/ Food & Drink

Where do you shop for your festive food?

Christmas dinner

Some of you may loathe the thought of Christmas prep in November, but the big day does require some organising. So have you thought about what you’ll be eating and drinking yet, and, more importantly, where you’ll be getting it from?

For me, Christmas food seems to require a fair amount of planning. Growing up, there used to be a barn in my grandparents’ village that was full of turkeys. It required some early preparation – you’d go along there in late summer, pick a turkey out, watch it grow and fatten up over the autumn months, and then it would arrive all ready for you a couple of days before Christmas.

These days, getting everything in for Christmas in my family’s household is a lot less rustic.

Gathering festive food

Admittedly, my mum does the lion’s share of the grocery shopping, as we’ll invariably be spending the big day in the family home. And she’s something of a Lidl fan. ‘It’s German and they know how to do Christmas. Their stollen is second to none,’ she reasons.

She’ll be pleased to know that judging by the results of this year’s annual Which? festive taste tests, it seems she’s on to something there. In a survey of 1,393 Which? members, Aldi was voted the top supermarket for buying your turkey for the festive season, followed closely by Lidl.

However, independent shops and butchers came out top overall, beating all the supermarkets. They also came first for taste.

These days, my mum will swerve the long queues at the butcher’s in town in Christmas week, as she’ll have already bagged a frozen turkey from Lidl in late November, ‘just in case they sell out’.

And what veg isn’t grown in the patch at the bottom of the garden will likely come from the weekly market (except the potatoes – she’ll go to Sainsbury’s for those, as she believes they’re better). Indeed, independent shops were voted the best place to buy your Christmas vegetables.

The pigs in blankets and chestnut stuffing will probably come courtesy of M&S or Waitrose, and she’ll pop into Lidl once again a couple of days after Christmas to get in next year’s Christmas pudding, ‘so it can mature’ in the larder.

To lessen the burden, I’ll then get in all the odds and ends – the cold meats, the cheeses, the duck liver pate, the snacks, the prawn ring starter, the brandy butter… and the booze.

Festive taste test

So where will you be gathering your Christmas lunch and treats from this year? Do you buy everything in one place or do you shop around? And are there some shops that are part of your Christmas tradition?


We usually end up eating too much of the wrong things at Christmas and also having lots left over so we are going to try to do things differently this time. There’ll be just the two of us; we won’t have a turkey put to death just for us and we are going to try to buy only what we will need for a decent dinner and stop the gorging. Fillet steak and fresh vegetables is likely to be our choice for dinner, possibly a small cake for teatime. No Christmas pudding but perhaps a mince pie with luxury ice cream. Plenty of fruit will be available as normal. For Boxing Day it will probably be a bit of a treat like a full English breakfast at around three o’clock! The day after that we shall probably go to a pub and have some fish and chips for a change.

I expect we’ll get the food from Waitrose and M&S as the other supermarkets seem to be reducing their ranges of quality foodstuffs, especially fruits and cheeses. We are already overstocked with liquor in various forms so we don’t have to worry about that.

The only reason we have turkey on Christmas Day is for the children – it is the ritual. However it is an excuse to eat home made bread sauce. I would choose a decent joint of beef cooked fairly rare otherwise, or rack of lamb, or a sirloin steak – more flavour I think, and cheaper, than fillet. I’d start with scallops in a bisque, and finish with either preserved chestnuts in syrup with creme fraiche, or an apple tart made with Cox’s cooked in butter (see Elizabeth David). Cheese with fresh figs and grapes if there is any room – keep all preceding portions small to help.

However it is not to be. Some of that will appear on Boxing Day with a home cooked gammon, gravadlax and other nice buffet food when all the family visit. It is a treat once a year. And some of the food will reappear in the following day or two.

The worst part about Christmas food is buying far too much just in case. We forget we can pop out to the shops after the big day.

I have just noticed that last year’s Christmas table napkins have come out again and it looks as though there are still enough left to see us well into the New Year. We don’t have enough family left in any generation to have a house full again so why do we get so much stuff in?

Funny you say that John, I pointed out to my mother that she has a cupboard full of mismatched Christmas crackers, I insisted on placing the crackers on the table at the last family gathering as I know the inventory of crackers will only continue to grow…

We never have Turkey. Horrible, dried, mostly dead and goes on for ever. Reminds me too much of a distant relative…

Our descendent family is growing (I blame double beds, myself) and whereas we can comfortably get ten around our dining room table the addition of more baby chairs might mean having to consider a dining annex – possibly in the garage 🙂

Crackers are fascinating things. Terrible jokes, repetitive and utterly useless ‘gifts’, exorbitant prices and yet for some unfathomable reason we all enjoy pulling them. Are we all mad? No – don’t answer that…

Christmas is the only time I eat turkey but I will have to wait and see which member of the family invites me to Christmas lunch and be thankful that I no longer have to cook it, and very grateful for whatever is served on the day, as long as roast parsnips accompany it!

The Christmas after losing my eldest son (2004), I chose to spend it on my own with my thoughts and a Waitrose pre prepared roast chicken meal, followed by a mini Christmas pudding with fresh cream. Each Cbrismas since then I have tried to spare a thought for all the people who have lost loved ones during the previous year. I rarely touch alcoholic drinks so a single glass of a nice Italian red will be sufficient to compliment the meal. I used to take one of my speciality sherry trifles along with me which always proved very popular with everyone but these days a cheese board with a selection of different cheeses and maybe the odd pickled walnut, is the preferred choice.

I almost forgot, smoked salmon for breakfast is a must on Christmas Day.

Smoked salmon with some sort of mangled egg accompaniment is our preference, too. Genuinely sorry about your loss, Beryl. Losing a child must rank as one of the most traumatic events in life. Here’s wishing you a bright and salmony Christmas this year.

Most of our accompaniments come in the form of raw ingredients from the supermarket which we do things with. The turkey comes from a local farm and it is some of the best meat eaten throughout the year, so turkey IS a treat at Christmas for us. We try and shop sensibly and plan for the family who will be round the table. Any little passion can be indulged and everyone seems content with what’s in the Christmas cupboard.

In a rare departure I’ll respond to the question in the topic header. Living in a mountain (not a misprint) we have to allow for the weather conditions perhaps more than most. There isn’t a single major supermarket within a 15 mile radius, and getting up to where we live is something of an art, depending on the weather.

So we’ve developed a strategy that involves buying from four different supermarkets during the same week. In other words, we spread the risk. Our preferred SM, Waitrose, is thirty two miles away through the mountain passes, so in the mid-December period they’re the most likely to be stuck in avalanches, blizzards, floods, snow storms, volcanoes or earthquakes (other disasters are available).

The option would be taking our Toyota 4 x 4 and ploughing through the snow-covered tracks to reach the store, then to plough through the frenzied hordes, apparently fresh from roles as extras on Day of the Dead seven, attempt to find what we want from a store already bearing the marks of having been looted by a less civilised branch of ISIS, locate a cashier that hadn’t actually lost the will to live and garrotted themselves on a string of speciality garlic and strawberry spleen sausages, wait in the queue that resembles what Dante almost certainly had in mind in his masterpiece (often think he was influenced by a earlier version of M&S), watch as the seconds of life tick relentlessly away, get to within two victims of the cashier only to find the old lady at the end is attempting to pay the bill in groats and has put the wrong spectacles on, anyway, finally attain Nirvana and the cashier, to learn the ‘system’ has overloaded, the store having apparently not told it that Xmas has arrived, eventually pay then crawl, now utterly demoralised and exhausted, towards the entrance door, the automatic opening system of which has failed, so it now resists all attempts to open until you turn away, whereupon it cunningly springs to life and smacks you in the back of the head, forlornly drag our now battered and bruised bodies back to where we parked the car, only to find the people on either end of it have made the joint assumption that we only need three inches on either end to get out, finally escape the insanity which is Christmas Eve in any sort of settlement, drive the fifteen miles back to the mountain retreat, dodging the hapless and unwary who’ve taken to the roads in the motorised equivalents of prams and are wondering why they can’t get up ice-sheeted hills with their smart new low-profile summer tyres, eventually and thankfully make the homestead, open the door and notice that the power has gone off, that being the first thing the distributors do when they want to play their merry pranks around Xmas, drag in the shopping bags, make it upstairs to the lounge, collapse in the comfy armchair and reach out for a warm glass of mulled wine – which is when we realise what we’ve forgotten to get.

I hate shopping.

Great opening chapter, Ian – a bit short on the romantic interest though, so I am looking forward to the next instalment.

I would not expect you to believe it but our experiences in what people consider to be the flat expanses of Norfolk are not much different although our nearest Waitroses are half the distance you have to travel. and for one of them we can go at 70 mph all the way. Having arrived inside, however, the cruising speed drops below zero and I sometimes wonder how the staff keep their composure. I now know where Charles Darwin did some of his early research; he must have found the pace of life on the Galapagos Islands a bit demanding by contrast.

Hasn’t anyone given you a thumbs up for that? Have one from me for a brilliant read. Really enjoyed your tale and suggest a trip to the publishers with more of the same.

Don’t get him started, Vynor. It will be poetry next. 🙂

:-)) Thanks, Vynor. Much appreciated 🙂

Ian, many thanks for your condolences, losing a child as you say, is a life changing experience which anyone who has, will agree the pain never goes away completely but does lessen with time, but life goes on.

Living half way up a mountain conjures up visions of a traditional white Christmas with flocks of sheep and the odd deer appearing through the thicket. However, your post clearly demonstrates the reality of living in such isolated splendour during the winter months and without the support of a 4 x 4,, life would become very difficult and I assume your postie has a suitable vehicle equipped with chains to help him/her deliver your Christmas cards! A flat roof with a heli-pad would be a number one requirement before I would even consider living so far off the beaten track 🙂

Are there restrictions for supermarket deliveries in such remote areas?