Welcome to the poor mans Christmas and saying no to processed foods.
I used to be addicted to my processed foods. I would buy Dolmio instead of making my own homemade tomato sauce, buy pre-packaged stuffing, gravy granules and also had a serious addiction to pre-made Yorkshire Puddings.
But these items would seriously add up to a huge bill once I got to the till and even though it would be great for saving me time and energy in the kitchen it would really stretch my finances at Christmas.
For the last 2 years I have not bought any processed foods at Christmas. Though, this is not because we want to save money (which of course is great) but because we follow the Paleo way of life and like to eat healthy.
These different processed foods on our shopping bill would cost us at least 50€ over the Christmas spending spree and just by cutting this out and making them yourself you can save a small fortune.
Plus how often do you buy things to eat over Christmas and end up wasting half a box just because you only need a certain quantity and if you’re feeding a family of four and not a family of eight it means that you end up wasting half of it.
A Few Savings You Could Make
The first savings I made was by cooking all the classic processed foods myself. There was of course some that are more time consuming than others and some that you wished you still did yourself.
Here are a few examples:
Baking – I have always found baked goods to be rather expensive. The mark up that they have on a packet of biscuits, chocolate gateaux, traditional Christmas pudding or even the luxury box of biscuits that you share around the dinner table. Instead make your own. Get a really big bag of flour, top it up with loads of honey and butter and then get to work on your own personalised baking.
Stuffing – for the ultimate homemade processed food it has to be the stuffing. It can taste rather horrible out of a packet but when you make it yourself with some ingredients you have in anyway you could save a small fortune and it really doesn’t take long to make your own.
Yorkshire Puddings – Yorkshire Puddings are a brilliant invention and so easy to make yourself. It is a very simple batter and then baked and you could make a batch in 5-10 minutes.
Gravy – you already have the juices from cooking your turkey and it is a case of straining the fat off and adding a thickener such as flour to give it the beautiful thick gravy taste that we all know and love.
Cheese Sauce – I still can’t believe you can get this out of the packet when it tastes so good to make yourself. If you wanted the lazy way of doing it then simply mix together in a pan on a medium heat soft cheese and whole milk. Then add a little cheese and you have a delicious creamy cheese sauce for the fraction of the usual cost.
Other sauces – depending on how much effort you put into Christmas = the amount of sauces that you end up wanting. Personally I rarely have bread sauce or onion sauce but if you love them you could make your own in a couple of minutes.
A TV Show That Changed My Frugal Life Forever
I watched a money saving show many years ago. I believe the guy called himself the money saving expert and went be the name of Martin Lewis. He was on British TV a lot and had various different ways of saving money for the average household.
One of the things that he did (which everyone thought was really smart) was teaching people to drop a brand in order to save money on their weekly grocery shopping. So if you normally bought premium branded products you would drop to regular branded products, then if you bought regular branded products you would drop to supermarkets own brand products and so on.
On average the typical family would save 30% on their grocery shopping just by changing their brand. You could also go as far as chopping 70% off your grocery shopping if you were spending on high end brands and dropped to the cheapest supermarket own brand option.
We found it very effective at the time and dropped a lot of money off our grocery shopping. I think we were spending about £120 a week at the time and got it down to £70 and still had a huge trolley full to the top on favourites.
What we did learn from it though is that not all products are equal. You could go for the cheap crisps and enjoy them but the cheap mince was disgusting and full of fat. It was a case of exploring what was on offer and making the best adjustments for you and your family.
But it is thanks to this (which was back in 2006), that I have my inspiration for today’s blog post and that is all about cooking from scratch and kissing goodbye to all those processed foods that we all spend a small fortune on.
I estimate (sorry I don’t have any past receipts available) that we spent on average 400€ at Christmas just on food. Remember this is as a family of three plus a baby so there really isn’t many of us, yet last year we dropped this down to less than 150€ and this was just by cooking more ourselves and relying less on brands and processed foods that never taste as good as what you can make yourself.
Even if time is an issue and you do buy a lot of processed foods just stick to 5 items that this year you will make yourself and get your family involved in the process.
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Frugal Cranberry Sauce In The Slow Cooker
This recipe came about because I wanted to share a new recipe with you on RecipeThis.com that showed how you could save money away from the processed foods and something new that we didn’t already have on the blog.
That is when it came to me…….it had to be…..cranberry sauce. I am so frugal that unless I am making it myself there is no way I am buying it ready made. I would rather go without then spend money that I didn’t need on something that my family really didn’t care that greatly for. Of course other families love it and just because its not top of my agenda doesn’t mean it isn’t on others.
Actually it’s because of my mothers’ obsession with it that we have this recipe here on the blog today. She would have me go to Iceland to pick some up for her so that she could enjoy it with her fellow British Expats while on holiday in Portugal for the winter. They have no interest in following the Portuguese Christmas traditions and will sit in a campsite bar at Christmas tucking into their English favourites. Most of them though, because you can’t source them here in Portugal end up being bought from the Portuguese version of Iceland on a premium and I just find the prices really unreasonable.
But if you want to save money on your traditional cranberry sauce then here is our homemade take on it!
- ¼ Cup Brown Sugar
- 3 Cups Cranberries
- 1 Large Orange juice and rind
Place all the ingredients into the slow cooker. Mix well and cook on low for 3 hours.
Pour into a jug and leave to cool.
If you can get fresh cranberries as frozen ones can have a horrible sour taste and require a lot more sugar in order to have a traditional taste. If you’re using frozen cranberries then double the sugar quantity.
A Few Money Saving Recipes
I wanted to share with you a few money saving recipes you can make yourself to save some money. These are recipes that are delicious and are very easy to make at home around Christmas or Thanksgiving time that will save you a lot of money and taste much better than the shop bought items.
You could also go a step further and if money is tight this Christmas time you could give some baked goods as a Christmas hamper.
There is nothing better smelling in the kitchen at Christmas than homemade sausage rolls. They are perfect for handing out to the guests as they arrive for Christmas dinner or as a snack that you take around to your elderly relatives. We really love our sausage rolls and tend to have them in picnics on the beach in the summer and at Christmas in between meals.
I always remember at Christmas (especially those where we ate at restaurants) that the choice of starters would always be limited to pate and bread, melon boats or homemade soup. Even though chicken liver pate is considered to be rather old fashioned now it still keeps everyone happy and it’s so delicious with some homemade bread to go with it. Plus on a frugal scale chicken livers are incredibly cheap.
If you have vegetarians coming for Christmas dinner or just want to be frugal then this is also an amazing starter. I like the frugal side of this recipe as you can just put to one side all the spare vegetable bake that you have and make it into a delightful soup. Then like with the chicken liver pate serve it with homemade bread.
A roast dinner whether it is at Christmas or not, is made even better thanks to some homemade stuffing to go with your carved meat. In our opinion the most delicious is the sage and onion flavoured balls. You can have them on the side or as a main dish and they are lovely.
Now this is hardly baking is it or making from scratch. But and it’s a big BUT here, people pay a premium for these already rolled up when it takes less than 60 seconds to do them yourselves.
If there is something you should make yourself that is as frugal as you’re ever going to get then it is homemade Yorkshire Puddings. The one in the shops is often so small and really don’t taste that amazing. But make them yourself and you have something that is absolutely delicious and full of flavour.
Can you actually believe that people buy ready cut and frozen roast potatoes rather then just peeling the humble spud? It doesn’t take long and then you can place them in your Air Fryer with some olive oil and you have delicious roast potatoes to go with your roast dinner.
If there is anything that always has a front row seat at Christmas for us it has to be the cheese sauce. They are poured over the vegetables and make the vegetables actually look interesting. Plus if you have kids around that hate vegetables then it is a good way to get them eating their broccoli. I was a vegetarian for most of my teens and I was happy as long as there was Yorkshire Puddings & veggie bake!
One thing that always reminds me of Christmas is shortbread. My mum and dad had a lovely Scottish accountant and he would always give us some shortbread in a tin as a Christmas present. It was absolutely delicious but as I grew up I soon realised just how expensive it was. However I mastered the art of baking it myself and this is my ultimate favourite recipe.
I love mince pies and they are a great tradition for Christmas time. In this recipe you can make them in no time with my homemade shortcrust pastry recipe and your family will love you for them. You can save up to 70% on the shop bought price by making this yourself.