This blog post is about cheap British vegetarian Christmas food / meal on a budget.
Each year I blog about the British vegetarian food & drink I devoured at Christmas, and this year the focus is on cheap options and finding a bargain! After reading this blog post, if you are still looking for further vegetarian food & drink options for Christmas (but not on a budget), please read this vegetarian Christmas food blog post and also search the blog.
Whilst this blog post is primarily about what I ate and drank at Christmas, I’ve tried to provide tips and insight to help others with various budgets for a vegetarian Christmas.
This blog post covers:
- Christmas meal
- English cooked breakfasts
- Planning and deals
With some monster financial outgoings occurring towards the end of 2014, money was tight for Christmas. Also my lovely girlfriend and I took some extra time off over the festive period, but decided to have a quiet Christmas at home and buy some cheap food, amongst some more expensive treats.
Bargain hunting and preparing cheap meals occurred, but we also did choose to spend in some areas, so this blog post provides quite a few cheap options to meet different budgets, as well as a few more expensive options if your budget allows.
Other than the red wine all the expensive ‘brand’ items were not purchased at their usual full price! So whilst we could of avoided some costs by skipping some or all brands (other than Supermarket own brands), we were definitely bargain hunting, which I will explain further down.
Planning and deal hunting!
For some reason I got fixated on buying a red table cloth, so way ahead of time I found a cheap circular table cloth on eBay, that whilst isn’t high quality, it does look good. It wasn’t an impulsive purchase though and I hunted for an online deal and by not impulse buying, often cheaper suitable items can be found.
Tesco in the UK is our currently our primary supermarket, and we had set aside a small area of a shelf in a cupboard for the food and drink and space in the freezer. We prepared a shopping list and purchased mustard, mint sauce, gravy, stuffing and some snacks, that we managed to resist touching before our time off.
By not leaving all the purchasing to the last moment, we were able to make calmer more informed decisions. Having a set budget and list will help you focus on key items and hopefully keep costs down.
Also some items we felt were okay to buy near to their sell by dates for a reduced price and then to freeze, which you do at your own risk!
Tesco did some reasonably deals and essentially gave their clubcard members £5 GBP off their ‘finest’ range. Also on another order, I grabbed an amazing deal on the cheeses via another voucher (found online), which took care of the cheese board and some sandwiches filling for a reasonable cost.
It is definitely important to prepare a list and then to target primary or alternative options based upon the list, otherwise deals could end up being unnecessary extra spends.
In the run-up to to Christmas we looked at what Tesco sent us for offers and monitored a forum and a deals community.
Holland & Barrett
Whilst I love some items from Holland & Barrett (my local shop usually has some lovely vegetarian meat alternatives / replacements) we could have easily skipped buying items from them, and instead just purchased from one large supermarket (Tesco). Again way ahead of the festive season we regularly popped in to assess reduced items and also closer to Christmas they had a good deal.
We ended up buying Plamil egg free mayo (superior to Tesco’s alternative), a couple of meat replacements for the main meal, some vegetarian sandwich slices, veggie bacon and sausages, plus some of their burger mix for other meals not on the festive days. We could of done without all these items, even though they were all
The vegetarian Christmas dinner / meal
Actually I had four vegetarian Christmas meals during two weeks! In reality it was two meals that were then reheated the next day and new gravy was prepared.
Let me begin with drinks! Alcohol wise we purchased a small bottle of La Châsse Côtes du Rhône red wine suitable for vegans, Cobra beer, and a some bottles of tonic water with a hint of lemon. Other than the red wine, other items were placed in the fridge to cool before serving. My wonderful girlfriend doesn’t drink red wine and I was happy to buy a small bottle which is cheaper, that then saved us a bit of money.
Christmas Meal 1
We had purchased a reduced priced vegetarian meat alternative from Holland & Barrett, which in this instance was a gammon meat alternative for the Christmas meal.
Tesco ran a deal and we purchased brussels spouts, parsnips, carrots and potatoes for 49p a bag, which was an incredible deal.
In reality the potatoes were not that good, and in the second meal further down I will provide a potato recommendation!
Also due to planning ahead, we had cheap cheddar cheese and cauliflower, and with Tesco’s cheap English mustard and other ingredients, my girlfriend made an excellent Cauliflower cheese. To round off the main meal, we had bought cheap stuffing and gravy.
The parsnips were a tad small and the potatoes were disappointing, but it was a decent meal. We realised that two items can carry the meal and in took that into consideration for meal 2, which we feel was vastly superior!
The cheese that was used for the Cauliflower cheese sauce was Cathedral City Extra Mature, which is a strong cheese and is delicious with some mint sauce.
- Purchased many long-life items ahead of time.
- Looked for deals on items that I was going to already buy.
- Didn’t buy too much alcohol, which can be expensive.
Christmas Meal 2
Even though we had a second vegetarian meat replacement available, we decided to not include it.
Instead we purchase some King Edwards potatoes, and if they hadn’t been available we would of likely purchased Albert Bartlett Rooster or Greenvale potatoes. The next most important element of the meal was the homemade cauliflower cheese.
Again we used cheap brussels sprouts, parsnips, carrots, stuffing and gravy, and as expected the potatoes and cauliflower cheese carried the meal with the lesser quality items being okay, but if we had spent more, then the sprouts would of likely been the next price increase.
- Dropped having a meat alternative.
- Prioritised two key items of the meal.
Desserts, cheeses and chocolates.
In Britain we will often have a starter (I didn’t this year), followed by the main meal, dessert and on special occasions, then have cheese and perhaps a chocolate or two! All these cheeses were purchased either with a voucher applied or part of a deal.
On one occasion we had a cheap banoffee pie, but my favourite dessert was the homemade apple and blackberry crumble my girlfriend made, accompanied by squirty cream!
On a side note if you have any squirty cream leftover, you can use it as a topping for hot chocolate!
Due to deal hunting and vouchers, we had an incredible cheese board, which we devoured with Tesco’s own branded basic crackers. We did purchase too much and the Stilton is still unopened in the fridge and we had too cheese sandwiches and cheese on toast!
If we didn’t see some good deals near to Christmas we would of definitely purchased less cheese (which we should of done) and perhaps opted for Iceland’s (a supermarket, not the country) mature cheddar cheese instead, but that Tesco French Brie was delicious!
The five rated Tesco Finest English Vintage Cheddar was a strong crumbly cheddar with distinctive personality that I felt best appreciated in a simple manner, such as on a cracker or alone in a sandwich with good bread and butter. I did on a few occasions also add a dollop of Branston Pickle to a sandwich.
Tesco’s four rated ‘Vintage Farmer Cheddar’ cheese wasn’t what I expected and I couldn’t bring myself to eat it, other than grilled on cheese on toast. A disappointing cheddar with poor texture and a taste that made me wince if served cold on a cracker.
The ‘Davidstow 3 Year Reserve’ was a special vintage Cornish cheddar that was an incredible treat and a great accompaniment to the cheese board.
Cheap French Brie
Tesco had a great deal on a monster block of French Brie (which was suitable for vegetarians) and that is a cheese my girlfriend likes, but I have to admit I found it to be delicious as well! Even though it was cheap, it was good value for money.
We did purchase some cheap Tesco ‘Chocolate Mint Thins’ (not as good as After Eight), but could have easily skipped them, as the cheese and homemade crumble were enough after such a big main meal!
- Don’t buy too much!
- A cheap homemade dessert can be more rewarding to eat that shop bought versions.
Vegetarian cooked English breakfasts!
Another indulgence was our vegetarian cooked breakfast, which was one of three items we ate most days during our time off over the Christmas period! With all these breakfasts we usually enjoyed either Assam tea or filtered coffee, and the tea was a supermarket own brand and the coffee was on a deal with a sell by date that covered the Christmas period.
We purchase cheap mushrooms to chop up and then cooked in a saucepan with a monster dollop of margarine. We also had baked beans, hash browns, plum tomatoes (from a can), potato pancakes and vegetarian bacon.
Plus on some occasions we had slices of toast (and butter) to accompany!
Breakfast 2 & 3
We enjoyed either a vegetarian bacon or sausage sandwich, and on one occasion a mixture of both!
We don’t eat eggs, and the bacon and sausage vegetarian replacements were purchased from Holland & Barrett either reduced price due to ‘sell by date’ or on a deal, though often we also buy the Linda McCartney sausages from Iceland (usually more expensive at Tesco).
Mushrooms on toast isn’t the cheapest breakfast, but is a great light breakfast, especially if you are having a lunchtime Christmas meal.
- Not all cooked breakfasts need a meat substitute.
- Prices can dramatically vary for items, especially major brands in different supermarkets.
Brown sauce for breakfasts
A healthy dollop of brown sauce was enjoyed with my English cooked breakfasts, as well as English mustard and white pepper.
I could of purchased the cheap brown sauce, but opted for the more expensive Daddies and HP brown sauce. Again both items were purchased when on a deal!
Daddies and HP Brown Sauces
Daddies is one of the most popular brown sauces in Britain today, and for a long time Daddies was my favourite sauce, but these days I sometimes find the vinegar to be overwhelming, and it is definitely not subtle. Currently I love dunking chunky steak chips into it, and this morning it accompanied mushrooms on toast for breakfast and a good strong mug of assam tea.
If I didn’t know the preferences of people that I was about to serve a vegetarian cooked breakfast for, I would definitely avoid put this brand on the table, especially if people where from a country where it wasn’t common or available! Instead I would serve them HP brown sauce which is another popular brown sauce in the UK.
Since Christmas we’ve actually started to move away from buying major brands, instead looking for okay supermarket own brand replacements or just dropping the type of item altogether. For example we’ve currently stopped buying items from Holland & Barrett, and are slowly working our way through items we’ve already purchased from that store.
In my opinion a great vegetarian Christmas meal doesn’t need a meat alternative or expensive drinks to accompany, which also means you can save a lot of money and also having a set budget helps.
Try and moderate your eating and also look at healthy options. I know for many this is easier said than done, and I definitely didn’t eat enough fruit during my time off and I did eat too much!
So here is a round-up of tips:
- Plan ahead and if possible have a budget.
- Don’t buy too much food.
- Many vegetarians are happy with skipping a meat replacement.
- If possible, look at presentation which doesn’t need to cost much (i.e. a cheap tablecloth, napkins etc).
- Be carefully using multiple shopping locations, but if strict, you can save money.
- You don’t have to buy expensive items and if you have room in a budget, extra money on a few key items can help carry a meal.
- Look at whether homemade alternatives are cheaper or if similarly priced assess whether they are better value for money.
I think if I had to be drastic, I could easily skip the booze, chocolate and meat replacements and reduce the amount of cheese that was purchased.
Remember you shouldn’t get yourself into financial trouble just because it is Christmas. Spending time with my wonderful girlfriend and relaxing were the most important elements of my Christmas 2014.