Welcome to the poor mans Christmas and how to go frugal with everyone contributing.
I should say before I carry on that this is a tradition that many people that do not want to save money do each and every Christmas and that this is not always thought of as a way to save money.
The idea here is that there is a big gang of you for Christmas. It could be your immediate family with a few friends added in along the way, or it might be just professional friends that work together that don’t have the time to spend hours in the kitchen.
Then when it comes down to your Christmas dinner feast (or Thanksgiving) each person is responsible for X amount of food for the day and then it means that each person has a lot less to cook and it then ends up costing each person very little to do. Everybody loves doing this as you can all put forward your name for whatever you are best at and it means that you don’t spend the whole day in the kitchen attempting to get everything done yourself.
Imagine if you are normally responsible for everything and then all of a sudden all you have to think about is the baked goods. Not only will you have very little to pay out but you could get it all done in a couple of hours on Christmas Eve and then thoroughly enjoy your Christmas with your family.
Not many people know this but I have had approximately five Christmases spent on campsites.
The first one was at Butlins in 1994 for a last minute trip for Christmas. My Grandad had died the Christmas before this and I think we just all wanted to get away from it. This meant that we had a make do Christmas that was as far away from tradition as you can get, followed by a trip on the rides in the snow and then swimming in their indoor lagoon pools. It was brilliant and it beat Christmas at home and even though we spent Christmas on a car park I really didn’t care.
Then for Christmas 1996 and 1997 I spent my Christmas Day on a big campsite in Benidorm. It was great fun and we had a selection of large American motorhomes parked together to make a square and it was like a private party. We all brought our own food and the food was traditional barbeque food with the weather being nice enough for shorts and tshirts. Because each person was contributing we spent more time boozing than we did cooking.
Then for Christmas 2008 (our first as a family here in Portugal) we were in between homes and spent Christmas living in a caravan at a Portuguese campsite. We all had Christmas dinner inside one of the caravan awnings and it was a grand affair.
I can’t remember how many of us there was but it was full to bursting and there was lots of fun and laughter. Our eldest (and only child at the time) was 7 years old and he was very much made a fuss out of and there was endless sweets and chocolate heading in his direction.
But when it came to dinner in Portugal it was always agreed that we each did something. With caravan and motorhome kitchens not being up to much, whoever had the best oven tended to get the most important jobs. Well we didn’t have an oven just a hob and our slow cooker that we asked to do the vegetable bake.
It was my fail safe recipe and it could be done either with a pan on the stove or in the slow cooker. It also was very cheap to make as we were saving money at the time to rent an apartment and didn’t want to spend much at all for Christmas food. It was delicious and there was plenty to go around and showed that you could budget for Christmas.
Make A Plan & Make A Budget
If you want to look at following an “everyone contribute” Christmas Dinner then the best thing to do is start with a plan. Decide who is going to make what, where you are going to eat Christmas dinner and who is the best cook to those that are the worst. It is always best that everyone works with their signature dishes in order for your Christmas meal to be a delicious one.
Here are some examples of how you could do it:
Aunt Marie – is very good at baking therefore she will be in charge of minced pies, homemade cookies and sausage rolls.
Aunt Sally – she will be hosting dinner and as turkey is hard to transport she will be in charge of the roast turkey, the roast potatoes, the homemade gravy and the Yorkshire Puddings.
Cousin Tina – she has recently had a baby so you don’t want to put too much pressure on her so she has agreed to make the starter and will be doing homemade bread in her bread maker and homemade chicken liver pate.
Uncle Ned – he is rubbish at general cooking but makes brilliant puddings. He is going to be making his amazing trifle along with some mini Christmas Puddings.
Grandad Clive – He hates cooking and anything to do with it so he will be going down the supermarket and buying a pre-made cheese board for afters.
You – you are on a budget and people don’t mind this so will leave you in charge of all the vegetable dishes. They are cheap to buy the vegetables and then it will feel like you are really contributing without the money issue coming up.
Friend Luke – Luke is a family friend and loves cooking. He will therefore be in charge of all the sauces that everyone wants. Though no one will say anything if his bread sauce has strange lumps in it! He also loves doing the sides so we can rely on him for the stuffing balls and the pigs in blankets.
It will then be argued that Aunt Sally has the best time of it because it would normally cost her about 200€ to cater for all 15 guests but because she only needs a small turkey because she wont be buying a huge one that never gets used this year, that gravy is super cheap to make and that roast potatoes and Yorkshire Puddings are so cheap that it will end up costing her less than 20€.
Add to this the fact that everyone will be bringing their own booze, you have minimal costs with everyone having an amazing time without it ever breaking the bank.
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Pumpkin & Cranberry Mini Trifles
This recipe came about because I had all this leftover pumpkin and cranberry and needed a good use for it. Like any other frugal person I absolutely hate food waste with a passion and like to combat it wherever I can.
At Christmas you end up buying a big bag of cranberries and then use a tiny little bit in order to make cranberry sauce, then the same goes for the pumpkin and your obsession with pumpkin pie.
Also if you are following our blog post above about everyone contributing then it would make perfect sense to make these as you could make one for each person and they are perfect for transporting to the party that you’re going to.
Make your banana mousse – in your blender add the banana, coconut milk, vanilla essence and the nutmeg. Put to one side.
In a glass layer it to make your dessert. Start with ¾ of the pumpkin pie filling then a layer of your banana mousse, a layer of your cranberry sauce and a second layer of pumpkin pie filling.
Finish this off with some squirty cream on top and then decorate it with some broken biscuits and some fresh cranberries. Though of course this last bit is optional but I find it really makes the difference on the look especially if its for a party.
To make it easier for if you’re catering for parties I have written the recipe above based on 1 person and then just times it by the amount of people you’re serving.