It’s the middle of August – isn’t it a bit early to start thinking about Christmas? Not if you want to give homemade food gifts this year. Late summer is the best time to find the widest range of fruits at a good price for making jams, chutneys and other preserves. It’s also the perfect time to start planning what sort of equipment you need to make up your hampers. If you want to use specialist items like heatshrink hamper bags, you’d be surprised how quickly they go out of stock, so it pays to be prepared.
I’ve been making Christmas hampers for my family and friends for around ten years now. They’re a surprisingly cost effective option that can really give the wow factor and I now get comments from family from summertime onwards asking what will be in that year’s hampers as the suspense builds! Here, I’m sharing some tips with you on how to put together the best hampers. So read on and find out how to avoid making some of the mistakes I’ve made over the years…
Make a list of recipients
The most important thing to do, before you start cooking, or buying ribbons, is to work out how many hampers you need. This will help you calculate how the quantity of filling items and materials you need, avoiding overspend and having to use up 13 spare jars of jam over the next few years. I like to use a spreadsheet so that it automatically calculates quantities for me. I add three columns for this part:
- The person/family the hamper is for
- The number of people in that family (you’ll want to make a larger hamper for larger families)
- Any special dietary requirements eg no alcohol, gluten free etc
You can download my Hamper Planning Example spreadsheet here (nb it’s a Google doc).
Decide on a theme
You could of course make entirely individualised hampers, containing different gifts for each recipient. But if you are making hampers in any quantity or are on a budget then it is much easier to start with a theme and plan your gifts around that. You could think of your theme first, or another option is to visit a site like Pinterest and start looking at the Christmas recipe boards and see if there are any common themes in the items that appeal to you.
Some themes I have used in the past that you may like to try:
- Traditional Christmas
- Savoury foods
- Christmas spices
Those all tend to be grouped around flavours, but you could also go for more visual themes such as snow, or colours, or even shapes (maybe make everything star shaped or with star labels).
Choose the gifts
Again, while it’s tempting to make up hampers individually customised to each person’s preferences, this takes a lot of time and hard work. It’s more realistic to choose 3-5 base gifts. Then if you want to add something specific for a personal touch, there should still be room. The other advantages of having a small number of common items is that you can buy in bulk to save money, it’s easier to calculate the quantities of ingredients you’ll need, and you can batch bake, saving on time and energy.
When you are planning your base items, try to choose goods that keep well and can be stored at room temperature. As Christmas comes nearer, you’ll find that you want your fridge to store other things and it also means you don’t have to cram everything into your kitchen. Often, a spare shelf in a cupboard, or a couple of large lidded storage boxes under the bed will be good spots to store the goodies, as long as they can be kept sealed, in a dark place with a fairly constant temperature.
Stuck for ideas?
If you’re stuck for ideas of which sorts of food gifts to put together for a hamper, here are a few ideas to get you started.
So you’ve decided what you’re making and who to make it for. Next time I’ll tell you how to get hold of the right equipment at the right price and how to add some great finishing touches to give your foodie gifts an extra sparkle!