Putting the decorations away after Christmas is a good time to think about what can be done better next time around.
No, I’m not recommending that you hit the sales for presents and stash them at the top of the wardrobe. We can’t all be like my mother-in-law.
I’m thinking more about making resolutions to do better waste-wise so that the festive fails of Christmas Just Past will be this year’s gains in reducing the family seasonal carbon footprint.
Every year I try to make little improvements and write my ideas down while they’re fresh in my mind. Then I put this list on top of the decorations box for the new me to find in December. Those of a certain age might remember the advert that coined the phrase Vorsprung Durch Technik (Progress Through Technology). I like to think of my New Year’s resolutions as Vorsprung Durch List-making.
You may make resolutions now but, believe me, you will forget if you don’t write them down.
Top tips from my list:
- Write a memo to self – If you’re the sort of person who buys presents early, remind yourself where they’re stored and who they’re for. If not, you may not remember where you put Auntie Ethel’s present and who you bought the novelty gorilla slippers for, apart from the fact that it wasn’t Auntie Ethel. They’re not her size.
- Ditch the selections – Don’t buy selections of food items if your family won’t eat everything in them. For us, in the dips selection, it’s thousand island dressing; in the cheese selection, it’s anything smoked; in the cheese biscuit selection, it’s the plain crackers. So only buy the cheese, crackers, dips etc that your family love. This leads me into a great idea from my sister-in-law.
- DIY hampers – Get a box, add a bit of straw, then fill with items you know the person loves – drinks, preserves, pickles, biscuits, tea bags, chocolates etc. You can buy a box, as my sister-in-law did, but you could also just use a shoe box, or any box and decorate it. This would be a great idea for children to make for relatives and it could be as cheap or expensive as you like. It would also work for birthdays or Mother’s Day gifts.
Next year – make a DIY hamper
- Stop roasting the same old chestnuts – Ah Christmas…it must provide enough material to keep therapists busy all year. It means different things to different people; the pull of obscure childhood memories leads us into bizarre behaviour. We can see everybody else’s craziness, of course, just not our own. What, I wonder, drives my mother every year to make me batches of mince pies, Christmas pudding and Christmas cake when I hate them, and have always hated them? I’m not going to start eating them just because she keeps making them. Either I disappoint her with the truth (again) or end up with a lot of waste if I can’t palm them off onto someone else. She seems to need to fill her kitchen with the smell of all those Christmas spices. Is it a subliminal desire to become Mrs Cratchit and feed up Tiny Tim? Who knows, but next year I will get in early and find some other grateful mouths for her to feed.
- Make a request – None of us want to become the kind of person that people cross the street to avoid for fear of getting an eco-lecture, but surely we can ask those closest to us to buy eco-friendly Christmas cards for us and to wrap our present in recyclable paper, even if it’s as simple as avoiding glitter, foil, plastic etc?
- Do advance research – Check out toy rental companies, such as Whirli, and companies that rent Christmas trees. If you leave it too late you’ll probably forget your good intentions.
- Avoid Oops, I Did it Again syndrome – Don’t overcook. I read an article that said no one needs more than two side dishes, three if you must. Regular readers (Happy New Year to you both!) might remember my plan to hold a family vote to limit my Christmas Day veg dishes to three. I texted my three sons to ask for their choices. Was the ensuing chaos an attempt by various parties to derail the democratic process to ensure they got mushy peas? I have 11 months to sort this out for next Christmas. Don’t ask how many dishes there were on the big day, it’s embarrassing.
- Have a Christmas Dinner debrief (with yourself, you don’t want this to get weird) – I resolve next year not to simply plough ahead thinking of my guests as a faceless group but to see them as individuals, i.e. how many vegetarians, how many 90-year-olds with tiny appetites, how many dietary requirements etc. I also resolve to believe my guests, even those I gave birth to, when they say they hate something. Broccoli was the biggest waste item – two of my sons say they hate it, and have always hated it, and will not start eating it just because I keep cooking it. (Uh-oh, this sounds familiar…)
- Keep successful leftover recipes – we had great success withCheesy Sprout Bake, Boxing Day Burritos, Sprout Leaf Bhajis and Leftover Veg Fritters – the fritters went down especially well but are still not an excuse to cook too much broccoli.
- Make the break – If you’d like to suggest that perhaps you could stop buying a present for your 35-year-old nephew who’s an investment banker, now is the time. If he really wants a Lynx gift set, he can surely buy it himself.
- Unwanted gifts – If you don’t have an arrangement with everybody to keep receipts, put these gifts to one side so they can be kept pristine to be donated to the next fundraiser or a charity shop. If you plan to regift, attach a note saying who gave them to you to avoid embarrassment. Excess gifts of chocolates and biscuits can go to the foodbank. Don’t save them; you’ll forget where you put them until they’re out of date.
- Follow the recipe – I made the best-ever chocolate log thanks to Nancy Birtwhistle’s recipe – fruit puree filling in the Swiss roll adds the perfect necessary tartness. But next time I will follow the recipe faithfully. If Nancy says 200g of chocolate, she means 200g of chocolate. Don’t think you know better and that sounds a bit stingy so bang in another 100g. Turns out there is such a thing as too much chocolate. Always remember, Nancy knows best – and not just at Christmas.
Best-ever chocolate log – well, the remains of it after dinner.