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How to do Christmas dinner on a budget

Forget 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 head.

cheap christmas dinner on a budgetCredit: brianfagan - Flickr

There's nothing better than having a Christmas dinner with your mates before heading home for the holidays – and you can push the (gravy) boat out for less cash than you think!

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

Here's how to bring it together like Nigella!

Make sure you remember to do all of these things before heading home for the festivities.


cheap christmas dinner ingredients

To bring the cost down to as little as £3 per head, get a group of four or more mates and buy value or frozen ingredients.

Another option is to use an app like Mysupermarket. This grocery comparison app will tell you where you can find each ingredient at the cheapest price (sometimes, if there's a good deal on it can work out even cheaper than your frozen haul!), as well as which shop would be cheapest for the entire basket.

A whole chicken or turkey works out cheapest pound-for-£, but as it 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 so you can throw together 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 a few of these festive favourites:

  • Pigs in blankets
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Sage and onion stuffing
  • Cranberry or bread sauce
  • Garlic, honey, herbs, flour and lemons are cheap flavour enhancers to have on-hand, too.

If you're a super confident cook, you can always opt to do a Gordon Ramsay and make a few more things from scratch – Yorkshire puddings, homemade gravy and even cranberry sauce.

Want to go full Ramsay? Try being foul-mouthed and intensely disagreeable while you're at it!


So here's how to make your Christmas dinner on a budget!

  1. Roast potatoes

    cheap roast potatoes recipe

    Peel your potatoes, cut them 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°C (this gets the oven ready for the meat, too).

    Drain the part-boiled spuds in a colander or sieve. Feel free to really bang them about when you drain the water off, as any rough edges will get nice and crispy (aka delicious). For even more heavenly crispiness, take this opportunity to add a spoonful of flour and shake to coat.

    Carefully add the potatoes to the hot pan, making sure they're evenly oiled up, and then add a dash of salt, pepper and herbs if you have them. Roast for 20 minutes, turn the pieces over, and roast for another 30 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

    carrots and parsnips
    Peel 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 (or sugar, if you haven't got any honey).

    Roast for 20 to 30 mins, and remember to keep turning and checking to get 'em how you like 'em.

  3. The meat/main

    cheap christmas turkey recipe

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

    Roasting a whole chicken? Rub the skin with olive oil, salt and pepper, and pop two halves of a lemon inside (as creepy as this might seem, for the sake of Christmas, you're forgiven).

    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 ensure everything's ready at roughly the same time!

    If you're making the onion tart, you'll also need to allow 20 mins prep and 45 mins cooking time.

  4. Peas and Yorkshire puddings

    Yorkshire puddings

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

    If you're running low on oven space, serve up the majority, and then chuck the Yorkshire puddings in and serve them up once 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.

  5. Gravy

    cheap gravy christmas dinnerCredit: kris krüg - Flickr

    Remember to boil the kettle for the all-important gravy! If you're going for instant, just stir gravy granules in boiling water adding more granules if you think it needs thickening.

    If you're making your own gravy, take the leftover juices from the bottom of the dish you cooked the meat in, and pour it into a pan. Whisk in a bit of 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 dinner

And there you have it. All you need now are some funny hats, terrible dad jokes and someone throwing a wobbly – 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.

And a very Merry Christmas from all of us here at Save the Student!

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