MUM-OF-TWO Deb Hellyer doesn’t have to worry about getting up at the crack of dawn to peel the spuds – her Christmas dinner is already bought, partially cooked and in the freezer.
The 46-year-old, who works front of house in a pub, has made her pigs in blankets, rolled her stuffing balls, and picked her turkey joint already.
While many Brits are panicking about empty supermarket shelves, delivery delays and shortages of their favourite festive foods, Deb decided to get started early this year to spread the cost and take the stress out of the big day.
Deb, who lives in Somerset, says: “During lockdown last year, my husband Martin bought me a cheap chest freezer so we wouldn’t have to go to the shops as often.
“I had heard about the food shortages this year and wasn’t really planning on buying Christmas food in advance but then I saw a turkey in the supermarket and thought I might as well get it, and things have spiralled from there.”
The next week, Maris Piper potatoes were on offer for 49p for 1.5kg, so she decided to get those too.
Then she spotted a packet of stuffing mix for 48p. Next it was the parsnips and carrots.
“The veg I’m going to par boil and put in the freezer.
“The stuffing balls you freeze individually on a tray and once they’re frozen you can put them all in a bag together.
“I’ve picked up lots of tips like that from Facebook groups, they’re great to search for ideas and it’s a really friendly community,” she says.
Indeed, some industry experts have warned that Christmas “could be cancelled” this year as there are so many problems hitting the industry.
The Sun recently launched a campaign to help hire 100,000 lorry drivers.
It’s estimated that some families will be hit to the tune of £1,800 a year by rising costs.
Deb usually spends around £30 on a turkey ordered from her local butcher, but her Asda turkey breast for this Christmas cost £7.
In total, she has spent around £10 on her festive feast so far this year, compared to a typical cost of around £60 for the meal.
“I think buying it in advance stops you panic-buying, and having to get something more expensive because it’s all that’s left in the shop,” says Deb.
“Doing it early means I have time to think, and I can do everything myself rather than buying readymade items that are more expensive.”
Saving money has been particularly important for Deb, who lost her job at an estate agents in the Covid pandemic. She now works front of house at a pub.
I can spend Xmas eve watching Elf
Where she would usually spend her Christmas Eve feeling stressed, prepping all the food and trying to wedge it in the fridge, this year she hopes to attend the church Christingle service and sit down to watch Elf with her 18-year-old daughter, Emily, and 17-year-old son Matthew.
All she will need to do is get her prepped food out of the freezer to defrost and put it in the oven on the day.
There’s no set time for Christmas dinner in Deb’s house. “It’s ready when it’s ready,” she says. But the day isn’t complete without a family board game and a festive TV special like Dr Who.
Around the dinner table on the day will be the family of four – and their 4-year-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Poppy.
Dessert is always a trifle – which Deb might make in advance this year too – and there’s always a glass of Bailey’s to be had.
Deb says: “I find Christmas cooking stressful and then everyone else suffers.
“I’m not sure if cooking in advance will affect the flavour – I’m not a very good cook, so I’m not sure anyone would notice if it did!”
Deb is not the only person out there getting ready in advance. We recently spoke to a mum-of-two who had finished buying all her Christmas gifts in September.
Top tips for prepping your Christmas dinner ahead of time
Keep track of what you’ve got
Deb has a small chest freezer and keeps all of her Christmas food in a box in that so she can keep track of what she has already got to avoid any duplications.
Get tips from social media
Deb uses Facebook groups to get tips and money-saving ideas. “I’ve learned that there’s no such thing as a silly question, and the people are really helpful,” she says.
As well as discovering it was possible to par boil veg and freeze it, other top tips she’s picked up include freezing leftover red wine into ice cube trays to use in stews and freezing herbs.
Do your research
Make sure you check how long it is safe to freeze food items for, as it can vary, and make sure you read any guidelines on the packaging.
We’ve done a round-up of how long you can freeze festive food favourites for.
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