Back in 2011 I read that the British public spend, on average, £145 on Christmas dinner alone, and waste one fifth of that. We also spend £500 on gifts, which means that for the average family, Christmas costs £650. I decided back then to see if it was possible to produce an entire Christmas, for ten people, for £30; the amount that we waste by throwing away food.
I was inspired by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall of River Cottage fame. I would love to follow his lead, abandon the modern world, go off to my own smallholding and become self sufficient. I long for the simpler times of the late 1990s when he downsized and buggered off to Dorset (with a TV production team in tow), but twenty years on from that and the world doesn’t exactly work that way anymore.
I have business (I own a wine shop), a house, a mortgage and a family. I can’t just pick up everything and decamp to a little house in the country and have my own smallholding. I have very solid, binding ties that don’t permit this, so my experiment has to be done within the confines of modern living.
My goal is not to be self sufficient. Nor is it to devote several days each week to cultivating my own veggies as I simply don’t have time for that. My goal is simple – to learn the skills I need to forage, hunt or grow (in small volumes) the food I need for my Christmas table. Not only that, but I must make a gift for all my guests and decorate the house all for under £30.
I am allowed to barter, swap and exchange labour for goods, but the whole budget cannot be more than thirty pounds. I will trial recipes throughout the year, and any costs of these won’t factor into the budget, but the meal at the end of this must be instantly recognisable as a traditional Christmas dinner.
Will I succeed or will time fail me (as it did when I tried this back in 2012?!). I suppose there is only one way to find out.