How to do a Reverse Advent Calendar

Find out how to organise a Reverse Advent Calendar this Christmas and download your free printable calendar!

Red and white fabric bags hanging from a ribbon. They are part of a fabric Advent calendar and have numbers on them, a Christmas tree can be seen in the background

December is fast approaching and you may have already bought your Advent Calendar. Opening a door and enjoying a piece of chocolate or other treat is a great way to countdown to the big day and feel the excitement building. But have you considered organising a Reverse Advent Calendar this year?

With all the stresses that people are under this year, from Covid to the cost of living, a Reverse Advent Calendar can be a simple way to help out a local charity. ead on to find out what a Reverse Advent Calendar is and how to organise one at home.

Right-click on the image below to download your free printable Reverse Advent Calendar:

Printable Reverse Advent Calendar including 25 green baubles with suggestions for items to donate

What is a Reverse Advent Calendar?

Advent calendars are traditionally used to count down the days of Advent. Although Advent usually starts somewhere between 27th November and 3rd December, most people start opening their Advent calendars on 1st December through to Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Originally Advent calendars were fairly simple and had a little picture from the Nativity story or a Christmas-related picture behind each door. In recent years, they’ve become more commercial and now you can get calendars with everything from pork scratchings to beauty products behind the doors.  

So the Reverse Advent Calendar is a way of turning this trend around and making it less commercial. Instead of receiving a gift, you collect an item each day to donate to your chosen charity at the end.

Charities and food banks are always under extra pressure during the Winter months so this is a great way to help out.

When the idea of Reverse Advent Calendars first surfaced, people generally ran them during December. But this makes it difficult to deliver your donations before Christmas, so you may like to start collecting items during November. That will give you plenty of time to collect and deliver your donations earlier in December.

Here are six simple steps to planning and organising your Reverse Advent Calendar:

Close up of a hand opening a drawer in a wooden Advent calendar

Choose your good cause

First of all, you need to decide which good cause you are going to support through your Reverse Advent Calendar. The winter is always a busy time for charitable organisations and this year they will probably be in even greater need of donations.

You might like to support your local food bank through the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) or through the Trussell Trust foodbank network. They are all seeing unprecedented levels of demand this year, and your donations are sure to be gladly received.

There may be another local charity that you would like to support, such as a homeless shelter, women’s refuge or a local animal shelter. Or you could collect some festive goodies to drop off at a local retirement home.

Whichever you choose, remember to check when they will close for Christmas so that you get your donations to them in good time. 

Check what donations are needed

Before you start collecting, it’s a good idea to check if your chosen organisation have any requests or instructions for dropping donations off. Some may have a wish list of things that they particularly need or a list of things that they can’t accept as donations.

Also, check if they have a preferred date for you to deliver your advent calendar. This is particularly important for food banks that will need time to distribute your donations in their food parcels.

You may need to start your collection early to make sure you get it there before Christmas. If you’re running late, you can always donate early in the new year as long as you haven’t added any perishable goods.

Close up of people putting food items into a cardboard box marked Food Bank

Prepare storage for your Reverse Advent Calendar

You don’t need to do anything special or expensive to store your Reverse Advent Calendar. A sturdy box or a supermarket bag for life should be fine and will make your donation easy to transport.

If you want to get a bit more into the spirit of things, you could decorate your box with wrapping paper. And if you’re doing a Reverse Advent Calendar with children, you might like to ask them to design decorations for the box. They could put squares with numbers all over the outside and tick them off as the days go by.

What to put in a Reverse Advent Calendar

Next you need to choose the items that you’re going to collect for your calendar. If the organisation you have selected has given you a wishlist, you can simply work from that list.

If you’re shopping for food banks, it’s generally best not to choose perishable goods. Look for non-perishable and shelf-stable goods with a long use-by date as they can be stored more easily. And remember that food banks can not accept any opened goods or products that have gone past their expiry date.

If you’re collecting for a retirement home or homeless shelter, they may be happy to accept some perishable goods. But it’s best to check with them first, just to be sure.

As well as things like tins of food and dried goods like pasta, it’s a good idea to include things like long-life milk and fruit juices, pet food and free-from products. These don’t tend to get donated as often so they will be welcome. 

Toiletries and personal care items like soap, deodorant and loo roll are always needed, and many food banks also accept basic clothing like new socks and underwear. Feel free to add in some festive treats like biscuits and chocolates, and your chosen charity may also be collecting small gifts like toys and toiletries sets.

I’ve added some ideas to my printable calendar but here are some suggestions for things to add to your Reverse Advent Calendar:

Festive Favourites
Selection box of chocolates
Box of biscuits
Mince pies
Christmas pudding (no alcohol)
Christmas cake (no alcohol)
Breakfast Essentials
UHT long-life milk
Teabags
Instant Coffee
Long-life fruit juice
Jam
Breakfast cereal
Tins and Jars
Tinned tomatoes
Tinned potatoes
Tinned meat
Tinned fish
Instant mashed potatoes
Tinned vegetables
Cooking sauce
Rice pudding
Tinned fruit
Personal Care
Deodorant
Body wash
Toothbrushes and Toothpaste
Bars of soap
Razors
Shampoo and conditioner
Nappies and Baby wipes
Toilet paper
Laundry detergent
Miscellaneous
New underwear and socks
Hats, scarfs and gloves
Gift sets
Small toys
Pet food
Dog food
Dog treats
Cat food
Cat treats
A food bank volunteer carrying a box of donated food

Deliver your Reverse Advent Calendar in December

Finally, once you’ve collected all of your items, you simply need to drop off your Reverse Advent Calendar at your chosen organisation as arranged.

The Reverse Advent Calendar is a great way to shift the focus of Christmas back to “tidings of comfort and joy”.

Will you be doing a Reverse Advent Calendar this year? I’d love to hear about your progress in the comments below or over on Twitter!

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