Not many of us can hope to rustle up a Christmas dinner anything like the one the Michelin-starred chef Ross Lewis prepares this Christmas Day. However, even if you can't match his cooking skills, the chef proprietor of Dublin's Chapter One restaurant has a few tips that could help keep the cost of your Christmas dinner in check.
"Keep it simple," said Lewis. "You don't need all the trimmings. Buy quality meat and stick to simple plates of food. All you need is a bit of turkey, some ham, nice stuffing, a sauce, three vegetables and some potatoes. I'll be having some turkey, ham, red cabbage braised in red wine and port, some roast parsnips, potatoes roasted in goose fat, and cauliflower gratin."
The Christmas meal is probably the most expensive meal of the year. Between the turkey, ham, stuffing, vegetables, dessert, trimmings and wine, your bill could easily run into hundreds of euro.
So apart from keeping it simple, what else could you do to ensure the bill for your Christmas dinner doesn't hit the roof?
Getting your portions right should help.
"Christmas is a time of year when people cook far too much," said Lewis. "A portion of ham for anyone should not be more than 100g to 120g. So if you're cooking for 10 people, a 1.5kg ham would suit. A 5.5kg turkey would comfortably do eight to 10 people."
Improvising rather than buying expensive glazes, sauces and chutneys can also save a few bob. "Ham glazes can be quite costly," said Lewis. "You can make a nice ham glaze with cloves, dijon mustard and brown sugar."
If you're cooking for between eight and 10 people, it is possible to keep the bill for your Christmas dinner basics at around €40. The Sunday Independent did some shopping around to find out how.
You could easily pay between €35 and €40 or more for a 5.5kg fresh turkey in your local butcher. However, you could snap up a similar size turkey in your supermarket for €20. For example, you can buy a 5 to 5.99kg fresh whole turkey for €19.99 in Lidl and Aldi from this Friday. A 5kg fresh turkey costs €19.99 in Tesco, or €24.99 for a 6kg bird.
You can pick up a 1.5kg ham fillet for €6.99 in Aldi and Tesco -- which makes these supermarkets among the cheapest to buy your Christmas ham. If you can settle for a smaller 1kg ham fillet, you'll pay €4.99 in Aldi and Lidl.
Let's say you take Lewis's advice and serve three vegetables this Christmas. You decide to go with Brussels sprouts, swede and carrots. You can pick these vegetables up for as little as €2 if you shop around.
SuperValu, for example, has a 750g bag of carrots for 19c, while Dunnes Stores charges 15c for a 1kg bag. Two bags could cost as little as 30c.
SuperValu is also selling a 500g bag of Brussels sprouts for 19c, while Dunnes charges 15c for the same weight bag. Snap up two bags and your Brussels sprouts bill will be no more than 38c. Your local farmer's market could also be worth a trip. "Buying directly from local markets could save you a few bob," said Lewis. "You can get amazing value vegetables at the People's Park market in Dun Laoghaire, for example. You could pick up a large swede for €1 there -- and that will go a long way."
This brings the bill for your three vegetables to only €1.60.
You're unlikely to need a 10kg bag of potatoes for a dinner of eight or 10. However, under a recent offer, Dunnes Stores reduced the price of its 10kg bag of rooster potatoes from €6.99 to €3.99.
This offer was due to expire yesterday -- but it is worth keeping an eye out to see if it is continued. You could pay €3.99 for a 2.5kg bag of potatoes in some supermarkets, so if you can snap up a 10kg bag for the same price, it is certainly worth doing so.
If you can make do with a 5kg bag of potatoes, Tesco's 5kg bag of Irish Kerr's pink potatoes are on sale for €3.99 until this Tuesday.
You can pick up a yellow melon in SuperValu for 19c -- about a tenth of the price you could pay for a melon in other supermarkets.
Assuming you need two melons for eight to 10 people, this means you could keep the bill for your starter to 38c.
Dunnes Stores has yellow melons for 15c a pop.
If you make your own dessert, the ingredients alone could set you back €30 or more, depending on how fancy your dessert is. Buying a couple of packs of mince pies for dessert instead could save you a small fortune.
You can usually pick up two six-packs of mince pieces for around €3, depending on the supermarket. Cream can push up the cost of this dessert so shop around -- even within the same store. You can buy 500ml of cream for €2 in Tesco if you go for its own-brand version.
STUFFING & GRAVY: €3 TO €4
Shop around and improvise at home and you could keep the bill for your stuffing and gravy to a few euro.
Rather than buying expensive stuffing, make your own. You don't even have to buy the breadcrumbs. Take Nigella Lawson's advice and make them yourself -- using stale bread, which you've crumbed in a processor. "Just buy a loaf, slice it and leave it to stale overnight," writes Lawson in her book Feast.