How to make festive savings and reduce waste

holly computer

We all know the festive period is a time of indulgence, but this time of year is when waste levels peak and so can our spending!

We could all do more to avoid excessive…well… excesses. Did you know, a fifth of all the food we buy for the festivities ends up in the bin?

My name is Holly and my family are here to help!

From reducing the amount of food we throw away – to unwanted gifts - to unnecessary packaging – check out our tips to help save waste, time and money.

Low-waste gift giving

The green gift guide tells you everything you need to know about sustainable gifts and experiences in Hampshire. Download your copy here

Leftover lifehacks

holly cooking

Holly’s twins, Peter and Polly, played ‘Top Chomps’ at school and are always quick to remind their Mum not to waste food. They’ve helped her put together a list of leftover lifehacks to make the most of their festive feasts:

  • ask your guests to bring a reusable container with them, so they can take leftovers home to enjoy
  • on the big day, let people help themselves from serving bowls – they are more likely to only take what they want, and any leftovers won’t be covered in gravy, making them easier to use up for another meal
  • if you’ve overestimated how much chutney you’d eat, use it up a spoonful at a time in stews and casseroles
  • keep the giving going this festive season and see if your local food bank, community pantry, or homeless shelter could make use of anything you’ve bought too much of
  • cheeseboard macaroni cheese anyone? There's more to festive leftovers than endless turkey curry - check out these leftover recipes to get on top of your kitchen.

But what would I wear?

holly with scissors cutting

The twins’ older sister, teenage Tina, likes to keep up with the latest trends and responds to party invitations with, “but what would I wear?” Tina asked her friends for advice and found lots of sustainable and affordable options for the festivities.

Throw a clothes swap with family, friends or colleagues

Simply pick a place, what clothes you want to swap and spread the word! It’s free, easy and you can still feel great wearing a new outfit for that upcoming party.

Make your own festive jumper

All you need to do is add accessories to an old jumper. From a reindeer, baubles or Christmas pudding ‘yule’ be sure to impress.

Choose second-hand

Buy second-hand party outfits from charity shops or online platforms. As well as bagging a bargain, you’re extending the lifespan of clothing and promoting sustainability.

Rent your outfit

Renting is another great way to look and feel your best this festive season, as well as preventing fast fashion. You can step out in style for a fraction of the price of buying new!

How to host a low-waste Christmas

holly crowd

Holly and husband Harry are hosting Christmas day for their friends and family this year, but they’re concerned about the amount of waste they might create. They’ve been working hard to plan a low-waste celebration.

Real tree or fake tree?

If you’re going to use your fake tree for years and years, this can be the most sustainable option. Alternatively, many shops now sell potted Christmas trees which you can reuse each year.

Plan your portions

When planning your food shop, don’t forget to think “how much?” as well as “what?”, and use a portion planner to buy exactly what you need.

Room for more?

Use up what’s in your freezer in the lead-up to Christmas. Not only will you save money on food shopping, but you’ll also make space for festive leftovers! Keeping on top of what’s in your freezer will also help you avoid buying ingredients you already have in stock.

Use what you have

Make use of natural decorations from your garden – just a few holly leaves or pinecones can give your home that cosy, warm feeling or even a festive scent. Don’t forget to pop them back in the garden or compost them afterwards!

Cooking for a large group?

Ask your guests to bring a couple of their own plates. Paper plates are not recyclable, especially if they have bits of food or grease on them, so opt for reusable plates and cutlery if you can.

Get crafty

Make your own Christmas crackers using toilet roll tubes and old newspaper, and fill them with useful, thoughtful or personalised gifts!

What to do if you're away from home

holly cooking

Holly’s parents, Grandma Grace and Grandad Greg, are driving home for Christmas ready to spend a few days with their grandchildren. These are Grace and Greg’s top tips for preventing food waste whilst they’re away.

  • move fruit from the fruit bowl into the fridge
  • pop anything close to its ‘use by’ date in the freezer for when you get back
  • plan a few store cupboard recipes such as pasta bake for that awkward gap between Christmas and New Year - that way if your plans change, you won’t be wasting fresh food
  • use Hubbub’s locator to check if there is a community fridge in your local area: Hubbub - Community Fridge Network - they might be able to make use of any fresh food you’re not going to eat.

The Green Gift Guide

Sustainable and low waste gift ideas

For nature lovers

Collect some fallen leaves and press them to create a colourful and unique autumn picture.

Additional Information

You can press leaves between heavy books, just sandwich the leaves in between a piece of paper or card. Ready to frame your masterpiece? Reuse a frame you already have at home or hit the charity shops for a bargain.


For treat lovers

Use what you’ve got in your kitchen cupboards to make cookies, Florentines, or other treats. Rocky Road is a great option for using up all kinds of sweets!

Additional Information

Have a look online and use a recipe finder for inspiration. Such treats can be a useful way of using up often-forgotten ingredients in your cupboard.


For the one who is tricky to buy for

You may not love it, but your friends might. Review items that you’ve been given in the past to see if there are any suitable for re-gifting.

Additional Information

Re-gifting gives the item a second life, saving the valuable resources that went into making it and giving it another chance to be loved!


For the one who is green-fingered

Take cuttings from your houseplants and pop them in water or peat-free compost in an old jam jar or candle holder. It’s the gift that keeps on growing.

Additional Information

Search online for tutorials to find out how to take cuttings. It’s easier than you think!


For fashion lovers

Dye, tie-dye, draw, paint, or embroider an old piece of clothing to make it into a new, fashionable, statement-piece gift.

Additional Information

Did you know that wearing something for an extra nine months can reduce its carbon footprint by 20-30% (WRAP, 2017: Extending the life of clothes)? Find tutorial videos online and let your creative flare guide you, or visit a craft café.


For outdoor lovers

Take them for an adventure at one of Hampshire’s Country Parks. You could stroll, cycle, follow a story trail, or try out a new activity together. Hampshire County Council manages five country parks: Lepe Country Park, Queen Elizabeth Country Park, River Hamble Country Park, Royal Victoria County Park, and Staunton Country Park.

Additional Information

Hampshire County Council manages five country parks: Lepe, Queen Elizabeth, Staunton, River Hamble, and Royal Victoria.


For happy memories

Have an item of theirs with sentimental value repaired at one of Hampshire’s repair cafés.

Additional Information

If you can, providing a monetary donation for your repair helps to keep repair cafés running. Find your local repair café here, including their location, opening dates, and times.


For cooking and baking enthusiasts

Gift them with sustainable kitchen utensils, like a rice measurer, a stainless-steel loose tea basket, reusable baking sheets, or silicon stretch lid covers, so they can cook guilt-free.

Additional Information

Find the ones that suit them best by having a quick search online.


For the one with a sweet tooth

Give the gift of freshly baked treats in next to no time by making them brownies-in-a-jar or cookies-in-a-jar kits.

Additional Information

Find measurement recipes online or use your family favourite. Repurpose an old jar you already have and use natural decorations to make it an even more sustainable gift.


For colleagues and friends

Instead of secret Santa, have a ‘second-hand Santa’ with something homemade or pre-loved, like charity shop gifts, homemade treats, or experiences – use the other ideas within this guide as inspiration!

Additional Information

By giving second-hand, you’re not only reducing waste and saving money, but you’re also making a statement about the importance of sustainability! Find out more about Second-hand Santa on Hubbub.

Gift or experience

For animal lovers

Take them for a day out to experience the animals and history at either Manor Farm in Eastleigh or Staunton Farm in Havant.

Additional Information

Under threes go free!


For self-care seekers

Treat them to treat themselves with sustainable self-care products like shampoo bars, reusable face pads, and bamboo socks.

Additional Information

Find the items to suit them best by having a quick search online, or you could have a go at making your own natural cosmetics at home!


For history enthusiasts

Lead them back in time with a historical adventure at Buckler’s Hard in the New Forest or a guided tour at Royal Armouries Fort Nelson in Fareham.

Additional Information

Entry and some events at Fort Nelson are free and Buckler’s Hard village is free to enter too!


For mystery lovers

Gift them with a mystery to solve or an adventure to conquer with a treasure trail in their local area. There are many to try across Hampshire.

Additional Information

Find a trail local to your giftee on Treasure Trails, Huntfun, GPS hunts, and Mystery Guides, or search online for more options.


For art and heritage lovers

Not sure where they’d like to visit most? Give the gift of choice with a Hampshire Cultural Trust gift voucher. These can be used for a range of museums, art galleries, workshops, and visitor attractions across Hampshire.

Additional Information

You can choose any amount you like and send it directly to their email – ideal for a last-minute gift idea!


For cosy nights-in lovers

Create a homemade treat board of their favourite savoury or sweet treats to go alongside a good movie for a snuggly night-in.

Additional Information

You could recommend your favourite movie for them to watch to make this even more special. 1/3 of all food is wasted, so remind your giftee to put anything they don’t finish into an airtight container in the fridge or freezer to save for another time.


For classic motor enthusiasts

Gift them the experience of classic vehicles with a steam-train ride on the Watercress Line in East Hampshire, or a visit to the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu in the New Forest.

Additional Information

The Watercress Line has special days all year round and Beaulieu hosts a range of events throughout the year.


For gardening enthusiasts

Treat them to gardening and composting accessories like aerators and drainage kits for wormeries to keep their garden ‘green’.

Additional Information

Composting is the most sustainable option to manage uncooked food and garden waste. All Hampshire residents can access reasonably priced compost bins and accessories via the Smart Living web pages.


For literature lovers

Take them for a day out to visit literary legend Jane Austen’s house and gardens in East Hampshire, where she wrote and revised her six novels.

Additional Information

A ticket automatically becomes an annual pass on purchase, allowing unlimited visits for a whole year! Visit a Hampshire Library on your way back to continue your delve into classical literature, exploring their wide range of novels, and borrow a book or two to read at home for free!


For craft lovers

Take them to a local craft café or workshop to learn a new skill, including ceramics, knitting, and paper crafts, or visit one yourself to make a special gift.

Additional Information

Utilise your new crafting skills when you get home to repair or upcycle an item of yours or a friend’s, further reducing your environmental impact!

Experience or gift

For thrill seekers

Take them to try a new activity or sport at Calshot Activities Centre in the New Forest or Alpine Snowsports in Rushmoor.

Additional Information

You could choose a session for them or give them a gift voucher so they can choose themselves. Plan your journey using the Breeze App to find the quickest, cheapest, and most eco-friendly options for your journey.


For performing arts lovers

Treat them to a special performance at the theatre with tickets or gift vouchers. There are a range of theatres in Hampshire, including Theatre Royal in Winchester.

Additional Information

You can find performances for children and adults alike!


For book lovers

Give them the gift of limitless novels with an audiobook or podcast subscription or voucher.

Additional Information

Explore a range of authors and genres together for free at your local library when you have more time. Then, find them an audiobook or podcast that suits their preferences by having a quick search online, allowing them to enjoy stories and learn whilst on the move.


For elegance seekers

Treat them to a taste of elegance with an afternoon tea in one of many Hampshire establishments.

Additional Information

Take an empty container to take home any goodies that you couldn’t finish and enjoy them at another time, making sure that no food goes to waste!


For travel lovers

Help those who like travel and adventure to stay sustainable with reusable camping items, such as stainless-steel flasks and solar-powered lamps or battery chargers.

Additional Information

Find the ones that suit them best by having a quick search online. Please remember to recycle any previously used items that contain a battery or wires, and cannot be repaired, at your nearest recycling centre.


For animal enthusiasts

Treat the animal lover in your life to the ultimate gift of an annual membership to Marwell Zoo in Winchester or The Hawk Conservancy Trust in Test Valley.

Additional Information

Each location runs different events throughout the year.


For wellbeing seekers

Gift a touch of luxury with a day package or gift voucher to a Hampshire spa.

Additional Information

Find a list of Hampshire spas here.


For the one who likes to be ‘in the know’

Subscribe to their favourite magazine or newspaper for the year to give them the gift of knowledge that just keeps coming.

Additional Information

Choosing an e-magazine is a less wasteful option than printed copies. Find the one that suits them best by having a quick search online.


For botanical lovers

Gift them the opportunity to explore the beautiful botanicals at the arboretum, Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, through an annual membership.

Additional Information

These memberships also provide access to Batsford Arboretum, the National Botanic Garden of Wales, and Birmingham Botanical Gardens.


For adventurers and outdoor enthusiasts

Sign them up as a member of the National Trust for endless adventures to more than 500 locations across the country for the whole year.

Additional Information

There are options for couple, family, individual, and lifetime memberships.


Need more inspiration? Take a look at Visit Hampshire's gift guide for 2023, here.

All wrapped up

A careful unwrapper or fast tearer-upper?

Most Christmas wrapping paper contains a plastic film, glitter and sellotape which makes it difficult to recycle (it should be placed in your household bin). If unwrapped neatly it can be reused time and time again. Want to avoid wrapping paper altogether? Try reusing old newspaper, jars or tote bags.

Hacks for gift tags

Gift tags always make a nice personal touch. Be thrifty and creative by cutting up last year’s Christmas cards to make your own tags and avoid buying expensive new ones.

Spreading festive cheer

Send e-cards rather than paper cards. Always ideal for personalising and some may even be free!