Planning the perfect Christmas hamper: packaging

Bottles, jars and packaging: planning the perfect Christmas hamperKnowing what to bake and make to fill your hampers is half the job. But you still need to package all those goodies up into gift parcels. After ten years of hamper-making, believe me when I say that this part is harder than it looks! Don’t be tempted to leave it until the last minute. A bit of early planning and advance ordering/buying of equipment is the difference between packing as you go and having a nice stack of hampers packed away ready to hand out when Christmas comes, versus running round the shops in a panic, dodging the crowds and wondering why there’s no cellophane or wicker baskets to be found a few days before the holiday.

Make a list of what you need

Before you start looking at equipment catalogues or thinking of themes and colours, you need to work out what supplies you need and in what quantities. Remember that Hamper Planning Example spreadsheet from last time? You can use that as a guide.

Hamper planning spreadsheet: calculating what supplies you'll needWhat I’ve done in the example is listed out the types of supplies I’ll need to pack my goodies: Bags, Bottles and Jars. Then I’ve colour coded each food item that I need to pack, based on the size of the package. So for example,  John and Paul’s hampers are going to couples, so I’ve decided they only need a small bag of truffles. Whereas Ringo has a family of five, so I’ll need to pack the shortbread for his family in a large bag. I’ve added up the totals in the second table of the spreadsheet, so now I know how many bags, bottles and jars I need and in what sizes.

You could also add a column here for the number of hampers too, if you plan to make them of different sizes. You’ll also want to include decorative bits and pieces in your list, like:

  • Tags and labels
  • Filling materials
  • Cellophane
  • Ribbons and bows

Depending on how much you like checklists, once again you could add these to the spreadsheet. This would give you totals for every type of packing supply you need to buy and you could also print it out and tick each component off as you complete it, if you wanted to be extra careful to make sure you don’t miss anything out at the packing stage. (Personally I’m not quite that organized!)

Jars and bottles

Jars are essential for jams and chutneys. But you can also use small jars for things like mixed nuts or spice rubs/mixes. And large jars are great for making “… in a jar” stacked gifts like these hot chocolate jars.

The most useful sizes I’ve found are:

  • 100g/4 oz jars. These small jars are perfect for spreads, spice mixes, chilli jams and tapenades
  • 225g/ 8 oz jars. These are your standard medium sized jars. You’ll probably need more of these than other sizes as they’re great for general use for jams, chutneys and you could probably pack them with sweets at a push too.
  • 500g / 1 lb jars. These large jars are best used for smaller “gift in a jar” items or for jams/chutneys that you know the recipient gets through a lot of quickly. (In our house we’d use this size for mango chutney as it gets slathered on sandwiches, goes in stir fries, you name it!)
  • 1kg/ 2 lb jars. These jars are huge, so perfect if you want to gift something like cake or muffin mix in a jar, or if you want to give someone a homemade gift but not a whole hamper then you could fill ones of these with sweets or small cookies.
  • 100 ml bottles. These are the best size for things like liqueurs, flavoured vodkas and salad dressings. I used these ones last year and everyone was impressed with the tamper-proof seals!

Stockists

You can pick up jars from kitchen stores like Lakeland and Wilkinsons, but if you’re getting more than a few the unit price can be pretty expensive (£1.25 for ONE jar!!!).

For most of my jam and bottling supplies I use Wares of Knutsford. They’re a specialist and stock lots of different sizes of jar (especially useful if you want the small jars, as I did last year for Dulce de Manzana.) For example, they currently offer a pack of 36 x 8 oz jam jars with lids for £16.20 + £6.95 postage. That’s 64p per jar, compared to £1.25 for the cheapest jar in Wilkinsons.

If you are on a very tight budget, you may also want to consider recycling jars. This does take quite a lot of advance planning, unless you eat a lot of jam and pickles though! If you’re short of a few jars then it’s sometimes cheaper to buy jars from the economy range in the supermarket and empty and clean them for reuse than to buy new. For example, Tesco value mint sauce is 24p for a 165g jar. Or for larger sizes, pickled beetroot is 39p for a 340g jar.

If you go for this option, do be very careful to follow your recipe instructions for sterilising the jars. I have been known to keep a bottle of Milton sterilising fluid in the cupboard – the kind you use to sterilise baby bottles – and cold sterilise my jars just to be on the safe side.

Bags

Cellophane bags are essential for packing chocolates, sweets and cookies. It’s better if you can get the food grade bags. I normally get mine in approximately the following sizes:cello food grade bags

  • A6: Tiny sized bags for holding single gifts of a few truffles etc
  • A5: A good general size for chocolates, sweets and lollies or cookies for individuals/couples.
  • A4: The larger size makes these ideal for packing sweet treats for larger families.

Try to get gusseted ones if you can, as these will open wider and it’s easier to get a nice neat closure on the top too.

Stockists

Craft stores are a good place to look for these, or you can sometimes find them on ebay too.

Hampers / Trays

It’s sometimes worth keeping an eye out in charity shops or homeware discount stores for interesting boxes or baskets to use as hampers. But I do find that the trouble with this is that if you are making more than a couple of hampers, it can be tricky to get them in the quantities you need and also to fit your goodies inside and store them.

Stockists

Since it’s rare that I make less than ten hampers at a time, I find it quicker and easier to go wholesale. The best UK supplier I’ve found is Candi Gifts. Their wicker hampers and trays come in a wide range of sizes and are reasonably priced. Just remember to add on the cost of posting when you order as it does bump up the price quite a bit (but considering the size of the items they sell, it is understandable).

Candi gifts large open weave basket

I normally use one of their large openweave trays. The dimensions are 35 x 29 x 7cm, and this is large enough to hold goodies for a family of up to 7 people pretty easily. The other advantage to using these trays is that once they are packed and sealed, you can store them stacked on top of each other in a large cardboard box. Sounds boring, but when it comes to delivering hampers, it’s much better than having half a dozen baskets sliding round precariously in your car boot every time you go round a roundabout!

Trays in this size cost £2.21 each plus VAT and postage, so if you ordered 8, you’d be paying around £29.60 altogether.

 

Next time…

Next time I’ll show you how to add the finishing touches to your hamper, with tags, ribbons and filling to make them look really special.

Missed the first part of my hamper planning series? Find recipes and planning tips here!

 

 

 

 

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I love all things fantasy, from fiction to films to games. Mostly books though. I also love cooking and plus size fashion. Find recommendations for great fantasy reads and general fangirling here! If you want to get in touch with me, the quickest way is by Twitter @dorristheloris

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