WITH only a week to go until the big day, it’s time to make sure we have sufficient snacks and drinks in our homes to make extended family feel welcome when they come calling.

Newspapers and TV programmes are packed with seasonal tips at this time of the year, but you may feel, as I do, that much of the advice seems geared toward people who are either rather well-to-do or else have plenty of spare time they can devote to making things like stencilled table decorations.

The good news for those of us on a tight budget, and whose time is at a premium, is that we probably have most of what we need in our homes already, which means those we can save some much-needed money. Recycling and reusing are crucial for economising as well as being kind to the environment.

Take nuts, for example. As most normal people only eat nuts at this time of the year, and as we tend to buy more than we need, the chances are that we still have some nuts lurking in a corner of our kitchen cupboard from last year, the year before that or even earlier.

In fact, there might still be a bowl of them on the coffee table or windowsill from last year or longer ago, which you never got around to removing. Should that be the case, you might want to search the bowl for forgotten car keys, TV remotes, fag ends, chewing gum and so on before serving them to guests.

Wherever you find the nuts, you’ll want to ensure they’re still in prime condition. A useful tip is to hold each one briefly to your ear, give it a shake and listen carefully. If you hear nothing but the expected nut-like rattling, that means nothing laid eggs in there and you’re good to go.

If you hear scuttling sounds, and perhaps the faint whirring of wings, you might want to throw that one out.

On a related note, you’ll generally find at least two boxes of dates at the back of the cupboard. Rather than holding them to your ear, I recommend laying them all out on a flat surface such as a table top and then striking the table stop smartly with the flat of your hand.

This will startle the occupants of any tenanted dates into poking their six legs through the bottom and attempting to run away. It is then up to you whether you discard them, release them into the wild or save them and encourage children to hold little races.

Buying cheese can be a significant expense at this time of year, but you may not need as much as you anticipated. If you rummage toward the back of the fridge, you may well find a big sealable plastic box filled with the cheese left over when the crackers ran out last Boxing Day.

On no account open the box in the house - not unless you’re planning on redecorating and want to strip all the paint and wallpaper from your walls and ceilings.

To test whether the cheese is suitable for guests, take the box to the bottom of the garden, open it and leave it there overnight.

If you return in the morning to find it surrounded by half a dozen deceased urban foxes and badgers, all flat on their backs with their back legs and one front leg stiff in the air and one paw jammed down their throats, you might want to reconsider serving the cheese to visitors.

Or at least, you might want consider repackaging it in some new foreign labels you printed from the internet. Then you can accuse your guests of being racist if they complain.

Or if they die.

The best way of keeping everybody happy as they enjoy your environmentally-conscious snacks is to ensure they have lots to drink.

Canny hosts can save a little money here, too, provided they have some empty premium spirit bottles, some full bottles of supermarket own brand stuff and a great big funnel.