The minimalist’s guide to stocking stuffers.

The minimalist's guide to stocking stuffers

A few years ago, I totally changed my approach to stocking stuffers.  I love it. And so do my kids.

So now I stay away from the “traditional” stocking stuffers–the cutesy little trinkets and toys and games.  Those little trinkets are just stuff, and we don’t need any more stuff around here.

these aren’t groceries; these are stocking stuffers: trail mix, dried blueberries, dried cherries, dried apple rings. 

So I fill their stockings with things they want and need.  The kids have loved their stocking contents since I made the switch, and I’ve loved not tripping over the miniature markers and spinning tops I used to fill the stockings with!

Here are my favorite stocking stuffers:

The minimalist's guide to stocking stuffers | Modern Mrs Darcy

sweet stuff: chocolate coins, chocolate-covered espresso beans, Nutella, sprinkle chocolates. Don’t worry—the espresso beans aren’t for the kids 🙂

1.  Groceries. I buy full-size packages of my kids’ favorite things—especially items we don’t buy very often like dried fruit.  Later, I’ll label each child’s item with their name and stick it in the pantry.  (In years past, everyone has shared their goodies with each other, but it’s definitely not a requirement.)

2.  Sweet stuff. We don’t do a lot of sweets, so this is a big thing at my house. I do full-sized packages.  And then they go, labeled, into the pantry.

3.  Mints and gum. My kids love Altoids, but I don’t keep them around.  Everyone gets a tin in their stocking, and everyone gets the same flavor.  (I learned that one the hard way.)

cute necessities: little girl underthings with daisies and poodles and owls, and new tights

4.  Underthings 🙂 I’ve made a habit of stocking up on adorable clearanced tights, panties, and boxers Black Friday weekend.  (Personally, I love Boden and Old Navy for this sort of thing.)  And then I save them until Christmas Eve.

5.  Headbands and hair bows. Also easy to pick up on clearance well in advance.  I keep thinking I’ll make some…but that hasn’t happened yet!

a family tradition: Altoids for everyone

6.  Fun necessities. Character band-aids, scented chapstick, art supplies, bubble bath, sippy cups—things they need, but still love to get.  I’ll pick these up on the cheap whenever I can, and stow them away until Christmas Eve.

What are your favorite stocking stuffers?

P.S. 100 stocking stuffers that will actually be appreciated, don’t feel like a waste of money, and won’t be broken/forgotten/destroyed by New Year’s

The minimalist's guide to stocking stuffers | Modern Mrs Darcy

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  1. Sounds very similar to how my mom always stuffed our stockings as kids. Peter always puts a new pair of socks in my stocking and he usually finds a new pair of boxers in his – practical and fun. I try to do one thing of candy or something that he really likes to eat (this has recently become the TimTam cookies that we enjoyed while living in Indonesia, but I can only find at Target at Christmas). My mom always put an orange or other kind of fruit in our stocking, candy or gum was another favorite of hers (and ours as we never got them the rest of the year). Like I said, very similar to your ideas. Sounds delightful!

    • Amy says:

      You can find TimTams at Cost Plus World Market year-round, now! They are so much fun to eat! We love introducing other people to TimTams! 🙂

  2. Adriana says:

    It is a tradition at our house to always place an orange in the toe of each stocking. I remind our children that their great-grandmother received an orange each Christmas morning of her childhood and to her it was a very special treat. We savor them. Christmas oranges are different than everyday oranges!

    • Karen says:

      My Mom had the same experience. (Her Dad would get them each an orange.) She gave it her own spin by putting candied orange slices in our stockings. We went for those first thing! Dug through our stockings to find them!
      Every time I eat one, I. Taking back to Christmas morning!

  3. Rebecca says:

    Love this! My mom started the tradition of amazing stockings during a time in our lives that we had to wait until Christmas night to open gifts., and my husband has picked right up on it.

    I get everything from make-up to cute & funky office supplies to Lindt dark chocolate truffles to little bits of camping gear — never a dull moment.

    We give the kids similar things: favorite food items, nail polish and other “fun” items like fizzy bath tabs or bath crayons, fun pencils/post-its and other office schtuff, treats for their pets. I might put in a silly putty egg or other “fidget” toy, but no little plastic doo-dads.

    My husband gets a big pack of black pens (his favorite), lots of camping friendly snax/food, a gift card to the store where he buys coffee in the afternoon, a new lighter, new comb, hand salve for cracked fingers (he’s a carpenter), mints/gum, and any other little doo-dads that catch my eye in the local hardware store. I also haunt the army navy surplus store all year for weird little stocking stuffers for both my hubby and my teen boys.

    Our big “tradition” is a book — we rarely buy novels, and they love having the newest book from their favorite series to read after the excitement is over Christmas morning.

    We do have to budget for our stockings, but they’ve become such an important part of Christmas morning traditions we’re willing to forego an extra gift or two under the tree.

    I really liked your idea of full-sized packs of fruit or trail mix that get stored in the pantry with their names on them. I don’t like having food all over the house, and that makes a lot more sense!

  4. I am right there with you about keeping it fun but useful. I had to put down the mini snow globes twice at Walgreens last week- my kids would love them… for about 5 minutes. We always do sweets in stockings, and this year my kids are definitely getting toothbrushes and crayons.

  5. Katie says:

    We always got Altoids in our stockings, too! Every year we could count on Altoids, a chapstick, candy, socks, and some sort of fizzy bath thing. My sister and I got hair things and costume jewelry, and my brother got a bottle of hot sauce and a sausage, or something.

    There was usually a little toy, too: Slinkies, Hot Wheels, Silly Putty. But mostly it was fun versions of “needs,” and food!

    Also I am jealous of your Trader Joe’s. They have them at home but not here. My mother’s favorite game is to tell me about some amazing food she bought, really building it up, and then when I ask where she found it, she says, “Oh, Trader Joe’s,” and crushes my dreams. She and my dad always bring a big box of wine and another of goodies from TJ’s when they come visit. ^_^

  6. Love this Anne! We do the same thing. Things that are needed and used like flash drives, band-aids, snacks, sweets (We don’t keep them on hand normally), art supplies, card games that the entire family can play, etc. Long gone is the stocking full of junk that just becomes junk cluttering my house!

  7. Ours look almost identical. Except, lately, my eldest gets embarrassed at the underthings in the stocking so I switch to putting socks into her stocking…which seems very fitting. Same thing with fruit snacks, etc. Since we never buy liquor, I buy small samples of Bailey’s Irish Cream for my husband’s stocking… he makes that little 1 oz. bottle last to slip into his coffee for days.

  8. sarah says:

    Love this, Anne! I like to avoid all the “junky” stuffers too! I have picked up a couple small things of candy but mostly it’s going to be full of fun socks and undies, hair stuff, a sparkly scarf for dress up, lip gloss, a card game, and, now that she’s reading, books and bookmarks and even a book light so she can read in the car during all our late night travels! I also found (at JB and Me) a fun little decorate-it-yourself nightlight that I’m hoping to squeeze in there! The girl is gonna be set….sounds like your kids will be too!

  9. Heather says:

    My mother-in-law does great practical stockings for adults. We enjoy cooking, and last year got some new wooden spoons, funky spatulas, decorative but functional measuring spoons, gourmet vanilla extract, and spices. All very fun and useful.

  10. Catherine says:

    I love this! My stockings are often very practical too – I always include fun toothbrushes (which my extended family loves to laugh about, but the kids love them), nice pencils and journalling notebooks, water bottles, hat/mitten sets, tights, nice Dover coloring books, plus some little toy that adds to a current “collection” like polly pockets or trains. I love the Heather’s idea of doing little bottles of liqueur – totally stealing that! 🙂

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  12. Great ideas! I always try to do stuff like this for my boys because dollar store crap drives me up the wall! This year I’ve already picked up a game of character uno, and a set of magnetic wooden blocks for my two boys.

  13. Emily says:

    Growing up we got things like hairbrushes and toothbrushes. For a long time I didn’t think you could buy toothbrushes, they came from the dentist or Santa. I give things like body wash to my husband and bubble bath for my daughter.

  14. Betty says:

    My 30 year old single son gets a medicine chest stocking. Day and night time cold and flu, aspirin, cough drops, puffs with aloe bandaides new tooth brush and tooth paste also new travel tooth brush
    Everyone gets a package of m&m’s a deck of cards
    One step granddaughter gets a can of ravioli all the grandkids get a fun pair of socks. And all the other bits and pieces I have been picking up for the past year.
    I have a 30 gal toat that I put gifts in as I find them and I start buying for next year on Dec 26.

  15. Eleanor says:

    A year’s worth of office supplies: sticky notes, small notepads, pens, pencils, markers, clippies. Also Christmas decorations purchased on sale last year.

  16. erin says:

    My son’s stocking will include beef jerky, pistacio nuts, and Tazo peppermint tea. He is 12, and a bit of a foodie. These are things he would like me to buy under normal circumstances, but my regular grocery budget doesn’t allow. Of course, there will be some sweets & socks as well. I bought a huge package of Nike socks for him on a backtoschool sale, and saved them.
    My daughters’ stockings aren’t quite as stocked with food, but there are definitely ‘practical’ items in there… socks & hair elastics, etc.

  17. Andrea says:

    Cute toothbrushes, favorite pens and mechanical pencils, sharpies, bungee cords and small carabiners (especially for the dad), makeup for the teenagers, cozy socks, art supplies, lip balm and travel size hand lotion. Love your list!

  18. Trish says:

    Deck of playing cards, gift card, art stuff (pencils tied in bundle), ear buds, soap dish full of batteries, polish, lip gloss, pez, glow sticks. When Staples offers three dollar gift certificates for trading in ink cartridges I put them in my kids stockings and they love hitting the store with me after Christmas.

  19. Such great ideas here (and in these comments!) We also have a traditional orange in the toe of the stocking, and I usually include art supplies, lip balm, and whatever small items support whatever folks are into that year (a stuffed animal for the 2 year old last year and carabiners for her dad). I also usually sneak in a couple tiny chocolate bars of high quality. I’m going to add altoids this year!

  20. This is seriously SO helpful. It can be really hard to fill my husband’s stocking with things I think he’ll actually use! My mom mostly gave my sisters and I candy and nail polish and things like that, so I get stuck on this so badly when I’m shopping not just for a man but a vegan man who doesn’t eat sugar and hates waste!!

    I think I need to make a Trader Joe’s run!

  21. My son just graduated university and moved literally across the continent to a new job. Before he left, he spent days sorting his stuff – both current belongings and childhood memories. There were a lot of things in his collection that were never used and are being discarded now. Our future stockings and Christmas gifting are going to be much simpler from now on.

  22. Hales says:

    Yep…consumables all the way. We do the Tobler chocolate oranges, usually paired with a theme. Stickers, band aids ( the dollar store has minion ones right now!), coloring books- they give the excitement without the commitment!

  23. Christin says:

    The same ideas here, but my mother in law always gave the kids several rolls of tape. Kids can never have too much tape. Purse /backpack sized tissue packs and small calendars are another staple. The guys always get a book of stamps, and I love getting the sample size flavored coffee (that I never buy myself ).

  24. Kayris says:

    Pretty much the same here. My kids like the individual packs of Nutella and I don’t normally let them eat it. Chapstick, tissues, usually underwear, fun socks if they need them or tights (but they both have enough for now this year). My daughter is getting some fun jewelry this year and maybe some body spray, or sparkly gold nail polish because she’s in a nail art phase right now.

    I just went through all their toys and art supplies and stuff and threw out a huge bag of junk. Dried up mini markers, those stupid miniature erasers they never actually use. Don’t want more to replace it!

  25. Ann says:

    These are the kinds of things I filled my children stockings over the years. My daughter,now 21 has always loved blueberries which are never cheapen Australia. Each year she would get her own punnet of blueberries to scoff or savour at her leisure. It was always a highlight.

  26. My parents always did these sorts of things for us as stocking stuffers and I just loved it as a kid. We also got an orange or an apple, a mini box of our favorite cereal, and a little “jingle” in the bottom: a few coins to put in our piggy banks. It usually wasn’t much but it was always a fun thing to look for at the toe of our stocking. ^_^ Great list, thanks for sharing!

  27. Anne F. says:

    Flashlights! 3 years old and up! Young children love these on rainy, dark days when playing indoors is a must. Also older kids like them to read by at night. Might want to add another set of batteries for the older kids.

  28. Betty P says:

    Toothbrushes. Razor blades. Always new panties that are nicer than usual! Small flavored honeys and vinegars from the Farmers Market. Lip balm and hand cream from our honey vendor are good too. Tradition is animal crackers in the circus car box with the string handle;good for snacking on the ride to Nana and Papa!

  29. Jana says:

    As kids, we always got an orange at the bottom of our stockings – we would groan, because Dad was an orange grower!
    I’ve established the tradition of always giving my nieces and nephews their own can of pitted black olives. (Dad also grew olives.) One year I taped a $20 bill to the bottom of the cans. Consumables, especially those in the treat or hassle category are always a winner.

  30. Terry says:

    Toothbrushes. I don’t know why they love them so, but they do.

    And gum – we buy them full size packages of their favorites and they are over the moon. Their favorite stocking stuffer. My 5 year old granddaughter just told me, “I hope Santa remembers ALL THE GUM this year.” That’s the easiest thing ever.

  31. Deanne says:

    Little packets of Kleenex. I pour unshelled salted peanuts in and around everythingin the stocking. They sit and munch them during all the present opening. Personal nail clippers (because no one can ever find the main pair!) purse size spritzers of poo-pouri.

  32. Leanne says:

    We’ve always done very similar stocking stuffers — I have always avoided useless trinkets and “stuff”. Plus there is usually a book and always a Christmas tree ornament — my daughter could now decorate a whole tree herself, and our tree will look comparatively naked when she eventually moves away! My parents did the same. In fact, when I became a teenager, my parents started putting in things that I would need in the future, like kitchen utensils, and small tools, and over 30 years later, I still have some of that stuff! Awesome!

  33. Krysia says:

    This year my kids are getting new gloves, little bags of their favorite chocolate, earrings for my daughters, and some small action figures for my son. Santa brings my husband and I coffee, chocolate, mixed nuts – all of our favorite things!

  34. Caitlin says:

    I’ve read this post most years to help me choose stocking fillers for my husband – but now we have a child, a friend clued me in on what she is doing:
    1 thing to eat
    1 thing to do
    1 thing to wear

    This is giving me enough structure & flexibility that I can find things, and setting limits so that I don’t go crazy buying novelties that no-one needs. I’m so excited!

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