Ellen Widdup’s escape to the country

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I’M ON a mission today. The ultimate treasure hunt. There are clues all over Suffolk, so I shall be starting in Aldeburgh and then heading to Leiston, Saxmundham and Framlingham.

The aim of the game is to find posters in each of the four towns. Each poster will give me a letter which, when put together, will spell out a location.

The location is where Rudolph the Reindeer is hiding and the first person to find him wins £500 of vouchers to spend at the East of England Co-op.

Let’s face it, Christmas is expensive. And if the Co-op wants to give us a chance to ease that financial burden, then I’m all for it.

According to a recent survey, the average family with two children spends up to £700 on Christmas.

This includes a pile of presents, a mountain of decorations, cards to be sent to everyone in your address book, not to mention the disproportionate amount of food and drink.

In my house, the vast majority of our budget gets blown on sheer gluttony as we allow ourselves all the treats we would never dream of purchasing at any other time of the year.

Crates of champagne, huge tins of sweets, a side of smoked salmon, a pot of caviar, luxurious puddings, expensive pre-prepared nibbles, mince pies, salted cashew nuts, butter-rich panettone.

On top of this we devour a tray of roast potatoes, lashings of gravy and cranberry sauce, smashed swede and parsnip, the obligatory Brussels sprouts and, of course, the turkey, browned and golden in all its glory.

I’m sure we are all guilty of excess at Christmas. But I know I can’t be alone when I say that the recession has started to take its toll – and a huge bite – out of our over-indulgence.

The average price for a 9lb turkey has risen from £51 to £55 since last Christmas, for example.

And a festive lunch for six has soared by more than 10% above the rate of inflation since last year, to reach £93.

A poor Brussels sprout harvest means prices are expected to rise 42%, while the cost of potatoes has increased by just under a quarter.

So what can we do to still enjoy a feast without breaking the bank?

Well, according to a report last month, a third of higher earners admit they have switched to cheaper supermarkets or brands to help make ends meet.

Around 30% of shoppers are choosing own-label or value brands at Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrison’s to rein in spending, and as many as 32% are turning to places such as Lidl and Aldi for their grocery shopping.

These budget supermarkets appear to be embracing their new customers with open arms. Aldi’s till-take grew by a bumper 26% in the last quarter and Lidl has chalked up a 12% spike in transactions in the last three months.

I’ve got to admit, I have always been the sort of sucker who is seduced by posh packaging when it comes to supermarket shopping.

I love Marks & Spencer, can peruse the aisles of Waitrose for hours and have always found Tesco to be my saviour when it came to life’s little essentials.

n For more information on the Where Is Rudolph competition visit www.wheresrudolph.co.uk.

Email EllenWiddup@journalist.com or find her on Twitter @EllenWiddup.

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