Christmas dinner (on a budget)

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By in Student Recipes. Updated December 2015.

Stuff the turkey sandwiches: Christmas dinner doesn’t have to break the bank! Here’s how to get festive (with all the trimmings) for around £3 a dinnerThere’s nothing better than throwing a Christmas dinner with your mates before heading home to the ‘rents – and you can push the (gravy) boat out for less than you think. Here’s how to bring it together like Nigella.

The key to bringing down the cost is to cook for all of your mates and split the bill (and the washing-up: bonus).


foodshoppingGet a group of four or more mates and buy value or frozen ingredients to bring the cost down to as little as £3 per head. Or surf over to to see where you can grab the best buys.

A whole chicken works out cheapest pound-for-£ but can be tricky to get in a small oven, so we’ve gone for breast meat. If you’re veggie, add onions, frozen puff pastry and soft goat’s cheese to your list instead for Nigel Slater’s tasty tart recipe.

Your essentials

  • Chicken or turkey breasts (1 per person)
  • Potatoes (Maris Piper)
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
  • Peas (frozen)
  • Yorkshire puddings (ready-made frozen)
  • Gravy granules
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Your extras

If budget or tastes stretch to it, turn up the good tidings with pigs-in-blankets (sausages wrapped in bacon), Brussels sprouts, sage and onion stuffing, and cranberry or bread sauce. Garlic, honey, herbs, flour and lemons are cheap flavour enhancers to have on-hand, too.

You’re Gordon Ramsey

Gordon_Ramsay_Behind_Bars___videoIf you’re uber confident, you can always opt to make a few more things from scratch – Yorkshire puddings, homemade gravy and even cranberry sauce. Being foul-mouthed and intensely disagreeable while you do it: optional.


  1. Roast potatoes

    Crispy-Roast-PotatoesPeel your potatoes, cut into bite-sized chunks and stick them in boiling water for 10 mins. Meanwhile put a couple of tablespoons of oil in a roasting pan and whack it in the oven at 220 degrees centigrade (this gets the oven ready for the meat, too).

    Drain the par-boiled spuds in a colander or sieve – feel free to really bang them about you drain the water off, as any rough edges crisp up a treat. For even more heavenly crispiness, add a spoonful of flour now and shake to coat.

    Carefully add the potatoes to the hot pan making sure they’re evenly oiled up. Add a dash of salt, pepper and herbs if you have them: roast for 15 minutes, turn the pieces over, and roast for another 15 minutes. Poke them with a fork to test if they’re done.

    Top tip: Get your potatoes in the oven at the same time as the meat for well-timed serving: if it’s big enough, roast your meat and veg in the same pan to let the flavours mingle.

  2. Carrots and parsnips

    carrotPeel and cut in half, then into long slices. In another oven dish (or the same pan if you can fit it all in), drizzle with oil and coat generously with honey. Sugar can work if you’re low on honey. Roast for 20 to 30 mins – keep turning and checking to get ’em how you like ’em.

  3. The main

    Stuffed Turkey and Smokey BaconWhack your chicken or turkey breasts in the oven for about 30-35 mins at 200 degrees, in a casserole dish with a little oil.

    Optional kick: If you’ve any bacon rashers in the fridge, drape over the meat to keep it moist while cooking, and chuck in any seasoning (garlic cloves, herbs, lemon juice, honey or salt and pepper). Or up the stakes with our turkey stuffed with smoky bacon recipe.

  • Roasting a whole chicken? Put it in for 20 mins at 220 degrees, then turn the heat down to 190 degrees for 45 mins until golden brown and crispy – put it in before the potatoes to stay on schedule.
  • If you’re making the onion tart, you’ll also need to allow 20 mins prep and 45 mins cooking time.
  1. Peas and Yorkshire puddings

    Yorkshire_Pudding1About 10 minutes before plating up, follow the instructions on the pack to heat the peas and Yorkies.

    If you’re running low on oven space serve up the majority and then hand round the Yorkshire puddings after they’re cooked – they only take a few minutes to heat.

    Making your own puddings? Pop a little oil in a muffin tray and place it in the oven when you boil the spuds. Then mix 4 eggs with 350ml of milk, gradually whisk in 215g of self-raising flour and pour the batter into your hot tray and roast along with the potatoes. They’ll puff up and turn golden brown when ready. Don’t have muffin or cupcake baking trays? Just make a massive one in a normal tray and cut up once it’s cooked.

  1. Gravy

    TurkeyGravyRemember to boil the kettle for the all-important gravy! Just stir gravy granules in boiling water and make it as thick as you like.

    If you’re making your own gravy, just pour the juices from the meat into a pan, whisk in some flour to thicken, and bring to simmer with the water you used for the peas. Add a stock cube and some gravy browning (optional) for colour.

Good times

Flatmate Christmas DinnerAnd there you have it. All you need now are some funny hats, bad puns and someone throwing a wobbly and voilà: Christmas dinner just like at home!

If you fancy something cheap and cheerful for afters, have a go at these simple chocolate truffles.

Have fun and let us know how you get on – send us pics to claim your bragging rights.

Merry Christmas from Save the Student!

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6 Responses to “Christmas dinner (on a budget)”

  1. Michael

    05. Dec, 2014

    Step 1: Go to aldi
    Step 2: Cook

  2. James

    10. Dec, 2012

    Why not cook yorkshire puds instead. It only takes 10 mins to cook and is so simple. The batter can be made in advance.
    (makes 12)
    2 tbsp plain flour
    2 eggs
    Whisk flour and eggs together in a bowl, add milk and a little bit of water to double cream consistancy, beat the mixture well.
    Place a small amount of lard in every each section of the yorkshire pud tray and heat up in the oven (oven needs to be at 200 degrees)
    Once the fat is nice and hot add a 1 or 2 tbsps of the batter into each secton of the tray and place in the oven for 10mins or until your yorkshire puds have risen and gone a golden brown colour.

  3. Faye

    06. Jan, 2011

    Great post Laura, the only thing is I cooked the chicken for half an hour, not an hour! But for students with dodgy ovens like we had at Roseangle an hour might be better 😛

  4. Laura Craddock

    17. Dec, 2010

    Let us know how it goes, Lucy!

  5. Lucy

    17. Dec, 2010

    That looks yummy! Going to give it a try next week… wish me luck

  6. Janice

    13. Dec, 2010

    All the Christmas dinner ideas look great.


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