When to buy a turkey so you don’t miss out this Christmas
It may only be the start of December, but many of us are already thinking about our Christmas dinner.
Turkeys have been a mainstay for the festive celebration ever since they were popularised by King Edward VII in the 19th century. But it wasn’t until the 1950s that they became widely available and subsequently a staple on Christmas Day.
And with three years of COVID-19-affected Christmases, people are likely being quick to secure their turkey to ensure this year runs as smoothly as possible.
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When is the best time to buy a Christmas turkey?
While some may stick to the tradition of racing out to get a turkey at the very last minute, those who like to plan ahead can rest assured that, while turkey sales are up, slots are more readily available for home deliveries in the week leading up to Christmas, too.
If you're choosing yours from Waitrose, you can order online until 15 December, or buy in store from 20 December. The website promises that using its useful buying guide will help you find one to "suit your budget, timetable, oven size and number of guests on the day".
If Sainsbury's is your go-to, you have until midnight on 16 December to get your order in, with options to collect on 22, 23, and 24 December. You can choose your perfect one by selecting how many people you're cooking for, whether you're looking for turkey or another bird, what type you want, how long you want to spend on cooking and more.
To order Christmas products from Tesco, you'll need a slot booked between 20-23 December, or 24 December for selected stores, which needs to be secured by checking out within two hours of booking it. Then you can start adding Festive Food items to your basket, checking out every time to save changes. But be warned, these products will show as unavailable online after 14 December because that's the deadline to check out.
Marks & Spencer
For M&S, you can book your free store collection slot between 22-24 December, though unfortunately many options have already sold out. There's also some of the supermarket's Christmas options available on the Ocado website, with pictures.
The website states that Ocado Reserved is paused each year from 20th-27th of December, and you'll need to book your slot yourself during the Christmas period. "We recommend you book your festive slot as soon as you see the star for Christmas slots next to Book a delivery on Ocado.com or when you get an email or SMS notification."
See the Aldi website to browse different turkey options on sale on different days this month, including 'The Finest Christmas Turkey' and 'Festive Value Fresh British Whole Turkey' available on 19 December, with good prices promised in-store.
For Iceland, which pledged to freeze prices of its own-brand frozen turkeys for Christmas this year, you need to have made an account on its website by 18 November to receive an email with details on securing a delivery slot until 18 December.
Visit your closest Lidl using its store finder to shop for its selection of fresh turkeys available form 19 December.
Read more: M&S has created the ultimate Christmas breakfast to be delivered to your doorstep
Is it best to buy frozen or fresh turkeys?
While there’s no one date on when you should buy your turkey (apart from missing any online deadlines!), you need to consider whether you will want a frozen or a fresh one.
Frozen turkeys can be bought ahead and stored for weeks in advance – but you will need to make sure you have enough freezer space.
Fresh turkeys can be bought a few days before Christmas and stored in the fridge. So if you don’t have much freezer space, booking in a slot to pick up a fresh turkey a few days before Christmas could be the way to go.
Also, it's worth noting that this year farmers have urged people not to buy frozen turkeys, as reports of a shortage of free range options due to bird flu have led more customers to buy mass-produced poultry from supermarket freezers.
One farmer, Paul White of Paul's Turkeys, wrote on Facebook: "The coverage of the 'shortage' has only further impacted us. It’s scared the public, and frozen turkey sales have risen dramatically, because people want to make sure they’ve got a turkey in their freezer for Christmas. It being British reared, or it’s welfare, has mattered less."
He added, "There is no shortage here. In fact, we have lots of heritage, ethically reared, free-range turkeys left, that we have sweated, cried and slogged our guts out over. If you want a free-range turkey this year, please consider looking around, and supporting a small scale producer. We deliver across the UK."
Read more: Sustainable Christmas gift guide: 11 unique eco-friendly present ideas
What can I cook as an alternative to a turkey?
Of course, while a turkey is most traditional, you can opt for whatever meat or fish you prefer, or none at all.
As December gets underway, new data from Ocado has shown searches for 'Christmas vegan' have more than tripled, rising 389% week-on-week, while the percentage of customers planning to go plant-based with their main dishes this year has grown 29% year-on-year.
While veggie and vegan dishes are both on the rise, searches for the latter are now the most popular of the two, increasing by 84% week-on-week. At the supermarket, for example, options include vegan panettone and fudge, and plant-based pigs in blankets and ‘turkey’.
“Gone are the days of nut roast and veg being the only solution for a vegan Christmas dinner, as the options now available on Ocado are at an all-time high. We’re also seeing the serving size of vegan festive centrepieces increase, with more options that feed 3-4 people as opposed to single servings, as families and friends try plant-based together," says Beth Vickerman, vegan and continental deli buyer at Ocado Retail.
Dishes like home-made wellingtons are also extremely popular with non-meat-eaters.
And aside from turkey, baked beans (6%), tomato ketchup (4%), chicken nuggets (4%), and gherkins (4%), are some of the more unusual food items Brits believe deserve a place on the ultimate Christmas dinner, according to recent findings by instantprint.
Plus, almost 10% percent of UK consumers (9%) would happily feast on salad as part of their Christmas day meal, while one in ten men (10%) were found to enjoy chips as an accompaniment to their dinner.
With food prices rising and taste-buds differing, the choice really is yours.
Watch: Peta launches first Christmas ad urging people to ditch meat and have 'vegan Christmas'