Whoever agrees it’s the most wonderful time of year obviously has never been on cooking duties.

There’s so much to consider, prepare, juggle… and that’s before Christmas Day has even arrived.

If all this isn’t overwhelming enough, check the budget.

Feeling the stress yet?

Don’t. Here’s how to host a stress-free Christmas feast, budget approved.

Consider it a Christmas miracle.

Starters

Before you get in a flutter weighing up the cost vs time of smoked salmon blinis or pastry cheese swirls, ask yourself a more important question: do you even need canapés?

It may sound shocking at first, a party without canapés? Bear with us.

Realistically, Christmas is overflowing with food. It only makes sense to cut out fiddly, costly and stressful bites to give you more time to focus on the main event.

If you can’t part with the idea of canapés, check out Taste.com’s impressively inexpensive canape ideas.

Sides

Don’t overdo it. Stick to one or two fancy sides and keep the others simple.

Remember, simple doesn’t mean boring.

What about the simple pleasure of crispy roast potatoes? For gourmet results, just add half a teaspoon of baking soda to the water whilst boiling. The increase in pH levels will break down the pectin leaving fluffier edges to crisp in the oven. Plus, how cheap is a bag of spuds, oil, salt and baking soda?

For the roast vegetables, some time and cost-efficient tips to remember include: make sure your vegetables don’t overlap in the tray, flip over halfway through the roast and use a tasty spice mixture.

Some winning mix combos are rosemary and garlic salt, the warming and spicy flavours of curry powder, garlic, cardamom, ginger powder, and thyme or Moroccan-influence of salt, cumin, cinnamon and coriander.

Simple never tasted so gourmet.

Main

Here it is, the household question for December 25th: seafood or turkey?

We vote chicken.

Yes, you can break the rules on Christmas Day.

Quite frankly, seafood is expensive and the stress of beating everyone else to the fish market to get your serving is downright un-merry.

Turkey is also costly, but the most stressful part is cooking it. Renowned for being a dry meat, we reckon it is time to give turkey the bird.

Liberate yourself from the traditions and try roasting an easier and arguably more popular meat, chicken.

You can freeze a whole chicken for up to 12 months. Keep an eye out for cheap chooks now to avoid a last-minute trip to the shops. Just remember to take the chicken out from the freezer 24 hours prior to cooking.

You can roast the perfect chicken with minimal ingredients. The most popular recipes include salt, rosemary, olive oil or butter, lemon, and thyme. All common ingredients you probably already have in the kitchen.

Another reason to roast your own chicken is the gravy.

All you need is chicken stock and flour and you’ve got one gravy-dripping crowd pleaser.

Oh, and don’t forget the ham. It’s a popular Christmas tradition, and for good reason.

You can serve glazed or naked, hot or cold – whatever suits your taste, budget and time schedule. Plus, it makes for great leftovers. Ham and cheese toastie, anyone?

Dessert

Christmas pudding, trifle, mince pies, gingerbread cookies, pavlova, brandy snaps… too many options is a good and bad thing.

The best choices must fit three things:

  1. Can I make it (or most of it) ahead of time?
  2. Are the ingredients within my budget?
  3. And finally, is it delicious?

Don’t bother baking if it doesn’t fit the criteria.

For the ultimate dessert, give your guests two options – hot and cold.

By having a hot and heavy dessert in contrast with a light and fluffy one, everyone will be happy.

Check out Delicious.com’s make-ahead Christmas dessert recipes. They are seriously drool-worthy.

Drinks

Last but certainly not least, alcohol.

From champagne breakfasts to after-dinner liquors and all the beers, wine and cocktails in between, alcohol is considered an essential part of Christmas festivities.

It can also spiral out of control pretty quickly.

The best way to keep track of your booze budget is by planning ahead and shopping around for discounted cases.

Another money-saving tip is by making a summery punch. Adding fruit juices and sodas to spirits make drinks go a lot further.

Don’t forget to offer alcohol-free options. They are much cheaper and absolutely necessary for a long day of celebrating.

Extra Tips to Keep Costs and Stress Levels Down:

• Shop What’s in Season

It’s the cheapest and healthiest way to feed your guests. Lucky summertime offers an abundance of delicious produce like cherries, lychee, stone fruits, berries, rhubarb, sweet corn, zucchini, pumpkins, chillies, capsicum and loads more.

• Prepare What You Can

Preparation is key towards getting the best deals and achieving a stress-free day in the kitchen. Look online and in brochures for alcohol and food specials. Research the best make-ahead recipes. Peel whatever vegetables you can the night before. Buy your bird early and make sure it fits in your oven! (It happens more than you think).

• Delegate

Does Aunty Sue make a salad too good to be salad? Or does your brother-in-law whip up a fresher than fresh cranberry sauce? Use it.

Don’t be afraid to ask your guests to bring a dish to help lighten the load. They will understand and be flattered you specifically ask for their famous recipe.

• Check Your Cupboards

You could have valuable ingredients you didn’t even realise you had. Before you head to the shops, double check what you’ve already got inside the kitchen.