Five frugal things to help you save at Christmas

five frugal thingsHow has your week been? Christmas preparations are well in hand here at Shoestring Cottage. I am joining in with this five frugal things round up as Christmas is the perfect time to focus your spending and save where you can.

The decorations are in place, the presents are all purchased and mostly wrapped and I have been buying a few Christmas treats for a couple of months now. I set my budget for Christmas back in October, I have been saving all year. Now I can spend and not feel worried or guilty, and without putting it all on a credit card.

1. Only buying what we need

I don’t go crazy and try to buy only what I know we will eat. This year I decided to finally stop buying things that are traditional but that no one really wants, as proposed by Faith at Much More with Less. We actually enjoy some of the foods she has decided to ditch. However, dates sit around for ages as no one really eats them much – Mr S will usually dutifully consume them at some point, but it’s not about duty, is it? We also have a ton of hazelnuts in their shells that came from a friend’s tree,  so we don’t need to buy any more. They also tend to sit around for months before they all get eaten.

Nobody eats Christmas cake so that is off the shopping list.

However, we all love Christmas pudding so that is staying firmly on the menu. I usually buy a couple reduced after Christmas because Mr S loves it with custard any time of the year.

2. Using up all the leftover veg

vegetabl soup five frugal thingsThe very cold weather always means one thing here – soup! I love it! Soup is great for using up any bits and pieces lurking in the fridge. Into mine last Sunday went potatoes (including some frozen leftover mash), carrots, celery, frozen spinach, half a can of sweetcorn, the end of a bag of frozen peas and lots of Marigold vegetable stock.

We ate it after our freezing cold snowy walk last Sunday and it was just the job for warming our cockles! It was great for work lunches all week and there are still a couple of portions in the freezer.

3. A simple vegetable bake

I posted a recipe a couple of days ago for a vegetable bake, adapted from one of Delia’s in Frugal Food. It is so simple and cheap to make. Another good one for using up vegetables as you can add more or less whatever you have in the fridge. We had it for dinner with spinach. The meat eaters had a couple of chicken drumsticks with theirs, but I enjoyed it as it was.

I love the cheesy breadcrumb topping, which is a good way to use up the ends of a loaf of bread. I made a whole lot of breadcrumbs and what I didn’t use for the bake went into the freezer.

4. Making my own Christmas gift tags

I always keep my Christmas cards from the previous year and recycle them to make Christmas gift tags. It’s such a simple thing to do, I never know why everyone doesn’t reuse them in this way. It is quite nice to reread the messages from last year from friends and family too.

5.  Savvy Savers in the Sun

I was pleased to be asked to give some top tips for money saving at Christmas to the Sun, along with some other UK Money Bloggers. My contribution was to suggest that people consider buying second hand presents, particularly for small children. They wouldn’t notice or care. Looking on Facebook Marketplace, I can see all kinds of large ride on toys, dolls houses, bikes, scooters, dressing up outfits, etc. They mostly seem in great condition, but cost a fraction of their as new price.

I did this all the time when my kids were small. I have bought second hand phones and an ipad, computer games and a console, DVDs and many books second hand as presents.

There is a little bit of embarrassment about buying second hand as a gift but I don’t understand that. As long as the item works and is in good condition, where is the issue? And if it helps you stick to your budget, even better!

An early Christmas

nut roast en croute five frugal thingsWe are having an early Christmas dinner today with my extended family. My sister is off to see my nephew in Thailand so this will be our only opportunity. I am road testing the vegetarian nut roast en croute I found on the Sainsbury’s website. If it works, that will be my veggie Christmas dinner. The recipe is here. It smells lovely so I have high hopes.


9 thoughts on “Five frugal things to help you save at Christmas

  1. A lot of very good ideas, as usual, Jane. I have also not bought some things which we have been buying forever at Christmas: Turkish Delight, which I absolutely adore, but it has to be the real thing, an expensive box of the very best Turkish Delight, not a cheapie from a discount store, as the difference is vast. But, it is sugar-filled and Not Good For Us. With Christmas cake and fruit and no doubt chocolate biscuits, we can do without it. Also, marshmallows. I love them, but as with Turkish Delight, sugary and Not Good For Us. Also, Bendicts lovely mints, but mint give me (not removes) indigestion, so they’re out, too. As for nuts, we used to rely on our walnut tree but for the past two years its either not produced sufficient nuts or the squirrels have had the lot – they can strip a tree almost overnight. If we buy nuts I don’t buy them in shells, because while some think it’s fun to crack shells, I find it a total nuisance and my hands are now too weak for the job (I mean with nut crackers.)
    We’ve not bought alcohol, either, apart from one bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau Villages which just happened to fall into my trolley. We’re not keen on wine, but I can cook with it if we don’t like it. There is some gin in the fridge (from last summer!) and a bottle or port for the old-fashioned port & lemon that we like occasionally (it might be an old biddy’s drink, but it’s lovely, over ice with lemon.) I read in the paper yesterday that someone had received their winter fuel allowance and as they didn’t need it they had spent it all on booze. Well, I suppose that would keep them warm, but I really don’t think this is what the government intended it for (although the government will get a lot of the money back in the tax on the booze.)
    I have never bought gift tags in my life – what’s wrong with a white sticky label off a roll that is used for all kinds of things, items in the freezer, etc. I sometimes cut up old cards when I have the time, or a piece of Christmas wrapping paper, folded like a little card, and stuck to the parcel, easy-peasy.
    Margaret P

  2. We have also only bought what we need. The pantry is well stocked, and anything we would want to make for Christmas can be made from that, we went to Tesco yesterday to buy some of the 29p vegetables, ideal for the two of us. We haven’t bought chocolates, extra nuts or anything like that as I know my MIL will buy me chocolates, my mum usually buys us some biscuits and we’ll be offered all manner of other treats when we’re out and about visiting people over the next week or so.

    I like to draw a line under the celebrations so don’t want anything hanging around for too long, it’s my birthday in January so I tend to receive regifted sweet treats, alcohol and things like that then too (it’s the worst thing about having a birthday so close to Christmas!).

    • My cousin has her birthday on Christmas Day. OK if you are religious (she and I are not) and many people have always lumped the present together, “This is for Christmas AND your birthday!” I think that’s the height of meanness, I’ve told her she ought to have an official birthday in the summer, like the Queen!
      Margaret P

  3. The nut loaf sounds delicious. I’ve managed to cut meat out of my diet most days and must try this. Thank you for posting it.

  4. As I’m still dusting the remnants of a bowl of mixed nuts in their shells that I bought about 3 years go, I shan’t be buying any more. I love them, but no one else eats them.I wonder if the squirrels want them?
    I was wondering whether to get something different than Christmas pudding this year. We’re not dessert fans anyway, so I only really get it for my parents & brother who come over. If it was just us I wouldn’t bother with anything.

    I’ve always cut up cards for tags, and use the backs for shopping lists. Something I learnt from my mum, who probably learnt it from her mum!!
    Another thing I do is go round grabbing the gift tags from the wrapping paper to save for the following year!! I had a set of Santa tags with wool for the beard for the kids, that were used for at least 5-6 years. In fact I probably still have them in the tags & wrapping paper scraps bag!

    Wrapping paper! I always salvage what I can – even if it’s just a tiny scrap, as there’s always something tiny it can be used for! 😀

    I used Nectar points for my Sainsburys shop this week, and always use Iceland ones to buy the Turkey, but otherwise food, stamps etc is all covered in my Christmas savings. I always end up saving more than I need, because we don’t go overboard, and it’s lovely coming out the other side with the remainder to move into savings!

  5. I was given an expensive Rays brand pudding last year we didn’t eat as it was too hot so it’s still in the freezer, but I plan to use it this year weather permitting. We bought roasting pork when it was $4 Kg it’s in the freezer, as are the half price turkey rolls , ham was on special last week for $6.50 so hubby went to Aldi and got one. If it’s hot we’ll cook the lot in the Weber BBQ and I’ll just do potatoes in the oven and some roast veg which will be lovely in salads. Christmas night is leftover meat from lunch, seafood and salad followed by pav, trifle and chocolate ripple cake, all nice and frugal, especially as I got cream at 20c per 600ml jar and froze about 20 for this sort of thing, scones and quiche making. The one expensive thing this year is hubby wants a fresh cray Christmas night as well as the prawns, but that will be his Christmas present, he’s happy with that. We used to really push the boat out and we’d be eating it for weeks, shortbread and other fancy biscuits, mince tarts, fruit cake, you name it I’d bake it because……now we just have what we want. I make a little fruit cake and sometimes mince tarts, we love them but our hips don’t, it took me a few years to stop feeding 20 ( Christmas was always at ours), I still have the Christmas club but the money goes towards holidays or topping up the renovation account or anything else we want.

  6. I always have a carrier bag where I keep cards for cutting up, used wrapping paper, those bows and ribbons on gifts, nice little bags that gifts came in. I never buy any of that stuff anymore. My family (myself, children, grandchildren) have done Secret Santa for the past three years. It was just getting crazy buying so much “stuff”. And way too expensive. It will be really hot here in New Zealand, and so I don’t expect to see any roasted foods nor hot puddings – sadly. One of my children only had second hand Christmas presents for quite a few years when she was younger.

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