How I made a £35 Christmas hamper with the ‘wow’ of a Fortnum & Mason one (and you could do it for even less)

‘Tis the season to fill trolleys, and when Christmas bells ring and shop tills ding it's very easy to find yourself tempted to overspend. So when I decided to give hampers as gifts this year, I set myself the challenge of assembling a Champagne-style selection on a Prosecco budget...

Obviously, there are endless things you could include in a Christmas hamper. What’s great about a hamper, apart from the fact it can be a really nice personal gift for someone, is you can make them on pretty much any budget, large or small, simply by tailoring what you include. First i'm going to take you through what I bought for my hamper, and then see my top tips for putting together one of your own.

The two most important things for me were to firstly choose items the recipient would love, and secondly, I wanted it to have the 'wow' factor of something a lot more expensive – I was aiming for a 'Fortnum & Mason' style – so I set my budget at £35. Not a trivial amount, but as hampers go, not pricey either (and way cheaper than any hamper from Fortnum's).

Here’s what I included in my hamper…

Posh department store Fortnum & Mason is arguably the Rolls-Royce of the Christmas hamper world, so I took my inspiration from the crème de la crème.

Some of its top-end hampers cost £1,000s, and even its most simple hampers, the kind I was trying to imitate, cost £100 or more. It's particularly well-known for its fancy tea and biscuits, with packets and tins in the brand's signature ‘Eau de Nil’ duck egg blue colour, so these were things I knew I definitely wanted to include if I could find the right items at the right price (and I did).

Add a Christmas pud and some bubbly (the alcohol's optional, of course), and you've got yourself a fabulous box of festive treats. There's a table showing what I bought below – in total I spent £35.77, so a bit over budget (sorry Martin!) but you could easily cut costs if you already had a basket, or by eliminating one of the dearer items.

Et voila! My finished hamper. Here's the full list of what I bought and where...

Item Price and where I bought it
All butter Viennese biscuit selection (420g) £10 at M&S
Orange shortbread in Christmas tree tin (200g)* £6.50 at Sainsbury's
Castellore Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine (75cl) £5.49 at Aldi
Traditional English tea bags in tin (80g) £3.99 at Lakeland
Christmas pudding (454g) £1.79 at Aldi (found in store)
Wicker hamper £8 (was £16) at Hobbycraft

My top tips for making a Fortnum & Mason style hamper on a supermarket budget

When giving someone a hamper, you want them to feel they're getting something special, and you don't have to spend a fortune to do this. Of course, it'll come down to personal taste and budget, but here are my secrets for how I got the 'wow' in my wicker basket: 

Choose items that have a classic traditional look - Fortnum & Mason has been appointed a 'Royal Warrant' which means it's the grocer supplier for Queen Elizabeth II (who is said to have quite the sweet tooth!), so imagine what afternoon tea at Buckingham Palace might look like. 'Traditional' tea and biscuits in a classic-style tin (think 'ye olde' times) bought at a high street store can make your hamper appear quite regal, but at a humble price.

Pick a colour theme - Stick to a simple colour theme to add that luxurious feel. No more than two or three colours are needed as too many can make it look messy. I went for blues and golds – similar to those used by Fortnum & Mason – to help give the hamper an expensive look, but at a fraction of the price.

Know your brands - Do your research and shop at the places you know your recipient will enjoy. My family love shortbread at M&S and the Aldi sparkling wine for under £6 I picked has been positively reviewed.

Grab a basket for £10 or less - Several high street brands are selling 'make your own' hampers for under £10. I went for an £8 one at Hobbycraft (reduced from £16), but if you want to spend a bit less, I've spotted wicker trays (they don't have a lid) for about £5 at Iceland, Aldi, The Works, and Dunelm.

How you could make it cheaper...

I'm very aware some of my choices weren't strictly as MoneySaving as they could've been. This isn't the absolute cheapest hamper you could make – I was looking for the right balance of expensive-looking-but-affordable produce to bring a little ‘Fortnum & Mason’ pizzazz to my Christmas gift-giving, on a small-to-medium budget. If you’ve less to spend, or just want to make it extra MoneySaving, use a basket or box you have lying around at home. You can remove the alcohol and replace it with a cheaper alternative like sparkling cordial.

You could even take out one of the biscuit tins (two of my priciest items, but I loved the look of them so much I had to include both). You’ll also want to be sure the items fit properly inside the basket, especially if you're planning to post it – though be aware this will likely be very costly, so budget accordingly.

Will you be making MoneySaving hampers this Christmas? How will you be making them extra special? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook.