Christmas is just around the corner! Australians spend huge amounts of money on groceries during the holiday period. The Australian National Retailers Association estimates that more than $30 billion is spent each year in the four weeks leading up to Christmas.

Here are our top tips to help you put on a special celebration while sticking to a budget this year.

Planning and budget are key

Do a bit of planning each weekend for the week ahead. How many events are on? What will they involve? Do you need to attend every event? If you are hosting, confirm how many people are attending and be realistic about catering.

Set a budget and write a list. Online shopping can help with tracking the cost as you go and avoiding the end of aisle specials that we don’t need! Prioritise key items first then only buy extras if any budget remains.

Now is the time to start shopping for those non-perishable items as they come on sale. Meats can be brought and frozen ahead of time. Diet soft drinks and sparkling water are also something to keep an eye on right now too.

While we’re on the topic of shopping – don’t shop hungry! The last minute dash to the shops with hunger through the roof will end with too many unnecessary (and often unhealthy) items that we just don’t need! To combat this, ensure you have all your meals and snacks each day and aim to shop post meal. Always keep a backup piece of fruit, muesli bar or nut snack pack in your bag as a quick go to if you get caught up racing around.

Make it yourself!

To save costs, try to make food yourself, rather than buying. While those prewashed and packaged bags of salad from the supermarket are convenient, they also come at a premium!

Dips, salads and platters can all be made at low cost and it’s the perfect opportunity to put your own healthy spin on them too! Think tzatziki made with plain Greek yoghurt and herbs from your garden, homemade hummus, or market fresh leafy greens with a simple splash of balsamic.

If you’re keen for a hot dinner, buy a frozen chicken (on sale) and pair with classic vegetables like frozen peas and carrots which you can get from major grocers for just a few dollars. Don’t be afraid to look for cheaper cuts of meat as well. Think about a slow-cooked brisket which will be delicious and save on the hip pocket.

With a food processor, rum essence and some good quality protein powder, you can move pricey store-bought rum balls from a “Christmas only” treat, to a healthy afternoon snack! We’ve switched out the vanilla essence for rum essence in our protein balls recipe to make delicious rum balls, or try peppermint essence for a candy-cane tasting treat the kids will love too.

Check out our LifeShape cookbook and recipes for more inspiration.

Stick to the basics

Christmas doesn’t have to be a gourmet feast to make it special. Look for local seafood producers who sell straight from the trawler. Fish barbequed on the beach with a fresh spritz of lemon and herbs is a wonderfully Australian way to celebrate Christmas as opposed to an elaborate dinner. Better yet, is your uncle a keen fisherman? He’d be all too happy to get out on the water and catch the Christmas lunch for free!

Bulk up your meals with fruit and vegetables – use in season for the cheapest and tastiest options. Don’t forget canned, frozen and dried all count too. These are all low cost, low calorie and high nutrition. Always keep some tinned tuna, salmon, lentils and baked beans in the cupboard and frozen veggies, leftovers or healthy convenience meals in the freezer as a quick throw together if someone pops in unexpectedly.

Bring a plate and BYO

If you have a big family, ask everyone to pitch in to share the cost of the day around. This is a great way for everyone to feel involved and bring their speciality dish. Every little bit helps!

As a host, it’s perfectly acceptable to provide the basics and request your guests supply their own drinks or even more expensive meats if you’re having a BBQ. If you can’t shake the guilt of not supplying your guests with alcohol, consider making a budget friendly punch with those sodas you bought on sale earlier. Punch made with some sparkling mineral water is a great way to dilute alcohol and stretch it a bit further as well.

Work with what you have

We know this one isn’t food related, but it all adds up in the budget. We dread the washing up as much as any, but steer clear of unnecessary paper plates and stick to the standard family dinner plates. Instead of buying expensive bon-bons and streamers, which end up in the bin anyway, pick some natural elements as table decorations such as

  • Fresh rosemary twigs
  • Pine cones
  • Seashells
  • Material offcuts or ribbons
  • Candles
  • Existing Christmas ornaments that didn’t make the tree

Christmas wishing well

If your family likes to share the celebrations around year to year, consider starting a Christmas wishing well. Each year, someone nominates to host the Christmas festivities, and each family puts in money to assist with the costs ($50 per family for example). This is a great way to ensure one person doesn’t get lumped with the expensive cost of the event, and they might have a little left over for any extras on the day.

The festive season doesn’t have to blow the budget! A little planning and simple, classic dishes will have your family set up with a feast without a budget hangover. Chat to your LifeShape Dietitian to help set up your festive season plan if you need some extra help.


You may also like to read:

10 Fun Christmas Traditions to Enjoy with your Kids 

Christmas Arrangements for Separated Parents