Christmas lunch - it's a costly affair. Statistics New Zealand estimates the spend at nearly $70 for the average Kiwi family.

But there are ways to trim the bill without being a party pooper. Try these tips if you don't want the ghosts of Christmas past showing up on your credit card bill in January.

Simplify, simplify, simplify
Our family tradition is home-made bagels for breakfast, followed by an entire turkey (cooked on the BBQ) for lunch.

Over the years I've simplified this because we don't need all the trimmings. No one cares whether the turkey is wrapped in bacon or not or if they get luxury serviettes or Budget brand ones artfully folded.


I'm sure none of the whanau even noticed when I cut out the cheese platter a few years back and the ham for supper was totally superfluous and just added to the overstuffed feeling that comes with Christmas.

Write a list
Lists are magic for cutting costs. The earlier you create your menu and shopping list the better. Add longlife items to your weekly shop when they're on sale.

Check your cupboards
Before you let Santa and his evil helpers gouge your budget check out what you have in your cupboards and look to substitute items you already have for those you planned to buy.

Go bigger, or smaller
If you eat all your leftovers it might be worth upgrading to a bigger turkey.

Or if you know in your heart of hearts that you'll throw the leftovers out, buy the smallest one possible.

Likewise, it can be tempting to buy more than you need of everything. Be realistic about what your family will eat. Think like a chef.

Have a practice run
Plate up the food to see what it looks like, says Celia Hay, director of the New Zealand School of Food and Wine. If, for example, you can see 100g of ham looks right on the plate and you have 10 guests, only buy 2kg. The plating exercise will show you need about 30ml of sauce a person, says Hay. Do the maths especially carefully on foods that don't keep, such as salad.

This plating exercise will build your confidence that you will have enough food on the day. It's best to serve food already plated so the first person doesn't take all.


Bring a plate
If you have friends, family, waifs and strays coming for Christmas dinner, ask them to contribute with the great Kiwi bring a plate and bottle.

Be specific
Make a list of every dish and beverage needed and divvy them up. By being proactive and telling people what to bring you won't get left holding the turkey - and an expensive one at that.

If told what to bring, your guests will foot a share of the real costs and bring necessities, not the nice to haves.

Don't be embarrassed. Explain you're sharing out the work. You won't look like a cheapskate that way - even if you are.

Shop around for expensive items
As soon as the freezer is empty enough to buy my turkey I always call around local supermarkets and butchers to check which has the best deal.

Another take on the same concept is to build in some flexibility around the menu. If kumara is cheaper than pumpkin this year or vice versa, then swap them.

Make your own
Some Christmas staples such as dips and canapes are often cheaper to make yourself. Likewise, custard made from powder will save money.

Do your prep
DIY gravy, stuffing, mince pies and more can be cooked in advance and refrigerated for a few days or frozen. Google the words "can you freeze (your dish)?" It's amazing what can be prepared weeks in advance and then defrosted on the day - without sending the family to accident and emergency with a dose of food poisoning.

Get the presentation right
If you can't afford to buy a Nosh Christmas cake or mince pies, pick up budget ones at PAK'nSAVE and present them well. A sprinkle of icing sugar and flowers out of the garden adorning a plate will make all the difference.

Basic Christmas cakes can be personalised with ready-made marzipan, royal icing and jam. Don't worry if you're not creative. Check out Pinterest for endless easy ideas. Simplifying Christmas dinner doesn't just save money. It will also make life easier for whoever gets the task of slaving over a hot oven.