25 ways to have an eco Christmas – and save money too!

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Christmas is such a brilliant time of the year, but its impact on the planet is not so amazing! We produce an insane amount of extra waste during the festive period, along with additional pollution from the manufacturing and transportation of the gifts we buy.

On top of this, in the UK alone, we are expected to throw out over 200 miles of wrapping paper! Add this to the 125,000 tons of plastic packaging we will be binning, and Christmas starts to look a lot less merry. It’s not just our bank balances taking a massive hit, but our planet too.

Let’s rethink our bad habits – here are 25 simple ways to make your Christmas more eco-friendly this year, whilst saving you money!

1. Avoid metallic wrapping paper

Did you know that so much of the wrapping paper that we put into our recycling bins isn’t actually recyclable? You can still pick a cute print, but avoid metallic and glittery paper to make sure it can be easily recycled. If in doubt, brown parcel paper is great and you can always decorate it yourself, or get the kids involved.

frugal mum child printing christmas paper, brown paper, stamps, ink, gift wrapping, craft

If you want to go a step further, and be even more eco-friendly, eliminate wrapping waste completely by using gift boxes or wrapping presents in fabric – both can be stored and re-used year after year.


2. Choose reusable

On the theme of re-using things in the future, consider purchasing things like washable napkins and tablecloths. Anything that can be washed, instead of binned, will help your Christmas to be more eco-friendly, and it’ll save you money in the long-run too. Opt for biodegradable if you do need to use something disposable.


3. Buy preloved gifts

To gift in a more eco-friendly way, shop second-hand – it’ll save you a fortune too. With the internet at our finger tips, it’s never been easier to find good quality items (often new with tags!) for a fraction of what they would cost new. Check Facebook Marketplace and local selling pages, Preloved, Preworn, Vinted, eBay and your local charity shops.

Last year, I bought Lola a new, sealed boxset of ten Jacqueline Wilson (her favourite author!) books for £5 from a second-hand site, and I’ve got the kids a couple of lego sets from Vinted this year too – there will always be someone selling something you’re after.

frugal mum child unwrapping christmas gift

This year, my Mother-in-Law has set us the challenge of spending only £5 on each adult, and purchasing gifts from a charity shop to help out those in need too. It’s amazing how many treasures you can find second-hand, and we’re enjoying the challenge too – I think it’s something we’ll keep going for years to come.


4. Avoid unnecessary gifting

Go for quality over quantity and reduce how much you buy, as well as who you buy for – this is better for the planet and your bank balance! Have a chat with friends and family before Christmas, and agree to cut back on gifts and spend time together instead.


5. Rethink what you gift

For me, making memories and experiencing new things is much more fun than material gifts – and it gives us things to look forward to throughout the year. Why not give your loved ones the gift of a day out, an experience or an activity like a cooking class, instead of ‘things’? Buyagift is great for gifting interesting things to do!

segway day out

There are lots of ways to give minimalist Christmas gifts, which reduce the impact on our planet – from edible treats to homemade hand-knits or even plants grown from seeds in your own garden. Check out my article: Minimalist Christmas gift ideas – simple, purposeful gifting for lots of ideas!


6. Cook from scratch

You can avoid so much unnecessary packaging waste by cooking from scratch – and it’s usually cheaper and tastier too. Buy fruit and vegetables loose, and pre-plan your meals to make things less stressful.

To save time on Christmas morning, and make things feel more manageable, peel and chop your potatoes and veg the night before, and keep them in cold winter in the fridge so they’re ready to boil when you need them. (Just drain the water before you cook and replace it with fresh water.) Or, use frozen veg to save on waste and prep time.


7. Join Olio

If you’re not yet on the Olio app then you’re definitely missing a trick. Food items that are almost out of date are listed for free for you to collect locally. Pop your goodies into the freezer to keep things fresh, and plan your festive meals and treats around what you’ve collected. It’s great way to reduce food waste and your shopping bill at Christmas time and beyond! Check out my Olio post for more info: What is Olio? Stop waste and slash your food bill with the free food app!

olio food waste advert


8. Boycott Christmas cards

Apparently, if we placed all of our Christmas cards alongside each other, they would wrap around the world 5 times! That’s insane! Besides the immense amount of trees unnecessarily chopped down to produce our Christmas cards (which end up in our recycling bins two weeks later), and the carbon footprint created, individual cards also usually come needlessly wrapped in plastic packaging too!

So, get the kids involved in crafting personalised Christmas cards just for close friends and family. Beyond that, send a personal message online or by text to reconnect with those you’ve not seen for a while without the high cost of cards and postage stamps, whilst drastically reducing Christmas waste.  


9. Make gift tags using last year’s cards

For any Christmas cards that you do receive, re-use them after the big day to make gift tags for the following year. It’s a fab way to give the cards a second lease of life before they end up in the recycling bin – better for the environment and your bank balance!

Just cut out characters, words or shapes from the old cards, punch a hole in the top left-hand corner and attach your ribbon. To be even more savvy, cut the ribbon from new clothes. When you buy new clothes, they often have ribbons attached to keep them on the hangers. Cut these off, and get your friends and family to do the same and collect them for you. It’s amazing how many you’ll collect in a year – most of my gift tags this year were made with these.

Here’s my collection ready to go…

frugal mum gift tags, homemade, christmas cards, reduce waste


10. Re-use packaging

When you receive parcels and packages in the post, keep hold of the envelopes, bags, bubblewrap, tissue paper and boxes. These things can be easily reused for your own gifts and it will save you money too. Don’t bin gift-bags after one use either, keep them to use again year after year, and encourage your friends and family to do the same – Christmas pillow cases can be a cute re-usable option for delivering gifts too.


11. Decorate with LED fairy lights

LED lights use a lot less energy than other lights, but are just as beautiful. They last longer too, which is better for the environment as they’ll need replacing less often. Both of these things mean that they’ll cost you less money to run as well – it’s a no-brainer.

family decorating christmas tree, led lights, simple christmas


12. Keep it local

Browse Christmas markets, enjoy free carolling concerts, visit Santa, go to Christmas light events or check out local school fairs and libraries. There’s always loads going on this time of year, a lot of it is cheap or free and often it’s on our doorstep! So, think twice about travelling all over the place for festive fun – instead find out what’s happening in your local area. And, if you’re traveling to visit family or friends, consider carpooling or using public transportation to reduce carbon emissions.


13. Forage for natural resources

The woods is a great place to go this time of year – and anything collected can be composted after the holidays. You can collect pine cones, twigs and forage to help you to create inexpensive, natural wreaths and decorations, as well as chestnuts to enjoy over the festive period.

frugal mum with children in woods, wrapped up, winter


14. Decorate sustainably

As well as foraging for natural resources, try to buy wooden or glass decorations instead of plastic. And, if you feel like a new colour scheme, or your ornaments are looking a bit tatty, update old decorations with spray paint rather than buying new. If your decorations are in good condition, you could even do an ornament trade with family or friends to update your decor without buying a thing!

If you prefer a real tree, choose one from a sustainable source and recycle it after the holiday season – or opt for a potted tree that you can plant in your garden after Christmas / use again in the future. If you prefer an artificial tree, invest in a high-quality, long-lasting one that’ll stand the test of time to reduce waste.


15. Reduce your food waste

16.5 million turkeys are bought every year in the UK – enough for one per three people! Research shows that we waste up to 40% of the food purchased over the Christmas period, so make sure that you plan your meals carefully to avoid wasting money and food.

Try to prepare the right amount of food for guests, and buy freezer bits for any last minute visitors – they’ll keep for ages and can be used up in January if need be! Check out my Christmas food shopping tips for more ideas!

turkey for christmas dinner

You can also cut down on wasted food by ignoring best before dates (though you’ll need to listen to use-by dates) – with best before, if it looks ok and smells ok, it’ll probably taste ok! Make some bruschettas for your Christmas buffet with stale bread, or a yummy bread pudding for boxing day.

Crushed / broken / soft biscuits can be used as a base for cheesecake, lemon possets or chocolate fridge cake too. Fruit and veg past its best can be used to make soups, pies or smoothies. Vegetable soup is always my go to when we have vegetables looking sad in the fridge, and it’ll freeze beautifully to be enjoyed throughout January.


16. Buy rechargeable batteries

Buying rechargeable batteries for your gadgets and children’s toys will avoid extra waste and save you money in the long-run. And, if you are using up normal batteries, make sure you recycle the old ones – there are bins in places like Tesco and Sainsbury’s for this.


17. Shop for cruelty free, sustainable gifts

Be mindful about what you buy for others and where possible go for eco-friendly options with limited packaging. Buying items produced locally will mean that they have a smaller carbon footprint, and this will help to support smaller businesses in your local area too. You could also look from items made from recycled or natural materials.

wintery, night time high street decorated with christmas lights


18. Opt for seasonal produce

Choose fruits and vegetables that are in season, and grown here in the UK (as local as possible!), to reduce your carbon footprint – they tend to be less expensive and fresher too. So, when you’re doing your meal planning for visitors and parties over Christmas, think about which recipes will make the most of what’s in season.


19. Enjoy simple festive fun

We all love some festive fun to get us in a Christmassy mood, and so many things can be enjoyed locally or at home. There are so many cheap and cheerful (or free!) Christmas activities to enjoy with the kids in a simple, eco-friendly way. Print out my Christmas Activity Advent Calendar for lots of ideas…

frugal mum, free printable christmas activity advent calendar, family fun for the kids


20. Don’t bin unwanted food

Any extras or unwanted gifts that won’t get eaten, such as biscuits and other sweet treats, don’t wait for them to go out of date; pop them into your local food bank collection and spread the Christmas joy! Most supermarkets have a food bank drop off point, particularly at Christmas time.


21. Make your own gifts

If you have a skill such as baking, knitting or crafting, why not use it? Everyone loves a personalised, thoughtful gift, it’s better for the planet (and your bank balance!) and it shows that you’ve made a real effort. Take a look at my post on DIY budget Christmas hampers too, for more ideas.

If you love to bake – my lemon shortbread and chocolate fridge cake recipes are super simple, or check out my Christmas baking post – get the kids to decorate the box (or pick up a cheap biscuit tin from a charity shop) and they make the perfect delicious presents!

homemade star mince pies cooling on rack


22. Love your leftovers

Plan to use leftovers creatively in the days following Christmas to limit waste and save on future meals. Use the internet to find recipes to suit what you have, or check out my many posts on leftovers for lots of ideas, to make sure you waste as little as possible.

Most things can be turned into new meals or treats for later in the week, or fill your freezer and you’ll eat well all January…

Meat: Leftover meat can be used to make easy dinners like curries, soups, quesadillas, pies and stir-frys. And chicken or turkey can be quickly and easily turned into pate for an easy lunch with toast – check out my simple recipe.

Vegetables: Roast any leftover veggies with some tomatoes and blend to make soup or pasta sauce. Freeze into small portions, to defrost another day for an easy dinner.

Another delicious option for leftover veg is bubble and squeak. Mix with mash potato and cabbage for a tasty breakfast the next morning – quiches are also a fab way to use up leftover veg.

Potatoes: Roast potatoes can be frozen and recooked when needed – they’ll be nice and crispy after a second roasting too, so don’t bin the spare spuds!

Treats: Cake can be frozen so if you have any leftover don’t bin it – slice and pop into a freezable container. It defrosts really quickly so just get out in the morning to enjoy by lunchtime. You can also use leftover mince pies (or other yummy treats like yule log) to make delicious ice-cream – check out my recipe, it’s so easy!


23. Start a new tradition

It’s important to teach our children what Christmas is really about, why we give gifts and the importance of family and making memories over having lots of ‘things’. Starting a family tradition like a Boxing Day beach walk (or dip if you’re brave enough!), a family Christmas Bake off, a festive talent show or a wintery hike is a great way to enjoy inexpensive quality time and form long-lasting traditions that don’t revolve around gifts. It could even be as simple as sprinkling oats on the lawn for the reindeer and prepping a plate to leave out for Santa on Christmas Eve.

frugal mum children in pyjamas, plate for santa, christmas eve


24. Pass things on to others

If you’re having a Christmas clear out, or receive gifts that aren’t your cup of tea, pass unwanted items on to your local charity shops to give them a second chance. Schools, children’s centres and women’s refuges are usually very grateful for toys and dressing up clothes too! Or, you can follow our lead, and donate new items to The Salvation Army Christmas Toy Appeal – you can find out more info here: Where to donate (or receive) children’s charity Christmas gifts in the UK.


25. Give the gift of time

Personalised coupons don’t cost a penny and it’s a great eco-friendly gift option – it could be exactly what someone needs too, so think about what skills you can offer. Why not offer to help in the garden, wash the car, cook a meal, babysit or give some DIY assistance?

Not every great present can be gift-wrapped, and the gift of time is more valuable than anything you can buy. Download my free, printable Christmas coupons to get started.

free, printable christmas coupon from frugal mum

Doing your bit is fantastic, but raising awareness and encouraging others to be more mindful is so important if we want to have a real impact. Get your friends and family on board – share this article, encourage others to make their Christmas eco-friendly and let’s get everyone making better choices for our planet.

Fancy some more homemade gift ideas?

Read: Ideas for Christmas gifts without spending money – a free homemade Christmas.

Trying to have an inexpensive Christmas?

Check out my article: Christmas without money – 30 tips for a DIY family Christmas on a small budget.


Fancy a more eco-friendly lifestyle?

You’ll want to look at: What is eco-friendly living? How to live in a more sustainable way – and save money too!


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