How did I end up hosting Christmas?
Let me start with a story. Last year at Christmas, things got stressful. With Mum cooking for 15 people and being the perfectionist that she is, she usually spends the entirety of Christmas Eve and Christmas morning slaving in the kitchen to prepare our Christmas feast for lunch.
It’s the middle of summer in Australia so she’s hot and bothered with the oven on. We all offer to help but the perfectionist in Mum declines any such help. But when she has so many dishes to juggle, the stress starts mounting and the house becomes chaotic as we scramble to set the table and help Mum as best we can.
Now that I have an almost 3-year-old, I thought I would try making Mum’s life easier by saying, ‘Next year, we’re (my husband, Ella and I) are going to have Christmas at our house’. The logic being that Ella could spend Christmas at home, we wouldn’t have to get a sitter for the dogs and it would be a lot quieter.
However, this statement was interpreted to mean: ‘We’re hosting the entire family for Christmas’.
And so began the story of how I hosted family Christmas without breaking the bank. Oh and I have included a Christmas planning printable to help you get started.
#1. Start with a guest list.
Write down every expected guest so that you can plan your menu. Account for any plus ones. Call your sister and see if her partner is coming for any part of the day or if he plans on spending Christmas with his own family.
Just make sure you account for every possible guest.
#2 Plan your menu
Start thinking about your Christmas lunch or dinner menu months in advance if you know you are hosting Christmas in advance.
Do any of your guests have preferences? My sister LOVES turkey and cranberry, so we made sure to include a turkey on the menu. My husband loves roast lamb and roast vegetables (how very English of him), so we have that featured on the menu.
And Mum… well, we’d never hear the end of it if there wasn’t a cold shoulder ham, potato salad, green salad and bread rolls available on a hot Christmas in summer.
My brother-in-law would never forgive me if we didn’t have a pavlova for dessert. Oh, and I love shortbread cookies so we need those treats around.
By planning our menu in advance, we can then plan when we need to buy the meats and desserts, as well as get an idea of how much the menu will cost.
#3. Understand the capacity of your kitchen
Can you cater for a hot roast lunch for 15 people? Or 30 people?
We couldn’t host a 15 person hot lunch with our oven capacity so we decided to plan the logistics of how to prepare and serve the food.
Luckily we live in Australia where we have a summer Christmas and therefore it’s very acceptable to serve cold lunches. So part of our menu consists of salads, cold ham, and cold turkey. We roast the turkey the night before because our kitchen cannot service roast lamb, a turkey, and enough roast vegetables for 15 people in one day.
We are also roasting the lamb on Christmas Eve, keeping it slightly rare the night before and allowing it to cool before we slicing it up, putting it in a roasting tray and then warmed the meat in the oven while we roast the vegetables on Christmas Day.
Look at your menu and decide what can be prepared the day before. What will store well overnight? If you’re making Christmas desserts as well, can these be made the weekend before Christmas?
The last thing you want is to be juggling 3 hot meats, 4 salads, and desserts in the space of one Christmas day.
#4. Ask close family members to contribute a dish
While you might not find it appropriate to ask great grandma’s sister to bring a plate of food, it is certainly possible to ask close family members such as your parents and siblings to bring one tray of food for Christmas lunch and everyone shares.
My sister is a potato salad whiz so she and my brother-in-law are bringing That, while my brother, who loves whipping up desserts is bringing the traditional Aussie pavlova. Each family group bringing a dish can SIGNIFICANTLY reduce the food bill if you’re hosting Christmas.
My favourite thing about everyone bringing a dish is that it provide’s a talking point at the Christmas table. When someone compliments a particular dish, the maker can discuss the recipe and it sparks conversations between guests about their methods of preparing the same dish. Trust me, this tactic works a treat when there’s awkward family politics awry at Christmas and you need to diffuse some tension.
#4. Assess your weekly food budget and allocate an extra amount to each food shopping bill to put towards non-perishable items for Christmas
Hosting family Christmas is stressful enough without thinking about the damage to your wallet.
How can you reduce or limit the effect that Christmas can have on your finances? Go back to your Christmas menu and figure out which items you can purchase with your weekly grocery shop and then stash away in the pantry in the weeks before Christmas.
Since Christmas items were released in the supermarkets this year, I’ve just added one packet of fruit mince pies or a Christmas pudding to my shopping trolley and within 8 weeks, we’ve had enough Christmas sweets for all of our guests. For an extra $5-$10 added to my grocery bill for a period of 8 weeks, I have not noticed the extra cost of hosting Christmas.
Around November, start keeping an eye on supermarket specials for large meat items. Most cold shoulder hams that are vacuum sealed or frozen turkeys purchased from early November will keep fresh for Christmas so you look out for these items on special over the coming weeks and add them to your weekly grocery shop one at a time so that you barely notice the added expense.
To help me find where the supermarket specials are at, I installed the ShopFully app on my phone so I can also see where my weekly specials are. Have a look at the picture I’ve included what my ShopFully groceries catalogue collection looks like so you know you have the right app.
If you want to be really prepared over the course of the entire year, buy a $25 gift card each week at your chain supermarket (preferably one that has partnerships with department stores and/or liquor stores) and stash it away. At Christmas time, you can use all of your gift cards to do the food shopping as well as gift shopping.
#5 Cash out supermarket reward points to fund Christmas expenses
My other favourite way to save money at Christmas time is to cash out supermarket rewards points for both Coles and Woolworths to purchase items we needed. See more about how I use supermarket rewards to save money here.
As this is the first year we are hosting Christmas and we have a very excited almost 3 year old, we needed a Christmas tree and decorations.
I cashed out $100 worth of Coles Flybuys points for ‘flybuys dollars’ And was able to purchase a Christmas tree, with lights, tinsel, and baubles for FREE from Target. If you do my food shopping at Coles anyway so you may as well earn the reward points to be able to get the extras like this!
If you’re not yet a Flybuys member, you should consider signing up. You can also cash points out for items, so it could be a fantastic way to fund Christmas present shopping.
Woolworth offer a ‘cash back on shop’ option with their Woolworths Rewards program so this could really help when you need to add items to your grocery shopping each week before Christmas.
Aussie Farmers Direct is a great option for time-poor people who are hosting Christmas but don’t have enough time to completely prepare Christmas meals from scratch.
I have used Aussie Farmers Direct meal planning boxes throughout the year and think they are a fantastic option for occasions where you lack time to plan meals from scratch or if your Christmas hosting plans happen last minute. The best part is they’re offering $25 off your first order if it’s over $60, which makes it perfect for Christmas. Use the coupon code XMAS25 at the checkout if you decide to use one of their meal planning boxes for your Christmas meal.
Hopefully my tips have made hosting your Christmas lunch so much easier. Don’t forget to download my Christmas planning printable so you can breeze through hosting family Christmas without burning a hole in your pocket or without tearing your hair out from stress.