Friday, 14 December 2012

Christmas Meal Challenge

About 10 years ago I became very disillusioned with the whole commercial nonsense surrounding Christmas.  I could see that me, my friends and family were spending far too much money during the festive period.  We were buying gifts that were not needed nor really wanted.  A family member stated that they bought their child a laptop because "They couldn't think of anything to get."
We were buying food and alcohol just to eat and drink to excess (and a lot was wasted I'm embarrassed to admit) When I was a child Christmas (and birthdays) were the only times we got new clothes, toys or books.  It was a big deal.  And while my 3 boys were appreciative of the gifts they received I worried that they were getting too used to 'things' and expected 'holiday food' to be provided 24/7.
So I bought a book called 'Unplug the Christmas Machine'  It changed everything, not just Christmas but everything that felt 'wrong' in the way we were living to excess.  A few years later we made the commitment to totally change our lifestyle and begin the road towards a more self sufficient life.  Unfortunately my ex decided that he wasn't cut out for a life of working hard outside an office, hence the situation I now find myself in.  But I wouldn't change it :-)
Blimey, how did I manage to digress so far from the original post topic?? Lol!!  Thanks for sticking with it so far :-)
Anyway, back on topic.  I still feel that we as a family spend far too much on food at Christmas.  Much of it is waaay overpriced and we're conned into buying 'party food' even when we aren't having a party! 3 for £10 on prawns wrapped in filo pastry is still £10 we don't really need to spend.  But the main day itself is completely dominated by the turkey.  A turkey that can cost up to £60!! (Last time I cooked one for a bigger gathering it was an M&S one at £64) And that's before buying all the trimmings, a starter and desserts.  When I cooked Christmas dinner for us plus 4 grandparents and 2 uncles it easily cost £500 plus including wine.
So here's the challenge.  I'm going make a 3 course traditional turkey dinner for 8 people for free, from scratch.  Yes FREE! Zero money.  How?
I'm going to use my nectar points that I've saved up over the year.  They're worth £52 in the supermarket that I usually shop in anyway. The turkey will be provided by a butcher friend of OH as a thank you gift.  Everything else including drinks will come out of the £52.  I totally believe that it's possible.  I keep a decently stocked storecupboard so I won't be including anything I normally have in stock like sugar, flour, stock powder etc.  But anything specially bought will be included in the £52.

Last night I had a good yellow stickered outing. 5 punnets of strawberries at 10p each, broccoli 10p, spring greens 10p and organic sprouts 49p.

Strawberries were chopped and left overnight in the juice of a lemon and a few teaspoons of icing sugar.

Today I pureed them and sieved them into just over a pint of strawberry coulis.  Some will go on a melon type starter and the rest can be ice cream sauce.  It's already in the freezer.  The sprouts have been prepped, blanched and frozen.  So that's 99p off my total already.

This lovely Christmas pudding mixture is now steaming away in my slow cooker.  I had all the ingredients except for the Guinness and black treacle.  But I used a voucher for another supermarket so I'm counting that as free as no money changed hands ;-)  I can use the treacle in other things (like treacle toffee!) and OH can drink the rest of Guinness!!

So far the menu looks like this (for 5 adults, 2 teens and a pre teen)

Fruit cup with strawberry coulis (possibly melon, grape and orange)

Turkey with gravy, bread sauce and cranberry jelly
Roast potatoes
Carrots, sprouts, sweetcorn
Chestnut stuffing (I actually have a pack of chestnuts in the cupboard!!)
3 cheese tart (for the veggie teen)

Christmas pudding (Mary Berry recipe)
Mango trifle (saw this on breakfast tv the other morning)
DIY Knickerbocker Glories (to use up leftover cake, fruit and cream from trifle plus coulis)

Look ok to you?  All thoughts and comments welcome.

PS Recipe for biscuits in previous post is from Veggie Kids by Roz Denny

115g chopped butter
175g plain flour
50g caster sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup

Put everything in a bowl and using your fingers rub everything together.  You might need to add more flour as it can get really sticky.
Knead into a smooth ball
Put dough in fridge for 30 mins to firm
Roll to 5mm thickness and cut out shapes, re roll to use up all the dough
Bake on a tray at 180 for 10 to 15 mins (keep checking after 10 mins as they can burn easily)


  1. I am totally impressed. Very good job! Your thoughtfulness in solving the dilemma is terrific. Keep up the good work. You are an inspiration.

  2. We started doing this 30 odd years back mostly because some of us were employed and some of us were not. So no present is to be valued at over $10 and they can be anything at all as long as they are really silly :) The only traditional thing still on the menu is christmas pudding because it is summer here and most of it is just inappropriate except for mid winter. We share the dinner stuff - my contribution will be a hogget roast (home grown) fresh beans from the garden, ditto carrots, lettuce, and cucumber. Possibly some peas bought locally. The two youngest will get slightly more serious presents but even they are getting into the silly stuff now they are teens.

    I can say that I haven't looked at a christmas catalogue for years and have avoided shops almost completely (I make most of what I give - the rest is collected over the year mostly from secondhand shops). It just makes for such a relaxed and wonderful atmosphere :)

    viv in nz

  3. Thanks so much for the biscuit recipe.. really looking forward to trying these as I don't really like traditional sugar cookies. I think your meal plan sounds great. I go a few steps further and don't 'do' any of it, but I am single and usually at work, so it's perfectly fine;) I am actually off this year, but still will do nothing extra to celebrate as family are in England and I am in US. A few drinks is all I need - and maybe a couple of these biscuits! Merry Christmas to you and yours.


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