A thrifty solo mum is proving Christmas dinner is doable on a shoestring budget, having whipped up a shopping list and menu for just $10 a head.
Foodstuffs North Island fresh food specialist Loreen Shields has formulated a cheat sheet for families doing Christmas on a tight budget.
Her role involves overseeing more than 30 Foodstuffs stores in the Bay of Plenty and Waikato regions - so she knows where to get the best deals.
Groceries for Shields' menu, which caters for six people, rings in at a little under $60 - a cost that includes dessert and the essential Christmassy sides.
Shields said she had always been conscious about cooking on a budget.
But it wasn't until she read a story about a young mother breaking down at the supermarket checkout due to the cost of her shop, that she was inspired to spread her knowledge around.
The Christmas dinner menu features roast chicken, ham, veges and dessert.
"It's a beautiful orange glazed ham, chicken with a festive stuffing and extra stuffing balls," she said.
"We've got roast potatoes, roast kumara and roast carrots. And we've also got steamed carrots, beans, steamed broccoli and I've snuck in some steamed silverbeet in there as well."
Extras included gravy, some extra glaze for the ham, and grilled pineapple.
Dessert, which Shields said was "always the finale to a great day", was pavlova with whipped cream, strawberries and kiwifruit.
Shields credits her thriftiness to days when budgeting was more crucial to her lifestyle.
"It goes back to when I was a single mother raising three kids," she said.
"I was studying, I had a full-time job, had bills and I wanted to achieve things."
While she didn't live by a strict food budget anymore, she still appreciated the advantages of planning out meals and cooking within your means.
She advised people to figure out how much food they need and adhere to that when shopping at the supermarket for ingredients.
"Anything over and above that - it's money for nothing."
The Auckland City Mission is also ramping up preparations to help families celebrate over the festive season.
Around 8000 food parcels will be handed out in the two weeks leading up to Christmas, according to the Mission's fundraising team leader Alexis Sawyers.
It's the highest number in the mission's history.
"This reflects the increase in requests for emergency food assistance that the Mission has seen every month throughout 2018 and clearly shows how many families in our community are struggling," Sawyers said.
Families and individuals who need help are encouraged to get in touch with the Mission by December 21.
The Mission's annual Christmas lunch is expected to cater to around 2000 guests this year.
Sawyers said while volunteer numbers had so far been strong, help was still needed in the lead up to the big day.
Darryl Evans, from Māngere Budgeting Services Trust, suggested families worrying about holiday costs should begin squirrelling money away early, to lessen the bill over Christmas.
"We've got one woman here, who every fortnight throughout the year, she puts aside $20 to [Pak'nSave] vouchers. By the time it comes to Christmas you've saved all that money."
Other top tips were to buy shared presents for kids, and delay shopping for Christmas presents until Boxing Day.
"I did this last year because we caught up with a lot of our family after Boxing Day," he said.
A body wash and shampoo set was $17 before Christmas - and down to $7 the day after, he said.
"It's well worthwhile waiting."
After a stress-free Christmas? It might come with a bigger price tag
If less stress is more of a priority than saving pennies, many meal delivery services are offering Christmas food bags.
My Food Bag
The godmother of food service delivery options, My Food Bag, has three festive food boxes on offer. My Classic Christmas comes in a small or large variety, at $220 and $329, with the classic turkey and ham paired with antipasto and desserts. There is also a "Kiwi Christmas" option for $335 - featuring salmon and cheesecake.
Albany catering company FED's Christmas Box comes in two varieties. A box which feeds 4-6 people rings in at $349 or a bigger box catering for 8-10 people is $459. Free range champagne ham and a turkey roll feature, as do some fresh sides and a couple of dessert options. Unlike many of the other food box varieties, FED's offering comes completely prepared ready to heat and eat.
Food bag service WOOP has two three-course Christmas menus available for order, ranging from $389 to $395 in price. A "Modern Christmas" box includes lemon and coriander glazed salmon, and lemon paprika prawns, while the box for a more traditional palette sticks with ham, turkey, and a range of tasty sides. Both boxes include dessert.
Farro is selling a Christmas food kit, which includes all ingredients as well as step-by-step instructions. The menu includes a free range ham with sticky honey glaze, turkey roulade with pancetta strips, and an array of salads and starters. It rings in at $329, with the option to add sweets, cheese, wine or cherries.
• The Weekend Herald and Foodstuffs have three Christmas hams to giveaway. Entries close Wednesday, December 5 at 5pm. Enter visit nzherald.co.nz/win.