Co-op Members’ Guide to a cracking Christmas

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Members have been joining in #TheCoopWay to share the little bits of magic that help to make their Christmas so special. From stories of random acts of kindness, to Christmas dinner tips and the entertainment that gets all the family together, here’s a special Christmas gift from our members to you.

We’ve sifted through the hundreds of contributions to bring you some of the best. Here goes.

Making Christmas more affordable

When it comes to making Christmas that bit more affordable, buying gifts throughout the year topped the list of members money-saving efforts. Over a third of members had agreed spending limits for gifts and a similar number had come to a mutual agreement with friends/family not to buy presents for each other. A further 30% of members said they had saved their Co-op rewards to spend at Christmas.

We particularly like this money saving tip from Jo Kirk, a Co-op Member from Grantham. “I like to buy Co-op brands as they are as good, if not sometimes better, than the leading brands. You can save a fortune.”

“Be realistic about what you can afford, a small gift selected with thought is better than an expensive one that is unwanted.” Margaret Foden, Co-op Member from Cheadle

“Sales shopping! I buy lots in the sales straight after Christmas & they go in my cupboard ready for next year! Including wrapping paper & cards.” Hannah Tuck, Co-op Member from Huntingdon

How to get organised and avoid Christmas panic

Getting organised throughout the year and writing lists were members’ favourite tips for avoiding Christmas panic. Maybe a bit late for this year, but here are a few helpful suggestions for ensuring you’re best prepared for next.

“Buy at least one item every month, starting in the January sales and put it away in a “xmas cupboard”. Angela Cox, Co-op Member from Crewe

“Relax,  if you’ve forgotten anything ask a neighbour, pop to the Co-op – nothing can’t be rescued with teamwork.” Joanne Frieda Doleman, Co-op Member from Norwich

“No family ever sits around the Christmas table reminiscing about the ‘perfect Christmas’ they once shared. They laugh about the times things didn’t go to plan. So be organised, but if things start unravelling just remember it’s about family and fun, and you’ll laugh about the disasters in years to come!” Vicky Louise Barlow, Co-op Member from Betws-Y-Coed

“Buy presents throughout the year to spread the cost and be able to spend time catching up with people in December instead of shopping. Think of the dinner as a big Sunday lunch with a few extra touches. Do what works for your family if it’s better to have a buffet christmas day then why not don’t stress that you have to be traditional and have a full sit down meal if it doesn’t work for you.” Ceris McBurney, Co-op Member from Liverpool​

Secrets to a perfect Christmas dinner

For many members, the secret ingredient of their perfect Christmas dinner was putting someone else in charge of the oven gloves! But for those who did take on the mantle of chief cook, we loved the following tips:

“Flavour flavour flavour. The gravy can make or ruin the dinner so that’s done at least a week in advance and popped in the freezer.” Ian Mclean, Co-op Member from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne​

“Don’t stress yourself out trying to make it perfect and timing everything to the second. Christmas is supposed to be fun for everyone. If you can prepare things in advance it always helps. Who wants to be preparing vegetables Christmas morning or making cranberry sauce?” Julie Dudley, Co-op Member from East Cowes

“Prep the vegetables the day before. Make the puddings in advance. Set the table the night before. Have as little to do on the day as possible.”Louise Dawson, Co-op Member from Wickford

“Disguise the sprouts! Fry cooked sprouts with bacon lardons, then add a little fresh cream. A little Stilton works well too for the grown ups. Always have more than one type of meat and don’t forget the pigs in blankets.” Steven Hardaker, Co-op Member from Keighley

Christmas entertainment

Members told us all about the favourite Christmas songs, films and TV that keep them festively entertained amidst all the shopping, cooking and partying.

Top 5 Christmas songs

  • All I want for Christmas is you – Mariah Carey
  • Fairytale of New York – The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl
  • Merry Christmas Everybody – Slade
  • Rocking around the Christmas tree
  • Merry Christmas Everyone – Shakin’ Stevens

Top 5 Christmas films that have members curling up together on the sofa

  • Elf
  • Polar Express
  • Home Alone
  • Love Actually
  • Miracle on 34th Street

Top 5 must-see Christmas TV episodes

  • Dr Who
  • Call the Midwife
  • Only Fools and Horses
  • Strictly Come Dancing
  • Eastenders

Random acts of Christmas kindness

93% of members believe that Christmas brings out the best in people, which is certainly borne out by the hundreds of stories of festive goodwill that members shared with us. Here are just a few of the fantastic stories of acts of Christmas kindness they shared.

“I once received a meal voucher in the post from someone anonymous.They simply said, you bless a lot of people all year with your kindness. This is to bless you” Kim Jones, Co-op Member from Newtonabbey​

“Just got a message from my Daughter – living in a different part of the country and not being able to spend Christmas with me and my husband – to expect a delivery that will take care of our Christmas Dinner and thus be stress-free, especially for me. My husband has terminal cancer and Diabetes, and, apart from looking after him, there are the usual chores to be done. My Daughter’s kind and loving gesture brought tears to my eyes. Now Christmas looks much brighter for the two of us.” U​ Dias, Co-op Member from Watchet

“When I was 11, I was rushed to hospital just before Christmas. For reasons that were never identified, my immune system collapsed, and I could have died. I was very sick, and my memories are sketchy of this time, but I remember one thing very clearly: waking up on Christmas morning to a huge pile of presents at the bottom of my bed. I couldn’t understand it! Then I realised, they were donations. I remember opening present after present: some colouring books, books to read, art supplies – all sorts. My favourite was a cuddly reindeer. It really lifted my heart, and lifted my spirits. I’ve gone back to the same hospital as an adult and donated items myself, to hopefully give another child the special moment that kind strangers gave to me.” Lucie Hodges, Co-op Member from South Croydon​

“This year I’m facing Christmas with a recent cancer diagnosis. I’ve just got home after 11 days in hospital following surgery to find that a friend has set up a ‘Meal Train’ app for our family – people from our church and community have signed up to bring us meals, help with school runs, have our daughter for play dates and come and visit me or take me out – I have been overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness not only of close friends but of so many parents from my daughter’s school who I know from school pick-ups and PTA events – we literally are not going to have to cook until Christmas, and it’s really helping my daughter to get through this unsettling time. I am beyond grateful!” Carolyn Crowley, Co-op Member from Gerrards Cross​

Sharing our wine expertise this Christmas

And we decided to share something a little different back with our members, as colleagues from our wine team hosted an online broadcast in mid-December to answer members’ questions on all things ‘wine’ this Christmas. Members were able to submit their questions in advance or during the online live-streamed broadcast to tap into the expertise of our award-winning wine team. If you missed the live stream you can watch it back here:

Thanks to all our members

Thanks to all our members for all their thought-provoking, funny, emotional and inspiring contributions to our Join In conversations this year. If you’ve a minute or two amidst the food and festivities to share with us some thoughts on Join In and the kind of things you’d like to work with us on in 2019, head to your member account and get involved. Wishing all our members a truly wonderful Christmas and a very Happy New Year.

James, Jo, Mark and Terry,
The Co-op Join In Team