Practical Answers for an ‘Austerity Christmas’

Amanda Ross
October 30th, 2012

In these straitened times, many of us are planning a more low key Christmas this year.  The good news is that recent research has discovered that what most people want from this festival is to “spend Christmas reconnecting with the things and people that matter most to them.”   Early planning is vital where thrift is concerned and while  Christmas is a time for fun and indulgence,  it doesn’t have to cost huge amounts of money.

I was surprised to discover how helpful Practical Action could be in providing ideas for gifts to make myself!  Practical Answers, our online database of technical information, has a wealth of information on all sorts of foodstuffs.  Browsing through the section on food processing, I was inspired by the possibilities.  I think I might make some elegantly labeled jars of green mango or lime pickle or perhaps some lime marmalade?

If I’m feeling more adventurous I might try smoking some salmoncuring bacon or making some snacks like banana chips.   I even found some tips for designing my packaging and labels.  There’s plenty of rather more complicated guidance for those with carpentry skills (definitely not me) who would like to build  a woodworking bench or a simple solar drier to preserve next year’s surplus produce from your garden or allotment?   I think I might play it safe and stick with something simpler like making some candles, always popular gifts.  Why not give some of these a go yourself?  Do let us know how you get on.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

All this information has, of course, been compiled primarily for the benefit of people in developing countries, and  quantities are often for small scale commercial enterprise.   I thought I might try making pineapple jam, but will have to do some maths first as 158 kg of pineapples might be rather too many!

Have a browse through the list of technical information online to get an idea of the wealth of knowledge that Practical Action has amassed over 44 years.    The website has information on more than 200 different technologies.  And it is practical information that is helping people all over the developing world to develop skills and to launch enterprises that will lift their families out of poverty.

More than 1.5 million information sheets were downloaded last year and Practical Action staff worldwide responded to 9,700 individual enquiries on technical subjects.   This is the  practical application of  EF Schumacher’s philosophy: “The best aid to give is intellectual aid, a gift of useful knowledge. A gift of knowledge is infinitely preferable to a gift of material things.”

I’m hoping this Christmas will be a chance for my family to focus on these simple pleasures rather than spending large amounts on ‘must have’ presents. Putting my time and effort into making gifts for my loved ones will, I’m certain, be time well spent.  Now how about a glass of banana beer?

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