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Student Recipes

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 less than £2.75 per person.

Friends sharing a Christmas dinner

Credit: Evgeny Atamanenko – Shutterstock

There's nothing better than having a Christmas dinner with your friends 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 do Christmas dinner on a budget, with results that even Nigella herself would be proud of.

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

Cheap Christmas dinner ideas

Christmas dinner table arrangement

Credit: Elena Hramova – Shutterstock

To make a cheap Christmas dinner for less than £2.75 per head, get a group of four or more mates and buy value or frozen ingredients.

A whole chicken or turkey works out cheapest pound-for-£. But, as it can be tricky to get in a small oven, we've gone for breast meat.

If you're vegetarian or vegan, add onions, frozen puff pastry and soft goat's cheese to your list instead so you can throw together a Christmas tart. Nigel Slater has some good veggie tart recipes.

But whatever approach you go for, the beauty of our recipe is that you'll probably have a few of the ingredients in your cupboards already.

Essential Christmas dinner menu ingredients

Serves: 4 | Costs: £10.89* (£2.72 per serving)

Here's a shopping list to make filling, tasty and cheap Christmas food this year:

  • 4 chicken breast fillets (£5.20) – if you'd prefer turkey, it could cost a bit more
  • 85g sage and onion stuffing pack mix (£0.30)
  • 75g cranberry sauce (£0.26)
  • 40g bread sauce mix (£0.95)
  • 1kg Maris Piper potatoes (£0.68)
  • 3 carrots (£0.30)
  • 3 sweet potatoes (£1.17)
  • 2 parsnips (£0.36)
  • 2 onions (£0.24)
  • 300g frozen Brussels sprouts (£0.39)
  • 200g frozen peas (£0.24)
  • 15 ready-made and frozen Yorkshire puddings (£0.46)
  • 50g gravy granules (£0.13) – quantity needed may differ depending on which brand you buy
  • 7 tablespoons of vegetable oil (£0.19)
  • Salt and pepper (£0.02).

Christmas dinner recipe

Here's how to make each part of a cheap Christmas dinner:

  1. Roast potatoes

    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 bang them about when you drain the water off, as any rough edges will get nice and crispy (a.k.a. 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. 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 a well-timed serving. If your oven is big enough, roast your meat and veg in the same pan to let the flavours mingle.

  2. Carrots, parsnips and sweet potatoes

    Peel and cut the vegetables in half, then into long slices. In another oven dish (or the same pan, if it fits), drizzle with oil and coat generously with honey. If you don't have any honey, you can use sugar instead.

    Roast for 20–30 mins. Remember to keep turning and checking to get them how you like them.

  3. Fried Brussels sprouts and onions

    Fried brussels sprouts with onion

    Credit: IrenaStar – Shutterstock

    Love them or hate them, Brussels sprouts are an essential part of the Christmas spread.

    But, if you're not usually a fan of them, that could be because of how you've been making them. Try frying them up with onions – it can make a massive difference.

    Start by chopping up the onion and cutting the Brussels sprouts in half. Add them to a frying pan with a couple of tablespoons of oil and fry them until the onions and Brussels sprouts are golden in colour.

  4. The meat/main part of your Christmas dinner

    Place your chicken or turkey breasts in a casserole dish with a little oil, and then put it in the oven for about 30–35 mins at 200°C.

    If you've got any bacon rashers in the fridge, drape them 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, up the stakes with our stuffed turkey wrapped in bacon recipe.

    Roasting a whole chicken? Rub the skin with olive oil, salt and pepper. You could either use the sage and onion stuffing mix suggested in our shopping list, or put 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°C. Then, turn the heat down to 190°C 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 a veggie tart, you'll likely need to allow 20 mins prep and 45 mins cooking time.

  5. Peas and Yorkshire puddings

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

    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. You can roast these 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 it up once it's cooked.

  6. Gravy

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

    If you're making gravy from scratch, take the leftover juices from the bottom of the dish you cooked the meat in and pour them into a pan. Whisk in a bit of flour to thicken, bring to a simmer with the water you used for the peas and add a stock cube.

Now you've got your shopping list and recipe ideas for a cheap Christmas lunch, all you need are some funny hats, terrible dad jokes and someone throwing a wobbly. Merry Christmas!

Planned the perfect Christmas dinner but still struggling to find the perfect presents? Not to worry. We've got a guide to the best Christmas gifts for some inspiration.

* Prices are correct at the time of writing (using prices as guidelines).

Laura Craddock

WRITTEN BY Laura Craddock

Alongside blogging about baking, Laura Craddock shares top tips and recipes for Save the Student to help our readers spend less on food. Laura studied English at the University of Dundee.
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