It’s nearly time for the big Christmas shop. You know the one – the really big one, where one trolley isn’t enough, you think your mother might pass out when she thinks there’s no sprouts left and your dad is wondering when she invited another 22 guests to Christmas dinner.
Yes, it’s the annual tradition of buying 12 weeks of food in one go, because the shops are going to be closed for, well they’re going to be closed for one, maybe two days. While you need to make sure there’s enough for your household and any guests to eat over the Christmas period, don’t give in to the madness.
Here’s how to tackle the big Christmas shop in a sensible fashion.
We laughed at our parents as kids as they meticulously planned a Christmas Eve feast, Christmas lunch and the Boxing Day buffet, but now we totally get it. There’s loads of pressure heaped on this time of year and if the food’s not up to scratch, then people will notice (or so we’re told). It’s this planning that means everyone will get fed, there won’t be too much waste and the budget won’t go out the window.
Go to the supermarket for the big shop without a list at your peril. You’ll end up with jars of things that will sit in the fridge for at least the next 12 months, if not 24; there won’t be enough of the essentials; and you’ll definitely spend twice as much as you intended to.
Sort out your guest to food ratio
Hitting that sweet spot of just enough food without waste is so hard, but luckily help is at hand. The Spruce has put together a handy guide to working out the perfect food to guest ratio, no matter what you’re serving. As well as suggesting how much meat, potatoes, veggies or dessert to calculate per person, it also tells you how many canapes per person per hour you should have for your cocktail party. It’s a Christmas miracle!
Buy versatile ingredients
When putting together your Christmas food plan, try not to factor in too many recipes that need super-specialised ingredients. All this leads to is half-used packets of things that are never going to end up in another dish. Factoring in your leftovers is the best way to maximise your budget, so having a few recipes with ingredients that overlap is the way forward.
Prep an emergency cheese board
The best way to ensure that nobody goes hungry over Christmas is to have all the makings of an emergency cheese board to hand. It’s always a crowd pleaser when the cheese comes out and nobody has to know that it’s appeared because you’ve run out of everything else to feed them. Crackers last for ages and so does chutney, so just make sure your cheese has a good shelf life in case it doesn’t get used. Then, if you don’t serve it to your guests, you can have the poshest macaroni cheese for tea in the New Year.
Take a reality check
Remember that Tuesday when you’d forgotten to go to the shops and fed the kids fish fingers with spaghetti for tea? They survived, didn’t they?! And in fact, they seemed to actually enjoy it. Treat Christmas in the same way and have a root around in the cupboards and the freezer to see what you can feed any open mouths this festive season. In reality, there’s plenty of food in kitchens just looking to be used up, so turn to that before buying loads extra that may end up going to waste.