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How to throw a Christmas feast on a budget

How to throw a Christmas feast on a budget

If you’re feeling the financial squeeze this Christmas, fear not. You don’t have to sacrifice a great Christmas feast just to save some dollars. With our easy tips, you can put on an impressive spread that won’t break the bank.

Let your guests help

Most guests will ask if they can contribute something to the table. In the past you may have declined for fear of not looking like a generous host. The truth is, most people like to be able to bring something, and will offer up their best efforts with pride.

Now is not the year to wave them away with assurances that you’ve already ordered enough oysters to feed a footy team. Gracefully accept their offer and enjoy Great-Aunt Barb’s signature pavlova, Uncle Tim’s home-smoked ham and more salads than you ever thought possible.

Personalise the punch

If you’re providing drinks, be cautious – alcohol can put a big dent in the budget. Consider offering a few lower-cost bottles of wine and beer instead of top shelf options. There’s no need to do without the festive spirit, though – a signature punch will please guests for relatively little money. Add some strawberry and orange slices to a mixture of fruit juice, sparkling soft drink and wine or spirits and offer everyone a special Christmas drink when they arrive.

For other cost savers, look for 12-bottle bargains for wine lovers, or hit your favourite cellar door for some cleanskin specials. Mixed drinks are cheaper if you buy the spirit and mixer yourself, rather than opting for individual cans.

Think beyond turkey

A turkey at the centre of the Christmas table is as traditional as it gets. But is it really worth the premium price? You can make serious savings by thinking outside the box for your Christmas main.

Chicken is both cheaper than turkey at most butchers, and easier to cook due to its smaller size. Buy two or three if you’re feeding a crowd, and let everyone choose the cut they prefer. Ham is another economical option, and makes excellent leftovers. If you’re eyeing off the seafood, swap prawns and crayfish for whole grilled fish on the barbecue – or serve smoked salmon as part of an appetiser before the main event.

Keep sides simple

A lot of Christmas side dishes are naturally economical. Fresh bread rolls, roast potatoes and veggies, salads that use in-season ingredients are all sure-fire crowd pleasers. Keep it simple with a few different options that each let one flavour shine, like honey-roasted baby carrots, parmesan roast potatoes and steamed green beans with lemon and slivered almonds. The effect is elegant and interesting as compared to a mixed salad and combined roast vegetables, and costs the same amount.

Dress up dessert

As the last course of the day, it’s worth making a memorable dessert. A few extra touches can turn it into a showstopper at little to no extra cost.

Consider the humble pavlova. As a way to showcase fresh seasonal fruit, it can’t be beaten. Make it yourself and you’ll be amazed at how little it costs; merely a few egg whites, caster sugar and some cornflour are all that are required. Fill with whipped cream, slice mango (this summer’s bargain option), add berries and scoop passionfruit pulp over the top.

A trifle is another surprisingly economical option, and the possibilities are endless. Go retro with sponge cake, Aeroplane jelly, sliced fruit and custard, or dress it up with a modern twist. Lemon curd, broken meringue shell, toasted hazelnuts and mascarpone, anyone? You can even serve up a Christmas option, with light fruit cake in place of sponge, brandy custard and cherries on top.

Put it all together with a three course spread that’s full of Christmas cheer:


  • Grazing platter with cheese, smoked salmon dip, crudités, crackers and dried fruit and nuts
  • Mini ham and cheese quiches
  • Caprese salad

Main course

  • Orange maple glazed ham
  • Butterflied roast chicken
  • Honey roasted baby carrots
  • Hasselback potatoes with Parmesan crust
  • Steamed green beans with lemon mayonnaise dressing, capers and almonds


  • Pavlova tasting platter with mini pavlova sheets, a selection of sliced fresh fruit, cream, raspberry coulis and chocolate shavings
  • Plum pudding ice cream
  • Home made shortbread biscuits