Jubilee parties: have a right royal time – without breaking the bank

·12 min read
<span>Photograph: Rui Vieira/PA</span>
Photograph: Rui Vieira/PA

Whether or not you are a fan of the royal family, there will be no escaping the Queen’s platinum jubilee, with thousands of events – from back garden gatherings to mile-long street parties – taking place from 2 to 5 June.

According to the Co-op, an estimated 39 million adults will be doing something to celebrate.

The supermarket shelves are stacked with themed food and decorations. However, getting into the party spirit doesn’t mean spending a fortune. “It’s still possible to have a jubilee party without breaking the bank, if you can spend some time on the preparations,” says Faith Archer, who blogs about frugal living at Much More With Less.

Instead of the piles of union jack-patterned bunting and red, white and blue balloons available on the high street, charity shop bargains and homemade decorations are good options if you are throwing a jubilee bash on a budget.

When it comes to food and drink, you can team up with your neighbours or a group of friends to keep costs low.

Fiona Hawkes, a blogger at Savvy in Somerset, says: “Most people are happy to contribute but it can take a bit of organising to ensure you end up with a good mix of food – no one wants to end up with 10 trifles and no sandwiches.”

From party food and fizz to jubilee decorations and barbecue gear, Guardian Money writers and other experts have come up with some tips and deals for all budgets.

Food

The weather will inevitably play a part in determining what we all tuck into over the extended weekend. If it is sunny, people will be firing up the barbecue or putting together a picnic. If it is tipping it down, there could be a lot of indoor tea parties.

The Co-op reckons the nation will celebrate the jubilee with some retro favourites. It predicts Victoria sponges and other cakes, meringue nests, ice-cream cones, golden syrup and jam will all feature heavily.

Archer says: “For food, traditional afternoon tea items such as scones, Victoria sponges, and ham, cucumber and egg sandwiches are far cheaper to make than loading up a barbecue with masses of meat. However, you may need to enlist extra hands in a production line to make them.”

We looked at what different retailers were offering when it comes to that culinary classic, coronation chicken, invented for the Queen’s coronation banquet in 1953.

Cheese and ham salad sandwiches on a plate, with additional cucumber and tomato
Sandwiches will be on the menu for many a jubilee tea party. Photograph: David J Green/Alamy

Budget If this bright yellow, mildly spicy dish floats your boat and you don’t want to make your own, you won’t go hungry. Supermarkets are falling over themselves to offer various spins on the 50s favourite. Iceland is selling packs of coronation chicken snack rolls, coronation chicken breast mini fillets, coronation chicken pasta and coronation chicken bites for £2 each, or three for £5. Meanwhile, Tesco has given the dish a meat-free makeover and created a plant-based version called Plantinum (No) Chicken.

Mid-range Marks & Spencer is offering a whole range of items, from coronation spatchcock chickens (£8) and packs of sausages (£4.50) to scotch eggs (£3) and coleslaw (£2.40).

Fit for a queen It is almost as popular with overseas tourists as the queen, and Harrods is getting in on the jubilee act with a range of upmarket party food, including coronation devilled eggs. For £25 you get 12 – each one half an egg with a topping. A platter of coronation chicken sandwiches to serve eight is going for £35.

Make your own Look no further than the Guardian, which has previously published Felicity Cloake’s guide: how to cook perfect coronation chicken, and a recipe for a coronation chicken salad (roast coronation thighs with mango-yoghurt dressing).

Fizz

We asked Fiona Beckett, the Guardian’s wine critic, for some tips: “The jubilee provides an excuse to crack open a bottle of bubbly with the neighbours but what should it be?

“English sparkling wine seems the obvious answer but until recently it’s not been a particularly affordable option, fetching similar prices to champagne.

Celebrations champagne cava sparkling white wine drink
Are you looking for cavas, proseccos or other sparkling wines for a jubilee street party?
Photograph: SteveStone/Getty Images

“However, Asda has sparked what may become the first English wine wars by promoting its attractively honeyed, own-label Asquith Gardens at almost half-price, for £9.99 instead of the normal £18. And with the 25% off six bottles promotion that started this weekend, that could bring the cost down to £7.49.

“Interestingly, Asquith Gardens is made by a company called Rolling Green Hills, which is overseen by the same team that make brand leader Nyetimber and seems to have successfully cornered the market in own-label English fizz. Sainsbury’s rich toasty Ellercombe (currently at £22) and Morrisons’ vintage English sparkling brut (great value for a 2010 vintage at £25) are made by the same outfit.

Related: Queen’s platinum jubilee to be marked by 16,000 street parties across England

“If you feel it’s got to be champagne, Moët & Chandon has brought out a prettily bottled jubilee edition of its rosé at Waitrose, which is delicious, although, at £46, not exactly a bargain. (Rosé champagne is always more expensive.)

“Prosecco is probably going to be your choice for bigger numbers, not least if you want to make cocktails, as its slight sweetness lends itself well to a dash of liqueur like cassis (the classic kir royale). If you want to serve something a bit different, try Aldi’s off-dry Specially Selected sparkling Ribolla Gialla (£6.99), also from Italy, which would go down well with a jubilee tea.

“And if you’re not drinking but still fancy a glass of bubbly to celebrate, the VFMS 0.0% by cava producer Vallformosa is way better than most alcohol-free fizz I’ve tried, and at £6.50 (from Reserve Wines) is a fair price, too.”

Budget There are plenty of proseccos, cavas and other sparkling wines available for under a tenner, and even a few for under a fiver, such as Bella Cucina Prosecco Frizzante from Tesco for £4.99. Go low-alcohol or alcohol-free and you can pick up a bottle of bubbles for under £3 from retailers such as Asda.

Mid-range As outlined by Beckett, there are plenty of English sparkling wines to choose from, at prices that even some non-royals can afford.

Fit for a queen If money is no object, how about raising a glass of Champagne Charlie 1985 from the Charles Heidsieck vineyard? A jeroboam is a snip at £4,900 from Harrods.

Make your own Archer says: “Supermarket lookalikes such as Asda’s the Great Summer Cup, Tesco Summer Cup and Aldi’s Austin’s Classic Summer Punch (when available) have all scored well in taste tests compared with Pimm’s, but for £8 or less a bottle. Top up with loads of lemonade, plus mint, cucumber, strawberry and orange garnish, and hope for sunshine.” On the non-alcoholic front, elderflower cordial can be made in 24 hours, and with some sparkling water can make a summery fizz. You will need some elderflowers – head to your local hedgerow to find them – and sugar. Citric acid is often added to help preserve the cordial but if you plan to use it all next weekend, you won’t need that. Search online for recipes and instructions. Pick your elderflowers early in the day for the best flavour.

Barbecues

Close up of man grilling food on barbecue
People will be firing up the barbecue for the jubilee celebrations if the weather is good. Photograph: Paul Bradbury/Getty Images

There are grills for every budget. At one end there are the environmentally unfriendly disposable ones that can be picked up for as little as £2 or £3, and at the other, the latest top-end “outdoor kitchens” that can cost several thousand pounds. With summer around the corner, many families will be thinking about getting one or upgrading their kit. But which make should you go for, and how much do you need to spend?

The consumer organisation Which? says most barbecues it tests are at the £300-£350 mark but a “best buy” is likely to cost just over £400 on average. However, Natalie Hitchins, its head of home products and services, says spending more won’t necessarily guarantee you better performance. She adds that the Argos one mentioned in the budget section is “quick to heat up and delivers a great smoky flavour and the perfect sear marks, so there’s no need to splash out unless you really want to”.

Budget If you are looking for something super-low-cost and no-frills, B&Q has reusable charcoal barbecues starting at £12 (a £16 model has 25% off until 6 June). Which? likes the Argos Home Table Top Oil Drum Charcoal BBQ, costing £30 (at the time of writing), saying it was “small but mighty”. Wilko also has offers on, and has camping barbecues starting at under £13.50. This week it was offering a Wilko BBQ Kettle Grill 44cm, for £36 (reduced from £40). It is rated 4.5 out of five after 217 reviews. It has a chrome-plated steel cooking grill and removable lid.

Mid-range The Cadac Citi Chef 40 FS (which can be picked up for under £200 in some shops) has apparently scored well in Which? tests.

Fit for a queen Which? is keen on the Weber Spirit Classic E-210, calling it a “brilliant gas barbecue for beginners”. It’s not cheap – the recommended price is £609 – but you may be able to find it for less than that at some retailers. Meanwhile, the German manufacturer Landmann is offering up to 40% off its barbecues, and was this week promoting its “jubilee-themed” red Triton 2.0 gas barbecue (reduced to £299.99 from £449.99), which can feed up to eight people at a time.

Jubilee bunting

Bunting has become synonymous with summer parties and royal and sporting events. The auction site eBay says searches for jubilee-related items have soared over the past week. In its celebrations and occasions category, two of the top three searches were for bunting.

Aisha Cluitt, the content marketing manager at the arts and crafts retailer Hobbycraft, says: “Bunting is an iconic British party staple and is perfect for adding a splash of colour to your decor, whether it be a local street party or a garden get-together. It is very easy to make yourself and can be reused time and again, making it a cost-effective piece of party decor.”

Inside a charity shop
Blogger Faith Archer has ‘stocked up on vintage floral plates, a teapot and cake stands from charity shops’. Photograph: Tara Sedgwick/Alamy

Archer has suggestions for other ways to decorate: “I’ve stocked up on vintage floral plates, a teapot and cake stands from charity shops. Get the kids to decorate empty jam jars with Posca pens and fill with garden flowers as table decorations.”

Budget Wilko is hard to beat when it comes to low prices on the high street. Its multicoloured jubilee paper pennant bunting – comprising 15 paper flags, some carrying the image of a crown and the dates 1952-2022, plus 3.25 metres of ribbon – is only £2.

Mid-range How about some platinum jubilee bunting made by armed forces veterans? The Royal British Legion Industries Shop is selling bunting that comes in five-metre lengths. Featuring the official platinum jubilee logo and the union jack, the bunting – which includes 15 large pennants per five metres – is “constructed from weather-resistant laminated paper material, designed to last the jubilee weekend”. It costs £12.99 for five metres, with a discount of up to 40% when ordered in bulk. However, when ordering, check it will be delivered in time for your event.

Fit for a queen John Lewis has been doing a roaring trade in its Talking Tables Right Royal Organic Cotton Bunting (£18). This reusable red, white and blue bunting is three metres long, handmade from sustainably sourced 100% cotton and washable.

Make your own Putting together some bunting is easy and could prove a good way to fill some time during half-term. The cheapest and simplest option is to use paper or a pack of coloured card (£1 at The Works), a hole punch and some string. Cut out triangles and punch holes to push the string through. Simple coloured triangles look great, or you could decorate them – pictures of crowns or union jacks are an option if you want to go all in on the jubilee theme, or if you are celebrating with the neighbours, the name of your street could work.

How much did things cost in 1952?

  • £1,891 The average price of a house, according to Nationwide. If it had risen in line with inflation, it would have been £38,255 in 2021, according to the Bank of England. The current average price according to Nationwide? £267,620.

  • £1.63 The basic weekly state pension for a single person. Today it is £141.85 a week. If it had increased in line with inflation, it would have been £32.98 in 2021, says the Bank.

  • 2.7p The cost of a pint of milk. Last month it was 51p, according to the Office for National Statistics.

  • 9p The cost of a pint of beer. Last month the average cost of a pint of draught lager was £4.08, says the ONS.

  • 3.1p The cost of a loaf of white bread. Last month it was £1.15, according to the official data (that is for a sliced white loaf).

  • £80 How much a Murphy V200 television with a 12-inch screen would have cost (1951 price). In today’s (well, 2021’s) money that would be £1,764.

  • £8.70 How much the average male working full-time earned a week, according to the investment platform AJ Bell. The average female worker earned £4.60 a week.

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