I wanted to call this Christmas hacks, but to be totally honest with you, I’m not 100% sure what constitutes a hack and what doesn’t. So I’ll stick with Christmas hints and tips and hope that you’ll be ok with that.
The point of this post is to give you some ideas for Christmas gifts/treats for when you’re feeling either time or money poor. It’s definitely not to make you feel like you need to be doing all of these things, because you absolutely and totally do not need to do so! I'm going to cover Easy Christmas foodie gifts, between feasts meal heroes and quick and inexpensive gifts.
Easy Christmas foodie gifts (inc self gifts!)
All of these are great superstars for your own kitchen too, so don't feel that they HAVE to be done just as gifts!
This came about because we always used to buy a pack of Christmas coffee to make up a big pot at our annual mince pies and mulled wine party. One year we were looking at how expensive a bag was and my husband suggested making our own. So, we did and will never buy a store-bought mix again! Not only is this a great addition to your own kitchen for Christmas, it’s a great gift. To gift just combine into a mason jar, old jam jar or a pretty caddy, write the ingredients on a label and attach with ribbon. (For some printable labels, see the link at the end). I recommend keeping in the fridge (as with any ground coffee).
2 cups of ground coffee (we grind our own but pre-purchased ground will also work well)
2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon of cloves (ground or whole)
Other suggestions – add a teaspoon of cardamom instead of or as well as any of the above ingredients.
Really pressed for time? Combine 3 teaspoons of allspice with 2 cups of ground coffee. The proportions in the allspice won’t be as exact but you’ll get pretty much the same flavour.
Want to add more? Pretty up the packaging with sticks of cinnamon or add a stick to the container. For gifting, you could wrap in a pretty tea towel, add a small box of store-bought chocolates or add some of the edible gifts below.
Nigella’s Christmas spiced salt
I mentioned this in the Christmas Dinner for First Timers post, but it’s worth another mention. Look how pretty it is! You can head to the Nigella book for the full ‘recipe’, but to make mine this year I added Murray River pink salt flakes, sea salt, chilli flakes and multicoloured peppercorns to a jar. I didn’t add the Nigella star anise because I didn’t have any in, but they do look lovely so I would add if you have any.
I’ve used this over the years to gift to many people and find it goes down especially well with busy parents who want to do a bit of Christmas baking, but struggle to find the capacity to do it. You simply layer all the ingredients into a jar, add a label and all they need to do is provide the wet ingredients (100g melted butter, 2 eggs, 300ml milk) and roughly mix together (which is a great job for kids of any age!). I’ve added a printable label in the download at the end of the blog. If you’re unsure of allergies, you may also wish to provide an ingredients list. As time has gone on, I’ve changed the mixture that I use, whilst keeping to the spirit of the mix. I double the cinnamon (I love cinnamon), replace the tropical dried fruit medley with dried cranberries and I often forgo the nuts entirely (although if I do put them in, I find the pecans are better received than the walnuts). I may add some macadamias this year to give it an Australian feel (in which case I may also add some blood orange zest too).
For gifting you can let the simplicity of the beautiful layers speak for itself, but you could also add some festive muffin cases and maybe even a new spatula or wooden spoon.
If this takes your fancy, there are several cookie mixes you can use as well, adding M&Ms, smarties, etc. These could make lovely teacher presents as well and they really will only take about half an hour of your time to make if you have most ingredients in the your store cupboard. I’ve added this link because it also has a free printable, but a quick google of cookies or biscuits layered jars will give you a whole host of recipes to pick from.
You might find these next ideas not especially Christmassy, but think of them as good go-to ideas for that time between Christmas and New Year where you have to cudgel your brain into think about regular meals.
Between feasts meal heroes
Chicken chilli (makes me 2 x 3 portions)
A tin of chopped tomatoes
Half a jar of passata
A jar of mixed bean salad
A chopped onion
A handful of chopped garlic cloves
A teaspoon of chilli powder/a chopped chilli
A teaspoon of smoked paprika
Into a freezer bag. Mix well and freeze.
On the day you want it, dump all of this with 2-3 large chicken breasts into a slow cooker and cook for 4-6 hours. Shred the chicken breasts with two forks. Serve with rice, salad, jacket potatoes, chips, in taco shells or anything else you’d like. Any leftovers make an awesome pasta bake (just add cooked, drained pasta, half a bag of shredded cheese and bake until the cheese is melted).
Slow cooker porridge
When you get back to wanting to eat a ‘non-treat’ breakfast, combine 1 cup of porridge oats with 5 cups of liquid (I use a mix of water and milk) and put in the slow cooker overnight on low. You can add apples, dried fruit, pears, cinnamon, vanilla essence, whatever takes your fancy. On waking you have a healthy, warm breakfast, ready to go, no fuss.
For when your body is crying out for less feasting and more vegetables!
Roast halved tomatoes, sliced pepper, onion wedges and sliced courgette after drizzling with olive oil and chucking in some oregano or basil.
Make sweet potato wedges by cutting up the potatoes and arranging in a single layer on a baking tray and cooking for about 30 minutes at about 200 degrees.
Add a salad (chop your own or buy prepared. I like the bags of shredded coleslaw but with no dressing).
Boil some mini corn on the cobs.
Add home-made or shop bought hummus and guacamole.
Grill strips of halloumi.
There you go, a platter of tasty veg and accompaniments. (If you lose the halloumi, this is suitable for vegans which makes this an easy entertaining meal if you have a vegan guest and are in short supply for vegan meals).
Quick, inexpensive Christmas gifts
Honestly, after this year I think every single person I know would love an IOU from a friend for coffee. Cater to their interests and needs (think babysitting, kitchen cleaning, backyard tidying, paperwork filing, taking stuff to the tip, meal planning for a month). I’ve added a couple of printables in the download, but you could easily make your own at Canva.com and/or adjust mine by going to the link.
Succulents in pots
I mentioned in a recent blog post how much I love my mini office succulent. It was super inexpensive from Ikea, but you could probably get more bang for your buck at a local plant nursery and buying pots from a local store. Prettify by adding ribbon or even painting the ceramic yourself.
There are literally millions of colouring in sheets free to download for both adults and children. Print off ones that would suit your recipient and bind together by punching a hole in the top left corner and threading with ribbon. Add a new pack of colouring pencils that you can source from a local store (sharpen them yourself if they come unsharpened).
Create a playlist and share on Spotify.
If you’ve been unable to spend much time with old friends this year, create a playlist that reminds you of more sociable years and share it with them with a note that talks about why you’ve chosen which songs.
Download the Christmas printable for free here. You can also edit them in Canva (no sign in required) here.