Reverse Advent Calendar (Start December 1!)

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Looking for a way to make the holidays more meaningful this year? This reverse advent calendar will help you serve others in need while also teaching your children about the importance of giving back to our local communities.

Who doesn’t love the Christmas season? It’s such a great season for making memories with your family. And our family LOVES advent calendars at Christmas time! From How to Make a Paper Chain Advent Calendar to 24 Days of Christmas Books for Advent (this was our favorite last year) to 50 Advent Calendar Activities for Toddlers, advent calendars are such a fun way to make the holiday countdown even more special.

I discovered the idea for this reverse advent calendar from passionatepennypincher.com, and I was instantly inspired. The concept is so simple: each day in December, fill a container with donations for your local food bank or soup kitchen. After Christmas, drop off your donations together as a family.

This is such a wonderful (and easy) way to give back to your local community, and something even the youngest members of your family can get involved with. I’m excited to start this new tradition this year with my family, and would LOVE for you to join us!

image shows items to donate

Reverse Advent Calendar List of Items to Donate

After doing a little research on the items that the majority of food banks across the United States need, I created our own Reverse Advent Calendar of the items food banks need the most.

December 1 – Box of healthy cereal

December 2 – Container of peanut butter

December 3 – Container of ground coffee

December 4 – Toilet paper

December 5 – Diapers and wipes

December 6 – Women’s period products

December 7 – Box of pasta & jar of pasta sauce

December 8 –  Box of crackers

December 9 – Canned fish or chicken (ideally with a pop top)

December 10 – Canned vegetables (ideally with a pop top)

December 11 – Canned fruit (ideally with a pop top)

December 12 – Dry spices/seasonings

December 13 – Kids pantry snack items

December 14 – Jars/pouches of baby food

December 15 – Toothbrushes & toothpaste

December 16 – Box of tea bags

December 17 – Shampoo and conditioner

December 18 – Deodorant

December 19 – Jar of applesauce

December 20 – Canned or powdered milk

December 21 – Canned and dry soups

December 22 – Baking mix that requires only water

December 23 – Loaf of bread

December 24 – Bag of oranges or apples

The items on this list are inexpensive and easy to find, and are ones that can help to serve the whole family. In fact, you might already have many of these food items or household essentials in your pantry already! Want to swap some out? Just be sure to focus on shelf-stable healthy items and or a non-perishable food item. 

image shows a cardboard box with food bank donations in it

What is the Reverse Advent Calendar?

Instead of eating a piece of candy or doing a holiday activity to mark the days that lead up to Christmas, the idea of the reverse advent calendar is to put aside an item each day to donate to a food bank or charity.

Want to start this tradition this year too? Here’s how to join us!

  1. Before getting started, do a grocery store run and make sure the items you need for the month are in your home.
  2. Each day of advent, take an item from your pantry and put it into a donation box (or better yet, have your kids help you do this).
  3. After the holidays, take your donations as a family to your local soup kitchen, food bank or homeless shelter. (You can also choose to do this on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day the charity you are donating to is open and accepting donations).

That’s it!

It’s important to note that the list I’ve created isn’t the “be all end all” to how to do this reverse advent calendar. Don’t have some of the specific items on the list? Consider donating a different shelf-stable pantry item instead! Just be sure you’re only donating new items that are unopen.

Is 24 days of items too much to keep up with? Take your kids to the store with you and purchase every single item at once, and then take them directly to your local food bank! You can also start this reverse advent calendar any day of the month! Prefer to give a cash donation instead? That’s absolutely encouraged as well too!

We can all make a difference and this is a great way to give back. It’s a great idea to start by finding your local food pantry and go from there!

Looking for another way to talk to your children about the meaning of the season? Be sure to also read How to Start a Santa Sack Tradition!

Teaching Your Kids about Food Insecurity and Childhood Hunger

This reverse advent calendar is also a really wonderful way to start the conversation with your children about food insecurity and the fact that other families don’t always have the same access to things many children take for granted.

Hunger is everywhere, and is in each of our neighborhoods. According to the nonprofit organization No Kid Hungry, 1 in 6 kids in the United States (nearly 12 million children) may face childhood hunger this year.

For those of us with easy access to local grocery stores and even farmers markets, getting food is a normal part of our everyday life. But millions of Americans lack access to healthy, nutritious food. Some neighborhoods might not have a grocery store that sells healthy food, while other families might be navigating using public transportation while also juggling small kids (making it really impossible to haul heavy loads of food home).

Some of these children are missing meals; others are faced with hunger-related hardship as parents and caretakers make tradeoffs between buying enough groceries or paying bills. By taking part in the daily tasks of putting items into the donation box, it helps your kids continue to make the connection between giving back to others in need.

Want to make the conversation more personal? Use this free tool to explore the poverty data for your own zip code. By talking to our children early and often about the struggles others in our very own communities have, it helps to shape a lifetime of thinking of others and truly wanting to give back and do good.

Interested in another type of advent calendar too? Here are some traditional advent calendars.

How to Make a Paper Chain Advent Calendar

50 Advent Calendar Activities for Toddlers

Homemade Advent Calendars for Toddlers

24 Days of Christmas Books for Advent

A Reverse Advent Calendar for a Twist on a Christmas Classic

Looking for a way to make the holiday season more meaningful for your family and start a new Christmas tradition? Give this reverse advent calendar a try this year, and help your family remember the true meaning for the season.  Your small act can truly make an impact on the lives of those who are blessed by your donation in your local community (and you might start a new family tradition at the same time).

If you give this a try, please tag us using #mimosasandmotherhood or on Instagram @simply.siobhan!

Wishing you the best holiday season yet!

image shows items to donate

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