#FestiveFood: A guide to planning the perfect student Christmas dinner

Bring on the Christmas cheer!

The Christmas lights have been turned on and Durham’s already experienced its first snow, invariably everybody’s minds are turning towards Christmas. Along with all the joy and frivolity Christmas brings, there unfortunately tends to be a bit of a dip in the bank balance, a particular worry when you know you’re going to have to wait until mid-January for a top up. Christmas cheer, however, does not have to be expensive to find, and in this article I will be looking at how to plan a Christmas dinner for you and your friends at a low cost, but with plenty of cheer.

#Tip 1: Have a pot-luck system

Food galore (and wine) at a pot-luck Christmas dinner

Food is always an important part of Christmas for me, and before everyone goes home to see their families over the festive season, I like to organise a Christmas dinner with my friends. We use a pot-luck system which allows you to spread the cost, the oven space and also have a little fun. A pot-luck system is when everyone collectively decides on what dishes they would like, write them down, put them into a hat, and then whatever each person draws out is the dish they must bring to the meal (preferably already cooked). Over the years we have made several adaptations to this basic premise, the main one being that whoever hosts the meal is in charge of the meat and roast potatoes, this is because neither travel particularly well and don’t taste as good after being reheated. Another adaptation is that those in charge of veg (which is generally much cheaper) are also in charge of bringing some drinks, as after all, it’s not really Christmas until there’s Bucks Fizz and a few bottles of red.

#Tip 2: Don’t be afraid to break the “traditional” rules & be creative

Infamous Brussel sprouts of “traditional” Christmas meals

Deciding on the food is extremely important as it means you can customise your dinner into a meal that everyone wants (i.e. ditching the Brussel sprouts). Don’t be afraid to deviate away from tradition. A girl once brought cabbage stir-fry with chestnuts and bacon in oyster sauce and I thought that it made the dinner! Since then, my friends and I have had an unofficial competition on who can bring the wackiest yet interesting adaptation of their dish, with another favourite being broccoli and peas cooked in mint and garlic.

#Tip 3: Chicken is always a good option

Succulent roast chicken drizzled in oil

Choosing the meat is often the most difficult decision when planning, as everyone has their own preferences on what should be cooked. In addition to this, cooking a meal for a large group of friends poses the issue of multiple dietary requirements. From this, I have found that chicken is usually the best option as the only people it rules out are vegetarians (who can have a separate veg option), and alongside this, it is one of the cheaper meats to buy (£4 in Tesco) and is also easy to prepare. Turkey is another good alternative, however, a surprising amount of people don’t seem to like it.

#Tip 4: Have a fancy dress theme & Secret Santa

It isn’t a “true” Christmas dinner without presents…

Other ways you can activate that Christmas cheer is through fancy dress themes, such as “only Christmas jumpers allowed”, decorations—think thistle and crackers, and incorporating a Secret Santa system into your meal (yet another way to save money!).

Although it can be stressful organising such a large event, especially towards the end of the term, a Christmas with friends is (and should be) all about having fun! So try not to let the stress get to you when planning and save all the worry for when you have the actual Christmas meal with your family.

P.S. Follow @TheBubble_Food on Instagram for your dose of all things good & yummy!

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