We’ve been busy curating gift guides galore this past few weeks, but without further ado, here are our 10+ tips for a brilliant stress-free family Christmas. We’ve teamed up with O2 to bring you this wishlist of our ultimate Christmas gifts, as well as tips for saving some cash and keeping your cool this Christmas. It’s also worth checking out O2’s Christmas Sale for more ideas!
Don’t sweat the small stuff
‘Tis the season to be jolly, but chances are if you’re tasked with the gift buying, preparing the house, cooking the Christmas dinner and wondering where next to stuff the damn Elf on the shelf, you’ll feel anything but.
For a stress-free family Christmas, sometimes it’s a simple as just taking a moment and remembering to breathe. It’s important to keep Christmas in perspective, after all, it’s just one day. Try to keep a sense of humour and go with the flow. Who cares if the turkey’s tough or the tree is looking less than perky?
Get the gifts sorted
Too many of us dream of gifting luxury items and indulge in visions of an elaborate Christmas spread, but only afterwards consider “how will I pay for it?”. This sort of thinking is just a sleigh ride into wracking up credit card debt or crashing headfirst into your overdraft. Martin Moneysaving Expert recommends that for a stress-free family Christmas, ask yourself: “What can I afford to spend on Christmas?” and work out how to have the best one possible within that budget. Don’t let Christmas affect your finances for the rest of the year.
Do your research when it comes to the perfect gift, and consider the gift of an experience day or activity. O2 customers can download the O2 Priority app to access all sorts of fabulous experiences this Christmas and beyond with Virgin Experience Days. Top tip – there are lots of other festive freebies on offer, including FREE Café Nero goodies.
Snap up a deal
For those that love the latest tech, it’s predicted that the big gifts this Christmas will be iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max. If you are on the market for a new smartphone, it’s time to get organised, so you don’t miss out.
Consider refurbed tech
If you are shopping for gifts for a tech nut, but are having to keep an eye on finances, it’s worth considering an approved refurbished phone, tablet or smartwatch. The best part? Opting for a refurbished model will help reduce the impact on the environment as well as save you money. If you’re cautious about purchasing a refurb product, don’t be. Every preloved O2 item is subject to a thorough quality check, and it’ll arrive as good as new, with a 12-month warranty and all the same perks and benefits as a brand new model.
The ultimate gifts for kids
Toniebox Starter Set
If you’re shopping for the ultimate gift for younger children, you can’t go wrong with a Toniebox Starter Set, the awesome interactive audio system for ages 3+. If you’re wondering what to put in their stockings, Tonies has you sorted on that score too. Their ever-expanding library of kids’ classics has just gotten bigger, with new-release Tonies A Bear Called Paddington, Barbie, Fantastia and Thomas and Friends.
Subscription gifts for kids
Subscription boxes for kids are a brilliant alternative to the endless plastic toys that so often offer minimum play value, ending up in landfills not long after the big day itself. We love BakedIn for budding chefs, Banjo Robinson for the ultimate pen pal and Mud & Bloom for nature, gardening and crafts.
Opt for eco-friendly gift wrapping
Gift wrap and ribbon designer Jane Means’ advice is to avoid gift wrap that can’t be recycled: foil, glitter or any plastic-coated wrapping paper. Instead, look out for natural paper printed with vegetable ink. Be sure to remove sticky tape, ribbons and bows, as those can’t be recycled either.
Utilise corrugated cardboard as an additional layer around gifts wrapped in brown paper, and think about embellishing with some twigs tied with ribbon, for an eye-catching finish. Keep old cracker gifts as these often make great decorations on the outside of a gift. Pre-made bows from crackers can easily be added to gifts if you tie them in with a neutral colour string or twine.
Get crafty and make your own shred by popping old wrapping paper through a shredder (remove the sticky tape). It makes a great filler for hampers.
Styling your Christmas table
Dazzle and Fizz say that choosing a colour palette is key when it comes to styling your Christmas table. Choose a maximum of three colours and work within that theme.
Decide on a centrepiece for your table. Having a focal point will help attract your guest’s attention and frame the rest of the table. This could be anything you fancy from florals to the turkey itself. Once you have this it will be much easier to work outwards from there.
Adding different textures to your centrepieces is a great way to add layers to your styling. This may sound complicated but start simple. Begin with the table itself and add linen or a tablecloth in your theme (sticking with your colour scheme of course). Then layer textures on top thinking carefully about your choice of napkins, florals, tableware, etc. Be aware of how these elements work together and make sure they all add to your chosen theme.
Foraging for foliage is a great way to add texture to your dining table. Go out hunting for pine cones, holly, ivy and even berries. Not only will these additions make your table look festive but foraging is a great way to save those pennies. Why not get the whole family involved and make an activity out of it?
Let’s talk turkey… and avoid food poisoning!
If there’s anything that’s going to grant you a stress-free family Christmas, it’s avoiding food poisoning. Now you may laugh, but according to the Foods Standard Agency, there are over ONE MILLION cases of food positioning in the UK each year at Christmastime.
- When doing your big supermarket shop, make sure raw and ready-to-eat food is packed separately to avoid cross-contamination. Remember to pack plenty of plastic bags!
- If your turkey is frozen, make sure you check the guidance on the packaging to ensure you have enough time to fully defrost it.
- Always defrost the turkey in a container large enough to catch any juices.
- Keep raw food covered and chilled on the bottom shelf of the fridge, and regularly check that the fridge is cold enough.
- Your fridge should always be below 5° Fridge dials aren’t always accurate, so use a fridge thermometer (you can buy one from larger supermarkets, home stores and online).
- Don’t wash raw meat – it splashes germs onto your hands, clothes, utensils and worktops! Thorough cooking will kill any bacteria present.
- Avoid cross-contamination by using different utensils, plates and chopping boards for ready-to-eat food and raw food.
- Always check that the meat is steaming hot throughout, there is no pink meat visible when you cut into the thickest part, and that the meat juices run clear.
- Cool any leftovers at room temperature, then cover them and ensure they go into the fridge or freezer within one to two hours.
- If you freeze cooked meats, once defrosted, eat the food within 24 hours.
Manners: the art of coaching the kids
Parenting expert Elizabeth Pantley explains that children can be delightfully honest at all the wrong times. “A child who receives a gift that disappoints is likely to blurt out her feelings. This isn’t done maliciously; it’s usually just blatant honesty given at the wrong time.
“The best way to avoid this embarrassing situation is to coach your child in advance about what to say if he doesn’t like the gift or if he already has one like it at home. Practice a few specific easy-to-remember responses and you and your child won’t be caught off-guard when Grandma’s gift is another ugly Christmas sweater.”
Stock up on vegetables. The traditional Christmas meal actually has lots of vegetables, so don’t be shy to pile on the brussels sprouts and parsnips. Make sure half of your plate is full of a variety of vegetables to fill you whilst providing you with nutrients at the same time.
Buy the healthier food options or make your own! Many supermarkets stock a range of healthier traditional Christmas foods such as gluten-free mince pies, low sugar Christmas pudding and raw chocolate!! You can even make your healthier versions at home by swapping key ingredients such as white flour for brown rice flour, sugar for xylitol and dairy milk for soya, rice or almond milk. Check out some of the healthy recipes below to give you some ideas.
Be conscious of the alcohol! Match each glass of wine with a glass of water and you’ll feel much better the next day. As soon as you arrive at a party rehydrate with a glass of water first and get something to eat (if you have not done so already). Vodka, soda and fresh lime is probably the least calorific and sugar-loaded drink if you are watching those pounds. And remember to pace yourself! Try not to start drinking too early!
Stay safe: RoSPA Christmas advice on safety
The Christmas tree is often the centrepiece of the home at this time of year, but its eye-catching decor and twinkling lights mean that it can attract the attention of small children. Remember, Christmas novelties are not toys, even if they resemble them, and they do not have to comply with toy safety regulations. Give careful thought to where you display them; for example, place them high up on Christmas trees where they are out of the reach of children’s hands.
It is especially important that you do not let children play with tree lights (some have swallowed the bulbs), and remember to switch off the tree lights when going out of the house or going to bed. Remember to keep a lookout for small items that could pose a choking hazard to young children, including parts that have fallen off toys or from Christmas trees, button batteries and burst balloons.
And when the big day arrives, remember to buy batteries for toys that need them, that way you won’t be tempted to remove batteries from smoke alarms! Also make sure that children’s gifts are for the correct age group and from reputable sources that comply with standards (e.g. The Toys (Safety) Regulations 2011).