Vegetarian for Life

Cooking at Christmas, watching the budget

Posted by Alex on 30/11/22 in Cooking on a Budget, Recipes

Christmas is a time for celebrations and traditions. For many of your residents the ritual of familiar brings comfort and reassurance. However, with price rises in just about every part of our lives, some financial adjustment is inevitable. With that in mind and with a little forward planning, perhaps a few small changes, it should still result in being able to deliver the best Christmas celebrations, without breaking the budget.

Make it yourself

Making cakes in-house may be cheaper than ordering ready-made from suppliers. Try these delicious mincemeat muffins. I have made these for the past 3 years as part of my Christmas tradition.

This biscuit recipe is also good. And, if you are good at icing, you can add names and fun messages on them. Both recipes work really well as a nice Christmas activity with residents too.

Shopping and storage

Please forgive me for stating the obvious, but buying more food than needed or even more than can be stored properly will only result in waste. Filling the fridge and freezer to bursting point won’t allow room for any spare cooked food to be stored post-Christmas day. Make sure you plan ahead what you need. In the run up to the Christmas period check what you have in and what needs to be used up. I had a look in my cupboard this morning and I have a bit of work to do.

Cooking economically

The price increase of gas and electricity cannot be ignored. Add to this food price increases and any steps to be more efficient have to be taken.

Use your cooker efficiently

When creating a large meal with a variety of dishes take a moment to work out the most efficient way of using your oven and hob. Can you work out a way to completely fill the oven rather than cooking in batches?

If you have a microwave you may want to consider using this too. Often microwave cookery comes in as the most cost-effective way of cooking. Naturally, you need to have one in the first place and certain styles of cooking can’t be done in a microwave. However, all of your vegetables can be done this way. Effectively you will be steaming them, so it's healthy too. Christmas puddings are also easy to cook in the microwave.

A stacker steamer is my personal favourite. A three or even four tier pan cooking a variety of vegetables with only one power source.

Don’t waste any of the ingredients

I was recently at a conference addressing price increases in the catering industry. One of the speakers had some great suggestions on how to get the most out of your budget. These were his suggestions.

  • Often the outer stalks of cauliflowers are very tough. Slice them thinly to add to stir-fry recipes.
  • The inner core of cabbages is often far too fibrous to use. However, if you have a food processor it can be blended with cabbage leaves to make coleslaw.
  • Many of us will be enjoying mashed potatoes as part of our Christmas dinner. Peeled/ unpeeled? To be honest I’m -not keen on potato skins in a creamy mash. However rather than put them in the compost bin why not deep-fry them to create some delicious homemade crisps? Or even boil them in their skin then take out the middle for your mash and leave the skins (with a little of the potato) for the base of a delicious stuffed potato skin recipe.  
  • Peelings and trimmings from just about any vegetable can be the base of a hearty soup. Even if you are not going to eat it that day it can keep in the fridge for a few days. Perhaps a welcome change after the richer food you may be having. If you have a slow cooker, simply add your peelings, a handful of lentils, stock and herbs, then let it slowly cook.
  • Aquafaba (bean water). You may be familiar with this. Essentially, it’s the water from a tin of chickpeas. Generally, you may just tip it down the sink. However, it makes a good substitute for egg white when baking. Simply whisk the water until it has soft peaks, add 100g of caster sugar and continue to whisk. Finally add ½ tsp xanthan gum, still whisking. Hey presto! Meringue. Check out this delicious recipe for vegan lemon meringue pie.

Swap or reduce ingredients

Some recipes can be easily altered to incorporate cheaper ingredients. Just about any soup, curry, chilli, nut roast, stir-fry etc. can be chopped and changed.

Even when baking you don’t have to be rigid with the ingredients. Dried fruits can be swapped for cheaper generic mixes, nuts can largely be interchanged, and even the amount of sugar can be reduced without impacting the flavour and texture of your pudding or cake.

Rich Fruit Cake

Use up all leftovers!

The Christmas season can bring all sorts of leftovers, from cooked vegetables to nut roast, veggie sausages, the list goes on. I’m sure you will have a Boxing Day fry-up or buffet for your residents. With a little imagination you may be able to reinvent leftovers in new ways. Try these fritters. Simply add some of your cooked vegetables to the basic recipe. In fact, we have several types of fritter recipes that can be easily adjusted to add whatever you have spare.

Swap out left-over vegetable for the cooked vegetables in this delicious korma. Simply add the cooked vegetables towards the end of the cooking process.

Alternatively add whatever cooked vegetables you have to this comforting and hearty cottage pie.

Whatever you decide to do and make, have a wonderful Christmas. We’d love to see your creative Christmas meals. Do share your photos on social media.

Check out Chef Alex’s Christmas demo too on our Facebook page, Wednesday 7 December, from 2–3pm with more tips on a budget-busting Christmas.


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