Eat well, spend less: Christmas

Eat well, spend less: Christmas

Christmas can be such an expensive time. We show you how you can save money this year.

Kiwis may not deck the halls with boughs of holly but the New Zealand Christmas is every bit as traditional as that of our European counterparts, it’s just that the traditions vary hugely from family to family depending on their culture of origin.

My Danish immigrant friends drink Glug every Christmas Eve – a fiendishly alcoholic mulled wine, then they merrily dance around their Christmas tree just as they did back in Denmark. The Poms, God bless them, still think Christmas in the southern hemisphere is unnatural, and stoically picnic at Christmas regardless of the fact that it is frequently humid, drizzly and blowing a gale. Kiwis tend to favour more informal family gatherings, multiple desserts and the barbecue.

Your Christmas event may not look very traditional, but traditions are simply things that become more significant and meaningful the more times you do them and feasting has to be one of the best traditions in any culture.

It’s also one of the most expensive, especially at Christmas when budgets stretch to the maximum. As a culture we are inclined to shop for Christmas as though preparing for a siege, so if you want to keep it under control this year, take the time to identify the things that are the most important to your particular celebration.

Do you include things in the family feast simply because they are ‘traditional’ and not because any of you actually like them any more? Are you over-catering out of habit even though the kids have left home?

Some thoughtful analysis can leave you with more cash for the traditions that are really important to you and help avoid unnecessary excess.

Don’t get me wrong, I love excess! I’m a greedy girl and one of the joys of Christmas for me is the anticipation of eating so much I have to lie down for a little while, but I’ll enjoy my post prandial nap on Christmas day much more if I know I’m not going to be still paying it off in February.

  • Is the menu too labour intensive? If you are spending the whole day in the kitchen, you may want to review the menu or share the jobs. If you do it all yourself, is it because you love to or are you simply a Christmas control freak?
  • Families change: what may have been brilliant when the kids were little may prove less than perfect when you have to cater for girlfriends, in-laws or extra kids.
  • Is it seasonally appropriate? Many ‘traditional’ Christmas foods originated in Europe where Christmas falls in winter and were developed during the middle ages when people had only stored or seasonal foods available, hence the prevalence of dried fruits and nuts. These could be made into dishes that would keep for the whole 12-day festival.
  • Plan to do as much ahead as possible: so you aren’t steaming the pudding on Christmas day when it’s 98% humidity and the kids are playing in the sprinkler.
  • Do you include things just because they are traditional? Can you:
    • Buy ahead when on special and freeze.
    • Share the cost with extended family.
    • Choose just one or two dishes: no need to eat the farmyard!
    • Can each family member contribute a dish?
    • Are your vegetable traditions seasonally appropriate?
    • Can you prepare ahead and freeze to ease pressure?
    • Read reviews then select wines to give you the best value for your budget.
    • Will you get better value if you buy a case?
    • Can you split a case with friends or use extra bottles as gifts?
    • Mixed drinks like punch and Sangria are ultra refreshing, less alcoholic and make your booze go a long way on a hot afternoon.
  • Lamb leg 2-2.5kg
    approx. $46.00 or $5.75 per person
  • Pork leg 2.5-3kg
    approx. $36.00 or $4.50 per person
  • Ham 1/2 leg 4-5kg
    approx. $50.00 or $6.2 per person
  • Turkey 5kg frozen
    approx. $63.00 or $7.90 per person (a fresh turkey is significantly more expensive)
  • Turkey breast 1.5kg
    approx. $33.00 per kg or $4.10 per person
  • Chicken frozen
    between $7-$10 each

Note: Prices are averages taken from a selection of butchers for the most commonly requested Christmas joints. The quantities are as suggested by the butchers to serve eight people.

First published: Dec 2006


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