinner with us without making it any less special!

With a bit of planning and a few practical tips, you can still have a wonderfully flavoursome, filling and spectacular-looking Cheap Christmas Dinner! Let’s go, let’s switch up your traditional Christmas Dinner to make it more budget-friendly!

A person taking dollars out of their wallet.

Consider Cheaper Alternatives To Your Christmas Classics

Let’s address the elephant in the room. Christmas Dinner centrepiece is usually some type of bird no matter where in the world you reside, and it is one of the most expensive things on your Christmas table!

Consider your bird carefully

  • Do you need a whole turkey for your main course if you’re only feeding four? How are you going to use all the leftovers? It may be wiser (and a lot cheaper) to just get turkey breast or a turkey crown.
  • Goose is lovely, but one of the most expensive options for a Christmas meal. Maybe you can switch it up with a whole duck or even whole chicken this year? Both of these are a lot more affordable options.
Christmas Turkey in a roasting tin on a decorated table.
  • Swap the bird for a cheap joint of meat, like gammon or pork joint?
  • Go veggie for Christmas this year? If you are on a tight budget, having a vegetarian dinner will not only help the environment but will definitely be healthy for your pocket. Try a lovely nut roast or a vegetarian Wellington as your centrepiece!

Other bits and pieces that are a true tradition on Christmas include smoked salmon, cheeseboards and Christmas cake or Christmas Pudding (that can get extremely expensive). We have some cheaper alternatives here for you to consider.

Smoked Salmon

  • Buy smoked salmon trimmings and make a paté with it instead.
  • Smoked Salmon Trimmings would work well on small Smoked Salmon Canapes, that is very easy to make even for novice cooks.
  • Skip the salmon and use cheaper alternatives like smoked mackerel or trout.

Christmas Cheeseboard

  • Cheese can get expensive and we think that you get what you pay for when it comes to high-quality cheese! But good news! There are still ways to save money and have a fantastic cheeseboard to start or finish your meal with:
    • Make your own caramelised onion or other chutney in advance, using summer/autumn fruit and vegetables.
    • Make your own crackers to go with your cheese.

Christmas Desserts

Christmas Cake or Christmas Pudding is a grand tradition, at least here in the UK, but…

  • 52% admit to not even liking Christmas Pudding.
  • Christmas Dinner is a big meal, and most of us would probably enjoy something lighter for dessert.
  • Steaming it for hours the traditional way will add lots to your utility bills and sticking it in a microwave just doesn’t feel festive.

Consider cheaper lighter alternatives that everyone enjoys, like a trifle (that’s typically more than half the price) or make your own Christmas dessert, like this Spiced Panna Cotta With Cranberry Jelly!

Christmas Panna Cotta on a dark surface.

Use Cheaper Ingredients

If you’re planning on making a roast dinner this Christmas, why not use frozen ingredients? Making use of a supermarket’s frozen aisle can help you stretch your budget without compromising on quality. There are a few ways you can use frozen ingredients to save money when cooking Christmas dinner.

Christmas is also a time of year when many supermarkets offer special food deals and discounts. A week or two before Christmas, keep an eye out for any deals that get announced on each supermarket’s website. Aldi and Lidle in the UK do a great job at discounting a range of vegetables that you’d normally use for the Festive Dinner side dishes around Christmas.

Fruit and vegetables in a supermarket.

What is more, look out for Christmas-themed deals on items such as meats, wine, and fresh produce, as this is a great chance to save money on these items. Additionally, if you’re hosting the dinner, you can also take advantage of wholesale prices to reduce the cost of ingredients in bulk quantities.

Finally, consider growing some fresh herbs on your window sill, or drying the herbs in the summertime to make delicious seasoning. What is more, if you have a garden and grow vegetables over the warm months, keep Christmas in mind – freeze or use other preserving methods to make some delicious Christmas foods ahead of time and save on food shopping in December!

Look Into Portion Sizes and Don’t Buy Too Much Food

It’s easy to get carried away when you’re buying food for your holiday meal, especially if you have plenty of guests to serve and impress. But if you’re really trying to save money, rushing out to buy more food than you need can be a big mistake.

Look into portion size suggestions online, make sure not to make too many side dishes (especially ones that nobody usually likes (HINT: Brussels Sprouts)) and make a list of what you need with amounts expressed in numbers and weights. This way you won’t have too much food leftover, avoid any food wastage and save a ton of money along the way!

Raid Your Cupboards Before You Make A Shopping List

Lots of us have more food at home than we realise. If you have a pantry or lots of stocked cupboards, make sure to go through everything you’ve got before making your final Christmas shopping list. If saving money is your ultimate goal when it comes to Christmas Dinner, see if you can base your side dishes, sauce and other trimmings around what you already have in your cupboards and freezer. Set all this food that you can use aside in a dedicated Christmas cupboard and don’t include any of these ingredients on your Christmas shopping list!

Bonus Tip: If you are a self-confessed food hoarder, make sure to check the expiry date on the tins and packets.

Make A List And Stick To It

Checking the list off whilst doing a food shop.

Having a plan in place can help you ensure that you have the ingredients you’ll need for each dish without running out last minute before your guests arrive. Plus, you will take a lot less time in the shop (which will likely be crowded) when shopping for your Christmas dinner ingredients.

Consider Cooking Methods To Reduce Your Energy Bills

There are numerous cooking methods that can help you to lower your energy bills, save money, and make your food taste delicious. For example, a slow cooker (like a crock pot) is an extremely cost-effective way of making inexpensive cuts of meat taste amazing. It also requires significantly less energy to cook than other methods, helping you to reduce your energy bills.

Another way to keep your utility bills down over the festive season is to use air-fryers for your roast potatoes, pigs-in-blankets and even to make roast chicken. Not only healthier than using lots of oil, but air-fryers are also actually both energy and time-efficient.

However, if you are turning the oven on this year, make sure it’s full, so you can batch cook everything you need, keeping the oven time to a minimum.

Spread The Costs If you Haven’t Budgeted For Christmas Ahead of Time

If you haven’t been putting money aside for Christmas over the course of the year, Christmas expenditure can definitely overwhelm your credit cards and your mind. After all, according to the Bank of England, a typical household in the UK spends £740 more in December than any other month. To make sure you don’t run out of money in December, try and shop for non-perishable items (like cranberry sauce, flour, chocolate, nuts and other longer-shelf life items) a month or two in advance.

This way costs will be spread across two or three months and will be less noticeable. However, this method only works if you’ve planned your meals and made a shopping list in advance. Buying random items that you think you may need (but may not) will only add to your already high Christmas Food bill.

Two peaople at a christmas dinner table with lots of diches and decorations on it.

Ask Your Guests To Bring A Dish

Dish-sharing is a great way of getting friends and family members to bring dishes to your Christmas day dinner on a budget. For example, if you’re having turkey for your Christmas dinner, you can ask guests to bring mashed potato or stuffing. And if they’re travelling from further away, some cold dishes, like cheese or a dessert.

You could also arrange for each guest to bring a different dish, which will allow you to take advantage of the flavour combinations that come with each dish. And let’s be honest, the best part of this saving exercise is that it’s way more fun to sample everybody’s cooking!

Save On Christmas Drinks

If skipping alcoholic drinks altogether isn’t an option you want to consider this year, there are ways to save on drinks! Here are a few things to consider:

  • Making cocktails may be cheaper than serving short drinks, as they contain less of the expensive alcohol.
  • Buying alcohol in advance when you find good discounts may save you money (prices typically increase when demand for drinks is higher, especially around holidays).
  • Ask guests to bring a bottle of drink – if everyone brings something, you may even have enough leftovers for Easter!
  • Consider non-premium brands. If you are not much of a connoisseur and cannot really tell the difference between two different brands, try a cheaper version – you may be surprised! And if you’re embarrassed that you can not offer ‘the best’ to your guests at Christmas time, one of the best ways is to pour your drinks into carafes (it will be even fancier than in branded packaging)!
A carafe with brown liquid and two bottles on a small table with 4 stick candles next to them.

Tableware and Table Decor

There are many ways in which you can make your Christmas dinner on a budget this year and for years to come:

  • Do not buy disposable napkins every year. Use fabric napkins that can be laundered and reused time after time.
  • There is no need to buy new decorations for your table each year, use some Christmas lights and Christmas tree branches for a minimalist decor.
  • Focus on memories, not aesthetics and let your children decorate the Christmas table with their own DIY decorations!
  • If you are crafty yourself, why not use some dehydrated fruit slices and branches picked up on your walk in a local forest to make some free decorations for your table this year?

Sample Cheap Christmas Menu

Now that you have all the tools to create your own very special Christmas Dinner on a Budget, you may still benefit from some inspiration, right? Fill in the form below and join our loyal community of subscribers and receive a bunch of low-cost easy recipe ideas for your Christmas Table.

Subscribe to our newsletter where we share extra tips and tricks on saving money, planning Holiday Season and everyday life!

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What is more, if you are based in the UK, join our private Facebook Group – ALDI UK Super 6 Recipes – where we share recipes that use weekly bargains from our favourite discount supermarket – Aldi! This group will be full of cheap Christmas Recipes in December!


Christmas dinner doesn’t have to break the bank. With a bit of creativity, a little planning and some preparation work done in advance, you can make a delicious and cheap Christmas dinner that’s just as tasty and memorable, but on a tighter holiday budget!

For more tips on how to have Christmas on a budget, head to our Ultimate Guide on Frugal Christmas.

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