We all love Christmas Food Shopping – don’t we?

Well at this time of year mom could certainly be forgiven for going to Iceland. Or, more likely, a nice hot country, where nobody mentions the word ‘Christmas’! Even the most cheerful and efficient mums find themselves tested to their limits of endurance at this time of year – and these days many of us don’t just have the housework and kids to manage, but a full-time job as well. Even if you are lucky enough to possess one of the rare ‘domesticated’ husbands much of the burden of preparing for and managing Christmas will fall on your shoulders.

With all this in mind, there are a few tips to taking some of the pressure off yourself, and finding the time to actually enjoy some of the holiday yourself. Grocery shopping is a big part of the pre-Christmas hard work you’ll have to put in, and finding the time to fit a big Christmas shop can be difficult.

Photo Visa Telegraph Media Group Limited 2010

Shop Online
You may or may not have already discovered the wonders of online grocery shopping. There are distinct advantages to ordering online and having your food delivered at any time of year, but if like me, you normally prefer to shop for groceries yourself, you might have some lingering doubts. To be honest, for a big Christmas food shop, ordering online from a supermarket has distinct advantages. One thing you won’t find yourself doing is being tempted by all the little ‘extras’ that somehow seem to appear in your trolley by the time you get the checkout. Shopping online allows you to be ruthless, armed with a well prepared list your grocery shopping can become an almost military operation and a highly successful one. For many of us trying to keep to a strict budget at this time of year is challenging to say the least. Online grocery shopping will certainly help! The other main advantage of course, is the time saving element. Christmas may be a time of good will to all men, but joining the frenzied hordes raiding the supermarkets at this time of year can be a time consuming and trying experience.

Hunt in Packs
Most anthropologists now accept that the ‘hunting and gathering’ of our ancestors depended heavily on the ‘gathering’ aspect. It’s also generally accepted that women performed this function, and it was women who were responsible for providing the majority of the tribes’ food. Men would occasionally take their big sticks out and hunt down an antelope or something, but with refrigeration many millennia away this was never an efficient food source. Nothing changes does it? These day’s it is still the ancient ‘gathering’ techniques that fill our cupboards, larders, fridges and freezers; and yes, it’s the women of the tribe that do the gathering! If you are planning on a non-virtual gathering trip this year, one great piece of advice is to ‘hunt in a pack’. The stores and supermarkets are keen to see us part with our hard earned cash, and they have some great multi-buy offers on at the moment. If you are watching your budget this year, grocery shopping with a friend or relative is a great way to maximize the savings from the offers that are available. My sister-in-law and I have been operating this ‘system’ for several years now, and this year we were joined by a couple of friends. When we sat down and worked out just how much we’d saved we were so pleased with our efforts that we had to take ourselves out for a little pre-holiday celebration! After all, we decided,we’re worth it!

Preparation and Timing
If you’re a seasoned pro at ‘doing’ Christmas you’ll have your own methods for getting the large dead bird, the mounds of uncooked vegetables and all the side dishes to the table on time! However, for ‘Newbies’, there are just a couple of very simple tricks to learn. Christmas dinner is really nothing more complicated than a big roast – which is actually a fairly straightforward meal to master. Always try to prepare the side dishes, stuffing, pigs in blankets etc, well in advance. This sort of thing will freeze well, or can be kept in the fridge for a few days. Peel, chop and prepare your veg the night before – this is really the only way! With all this behind you, you’ll be ready to face Christmas morning calmly and get the cooking out of the way quicker than you might think is possible! Getting the timings right is important, but fairly straightforward. Timing the cooking will depend on the type of meat you are cooking, if it’s the traditional Turkey, then check the weight and work out how long it’ll take. After that work the rest of your timings from there; you get a ‘period of grace’ with most meat – as it needs to ‘rest’ once cooked. With a large Turkey the resting time can be up to 30 minutes, giving you plenty of time to finish off cooking everything else.

Last minute shopping!
There are certain household items and essentials that evaporate quicker than a summer mist. Cereal, milk, bread, washing up liquid, cat-food and other small grocery items are all subject to this mysterious process. This means lots of little emergency trips to the shops, and makes life difficult if you’re trying to balance a job, a home and a family. There is, however, help available. Very good help indeed! Local milk delivery services have started to diversify, and your local milkman can provide a range of daily essentials, delivered bright and early to your door. There is rarely a delivery service, as you are probably already on, or very close, to a milk-round. This means that even ordering one or two small items can be very cost effective and save a lot of time! Usually you can order as late as nine at night, and still get the goods first thing the next day. Many companies that offer this service have a range of several hundred products, all of the things that you are likely to run out of unexpectedly and with some surprising extra products too. Veg-boxes are usually an option these days, while during December there’s a range of gift items, for those last minute stocking fillers. A relatively new service, this is one of the secrets that every home-maker should know about, a real time-saver and extremely competitive on price and delivery times!

So, armed with these tips, hopefully you can save a little money and a lot of time! Making the most of the offers that are going and using online grocery shopping for the small essentials will certainly save you time and money, and make the whole holiday period more of a holiday and less of a chore!

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