You know me, I love a festive tip, and easy fixes – especially when it comes to Christmas dinner – are definitely my thing. You can imagine how delighted I was, then, when the lovely people at Gumtree asked me to come and host a special Festive Fixes by Gumtree pop up yesterday in London along with TV presenter Lucy Alexander, and finance expert Naomi from the award-winning Skint Dad website. We invited people in to our very own Christmassy space, furnished entirely with items bought from Gumtree. There were mince pies and glasses of fizz, and the chance for people to pop in from the cold and pick up loads of tips and tricks for hosting Christmas without spending a ton of money (Gumtree’s research found that the British public spend an extra £3.87 billion on everyday items forgotten over the Christmas period, which is quite shocking), and in a much more sustainable way than buying loads of stuff they’re not going to use throughout the year too.
We’ve used Gumtree loads to help us with Christmas, and my own Festive Fixes by Gumtree included a bargain set of simple folding wooden chairs, which come in handy to seat extra guests, but are also great for the garden in the summer. Mr E’s favourite festive Gumtree purchase was a classic old SNES Super Nintendo and a couple of games – bought relatively cheaply, they provided hours of entertainment last Christmas, and will definitely be coming out this year too. We’re also big fans of what we call ‘tree presents’ – a tradition started by my Dad – they’re just small pressies that get handed out on Christmas day evening, long after everyone thinks they’ve opened all their presents. Last year we got hand-knitted Star Wars characters from a lady on Gumtree and they’re the sweetest little gifts.
My own festive fixes – especially if you’re hosting Christmas for the first time
Gumtree’s research found that while 48% were excited about the prospect of hosting Christmas, 27% felt under pressure and 11% felt wholly unprepared!! To help the first time hosters, my own festive fixes are:
Have a big fridge clearout. Even if you don’t want to chuck stuff away, a lot of things that you usually keep in the fridge, like pickles and relishes, will be fine out in a cold garage or shed for a day or two.
Cobble together a post-dinner kit with either a few DVDs (Gumtree!), or a couple of board games (also much cheaper on Gumtree –look out for classics like Trivial Pursuit and Monopoly and make sure they’ve got all the bits), a bottle of Baileys (freeze coffee in ice cube trays to go in it – delicious) and a nice big tin of chocolates.
Make sure there are enough places for everyone to sit in the evening – if not, think about sourcing some cushions, maybe a soft rug, or even beanbags on Gumtree so everyone’s comfy.
If people are staying over and you’re not sure where to put everyone, you might want to look into inflatable beds (parents often sell these on when sleepover days are over). Ask people to bring their own duvet and pillows if you’re worried you won’t have enough.
Use disposable foil trays to cook the turkey and roasties. They can be recycled and nobody wants to spend Christmas afternoon scrubbing baking trays.
Think outside the box: jam jars make cool glasses for a crowd and can go straight in the recycling afterwards, and you can even buy disposable bamboo cutlery.
If you run out of space in the oven, use my tried and tested ‘oven rack hack’: stack dishes by topping with a cake cooling rack, then pop another dish on top.
If you’re entertaining kids, welcome them with the best hot chocolate: freeze a tray of whipped cream sprinkled with grated chocolate and mini marshmallows, then cut out shapes to pop on the top.
Go cheap and cheerful with accompaniments like cranberry sauce – decant into a pretty dish.
Wash up as you go – enlist a couple of helpers to wash up, or at least rinse and stack – it will make clearing up at the end a lot more manageable.
Gather foliage for a simple table decoration. Arrange down the middle of the table with some pillar candles, or tea lights in jars. Add a little glitter if you dare.
Prepare as much as you can on the days leading up to Christmas. I’ve got a big post coming up with loads of tips on Christmas sides. Most things can be prepared in advance, leaving you to do nothing more than a bit of roasting on the big day.
If you’re worried about squeezing everything in, remember the turkey will keep – warm, snugly covered with foil and a couple of tea towels – for at least a couple of hours, leaving you room for the roasties and stuffing.
And finally, delegate! Say you’ll provide the main course, but get the others to bring Christmas pud, mince pies or some sort of dessert for pud-haters. Don’t forget the brandy cream.
A massive thanks to Gumtree for a super fun and festive day. For more festive hosting tips and inspiration, head to the Gumtree blog. Next week, I’ve got a couple of posts with everything you’ll possibly need to know about Christmas dinner, plus a roundup of festive recipes too.