If you can manage to cook a family Christmas dinner for under $200 it will depend a lot on the number of people you intend on feeding. It will also depend on where you live and your access to the ingredients at the right price. To show you all of the different ways you can keep your costs down, we have used an example of 14 couples and ten children, so that you can see that even a large family can enjoy a special Christmas dinner together, without spending more than $200.
It always helps if you share the cooking around the family with each bringing their own contribution but in this exercise all we are interested in is the total cost, no matter who pays. In this case we looked at a leg of ham or a large chicken, even a turkey if we could get one at the right price. We finished up with a 21 pound turkey because we got it for only $11. We felt it was a real bargain because that was what we were looking for in order to keep our final costs down. The next thing we agreed on was a green salad, brown rice, beans, mashed potatoes with gravy, green bean casserole, stuffing, cranberry relish, sweet potatoes and empanada (a pastry), chips and spicy salsa sauce, Christmas cake and pie. For drinks we settled on some wine for the adults and fizzy drinks for the kids.
Not all that many homes are set up for a dinner party of 24 people so we put aside enough money to hire three six foot long fold up tables and sixteen extra chairs. To save somebody having to set the table and clean up so much after we went for a buffet style of dinner serving. We also purchased some paper plates as well as cheap plastic tablecloths and paper napkins. To make it look good we decorated the table with some red and white baubles and little plastic Christmas trees.
Home Made is the Way to go in Keeping Costs Down
We decided that the best way to keep costs to a minimum would be to home-make all the food but as we couldn’t do that with the wine we went for bargain prices in this area. Everybody was invited to help and everybody was only too pleased to get involved, including the kids, as we had learned from past experience that such a day can become quite overbearing if left to one person.
The day went well, everybody was well fed and little washing up was needed at the finish. We weren’t out of pocket and we came in on budget. To obtain a similar dinner at a restaurant we would have had to pay the best part of $100 a head. With the prices of meals in most restaurants rising around Christmas time, it would probably have been a lot more. We even had enough leftovers for the dog.
To itemise our total spending for the day, here is a breakdown of all our expenses:
* Tables and chair hire = $50.
* Plastic table cloths = $3.
* Paper plates and plastic cups = $12.
* Turkey = $11.
* Green bean casserole = $15.
* Green salad = $5.
* Beans = $3.
* Rice = $5.
* Sweet potatoes = $5.
* Empanadas = $10.
* Stuffing = $4.
* Chips and salsa = $8.
* Mashed potatoes = $6.
* Gravy = $1.
* Cake = $10.
* Pie = $10.
* Wine = $36.
* Soft drink = $6
* Total cost = $200.
Remember we made up all this food ourselves and didn’t buy anything pre-made from a store. This includes the soft drinks for the children, the pies and the Christmas cake itself. It shows what can be done if everybody pitches in and helps. Nobody was out of pocket for any significant amount of money and we all had one of the best Christmases ever.
Christmas is the one time of the year when we all love to get together to enjoy each other’s company, it need not be a costly occasion if you plan it right. In this case we all got out of it at just $8.33 a head plus a little work. It proved to us that with a little discipline it can be done and it could have been lower if we grew our own vegetables. The secret was in not buying any processed foods off the shelf at a supermarket. Even though you sometimes feel that processed foods are a bargain and individually they appear cheaper, we proved with this experiment that by buying raw materials and cooking them up ourselves we were able to save a lot of money.
The fact that we succeeded in feeding 24 people a good hearty meal for $200 led us to plan a lot more cooperation in the future in other ways of saving money on our food. We now make our own jams and preserve fruit as it comes into season. There is enough fertile land in the backyards of our homes where we grow a variety of vegetables. Instead of overdoing it we decide who grows what and then we will share or swap any excess production among us. It looks like we had quite an eventful Christmas last year because this year we had to buy very little at the stores as we grew most of the ingredients among ourselves, and preserved the rest when the fruit was at its cheapest during the year.
Alban has contributed to many frugal blogs over the last 2 years with innovation yet simple tips to save money in your daily life.
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