Hosting Christmas Lunch
It’s that jolly festive time of year yet again, where sleigh bells are jingling, crowds are jostling and the air is starting to fill with festive cheer and fanfare. Christmas is a special time where we lay those hardworking pens down, and devote the downtime to relax whilst reminiscing the passing year with family and friends.
I have to admit that even though I look forward to the festive break, the inner Grinch in me flinches at the most expensive time of the year. And if you’ve been tasked with hosting Christmas lunch this year, you may be knee deep in the trenches of planning that perfect get-together. Hosting takes a lot of planning and work in itself. Budgetary challenges can certainly add to the rise to the mercury needle of stress, even for the most experienced hosts and hostesses.
All isn’t lost and the Grinch hasn’t yet stolen Christmas. I’ve put together my top 5 tips and ideas to hosting a fabulous budget friendly Christmas lunch.
Read on and you’ll be looking forward to hosting your best Christmas lunch yet.
1. Work Backwards
Having worked as a project manager almost all of my 15 years in corporate meant that I’m pretty ace at delivering projects within an assigned budget. This is a skill that anyone could pick up, and it’ll save you a whole lot of frustration down the track.
Determine how much you want or have to spend, and work backwards from that amount. The last thing you’d want to do is determine what you want to have for Christmas lunch first, and be let down by budget. It’s not necessary to put out a banquet feast fit for the King by splurging on every single dish that you’re looking to serve.
Pick a main such as the roast or a seafood to splurge on, and spend less on accompanying dishes. Serve up a fulfilling salad with beautifully roasted root vegetables accompanied with couscous or pearl barley. Top it off with a sprinkle of crunchy pomegranate seeds, and you’ll have a delectable Christmas lunch set to impress.
It is definitely possible to put together an amazing and delicious table with budget constraints, it just takes a bit more planning and out-of-the box thinking. So whip out that calculator, Excel spreadsheet and unleash the creative power of that right brain.
2. Ditch Tradition
Yep, you’ve read that right. Ditch tradition, or, at least some of it. It’s traditional Christmas fanfare to serve a turkey roast and ham, or the bird at most. However, the cost of a turkey or a leg of ham can be extra pricey at this time of the year.
Serving up something a little less expected is a breath of fresh air too. You’ll be doing some of your guests who have different family commitments on Christmas day a huge favour. Imagine needing to have multiple servings of turkey and ham in one day. More leftover ham sandwiches anyone?
If you’re expecting more than 10 guests, consider putting together a grazing platter. Grazing platters are always crowd pleasers, and it doesn’t cost much or take much time to put together.
Feel much less of a stuffed turkey and look at more cost effective alternatives. A roast chicken stuffed with an aromatic home-made stuffing, beautifully brushed with an orange marmalade marinate (see below for recipe) will do just as nicely. Line that up with some buttered green beans with almonds, honeyed roast carrots and gravy (but of course!), and finish it off with a lip smacking dessert. If you want something other than poultry, a good leg of lamb would serve just nicely.
3. Bring A Dish
Don’t shy away from asking guests if they would like to bring a dish to share. I have a pretty big family and Christmas lunch would usually be hosted at my third Aunt’s. We would all be tasked to bring a dish and lunch would be served buffet style. This meant that everyone could eat what they liked, how much they liked, and be free to socialise instead of being sat at a huge table where it was hard to converse with someone sat on the other end.
I remember how festive Aunt’s house was and everyone always had a great time. From a budget perspective, it definitely lifted the money and cooking load off the host or hostess. It also gave guests an opportunity to show off their cooking and/or baking skills, spark conversations and share recipes. Now that’s food bringing people together in true Christmas spirit. Just remember to make a list and assign people to a dish so you don’t end up with 20 bread rolls!
4. Spruce Up That Table
This is where you’ll call upon the inner Martha Stewart prowess and creativity. There’s no need to splash out on expensive tabletop décor where a little does go a long way.
Candles are simple and affordable but add so much warmth to a Christmas table setting. Use whatever you have at home, pillar, tealight or floating candles. Add a cinnamon stick by tying jute string and soak in that cinnamon fragrance as the candle burns.
Herb sprigs are a personal favourite of mine. I love adding sprigs of herbs such as rosemary and thyme to each setting as they not only smell heavenly, they add a rustic charm.
The humble mason jar has made its way into many beautiful home décor ideas. It’s so simple to turn it into a gorgeous piece of handiwork. Make use of tasteful ribbons, strings, candles, blooms (the list goes on) and the world’s your décor oyster.
Arrange your decorated jars in a row or group them in a circle to create a table centrepiece, or set individual jars at each setting for that personal touch.
5. Ease Up on Alcohol
Alcohol is one of the priciest things on a Christmas grocery list. Even though it’s considered an essential part of the festivities, it can easily push out your budget. Planning ahead helps and look out for discounted cases and specials.
Be inventive and see what you can conjure up with mixed drinks such as Summer-inspired punches and sangria. Everyone loves a simple yet refreshing cocktail on a warm Christmas day. You could also request for your guests to BYO. Most people whom I know turn up to a lunch or dinner party with a bottle or two, or a 6-pack in tow even though they weren’t asked to. It’s thoughtfulness that I’m always delighted by!
From my family to yours, have a safe and wondrous Christmas.
Orange Marmalade Marinate
- 1/2 cup orange marmalade
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon chilli flakes (optional, replace with coarse black pepper if preferred)
- Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.
- Brush over chicken, marinate in fridge for 2-3 hours before roasting.
- Brush chicken whilst it’s cooking with remaining marinade for added flavour