Saturday, November 23, 2013

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Food Gifts

There is one aisle at Goodwill that I walk down and quite often shake my head with sadness.  For it is obviously (at least to me) filled with gifts people have received that they neither wanted nor could use.

Some are quite nice and ready to be picked up by those who do like them for pennies on the dollar.  But most I fear were purchased because we "must give a gift" so an item is bought and wrapped with little or no thought given to it so there will be something to give.

Today's suggestions may be either obvious to some or perhaps silly to others but I do want to remind people that edible gifts for the pantry are often very well received.  They are also quite often reasonably priced.

The Candy Cane Lane tea above was a gift that I loved!  You can be assured that the giver was thanked profusely.   I have a difficult time finding it at a good price like I used to, perhaps because it quickly sells out of such places as WalMart.  The only store I can find it sells it at a price prohibitive for stocking up.  Isn't it amazing how there can be such price differences in various stores?  If you know a person's favorite tea or coffee, it may seem a simple gift to you but it will be well received.

If you know the person you need to purchase an inexpensive gift for has a Keurig machine, a box of coffee, tea, or apple cider K-cups would make a hugely popular gift.  They are easily wrapped or slipped into a gift bag.  Many people I know are like me, they carefully ration out their K-cups just because they are pricey.  So a gift may not seem like much to you but it may mean many mornings (or evenings) of their favorite beverage.

Not only is coffee available for the K-cup user but so is tea (Stephanie brought tea K-cups when she visited and I was amazed at how good they were), hot chocolate, and my favorite evening drink... hot apple cider.  I purchased the box above on sale at Kroger and with a coupon.

I took some items out of my pantry and a couple I have purchased for gift giving (for someone who does not read my blog).  Just to hopefully spark your own ideas for inexpensive gift giving.

Perhaps the most obvious shown above is the tin of Harney & Sons Holiday Tea.  It is pricier than a tea such as Celestial Seasonings but still an inexpensive gift for the Holidays.  Many tea companies offer special Holiday brands in special tins or boxes.

Of course, if you know the recipient's favorite tea then they would most likely enjoy that.  Some teas are pricey but if you purchase a small amount whole leaf (for those who will have tea strainers and know how to use them), they make lovely gifts.

I used to give a lot of gift baskets at Christmas, keeping an eye out at Goodwill and garage sales all year for inexpensive baskets to keep the cost down.  For a tea lover... a tin of tea, a box of sugar cubes (perhaps placed in a pretty jar), with perhaps a box of "good cookies" or a scone mix would be a welcome gift.

Add a jar of Devon cream and lemon curd (should they be available) for a very special friend and the basket is taken to another level.  Of course, for your best friend one may add a vintage teacup but then we are talking real money... unless you look for it while thrifting during the year.  :)

A package of great coffee (make sure it is ground if you don't know the person has a coffee bean grinder) for the coffee lover, slipped into a gift bag would be oh, so welcome.  Especially if you can find out their favorite roast.

Imagine an Italian basket with pasta such as the Barilla tortellini above or just a high quality box of spaghetti, a jar of very good pasta sauce, a bottle of wine or sparkling grape juice, perhaps a red checkered dish towel, and additions according to how much you want to spend.  Like a CD of Dean Martin music or The Three Tenors.

Sometimes items which seem rather plebeian can be excellent gifts, too.  It all depends on how they are packaged and what kind they are.  For instance... oil and vinegar as a gift?  Well, if the vinegar is champagne vinegar (Kroger brand) as shown above and a bottle of organic GMO free canola oil... ummm, yes!

The organic canola oil is actually a gift I gave to Hubby!  It is used only when he makes his own oil and vinegar salad dressing (the vinegar he uses is our favorite Nikano original rice vinegar).

Imagine a small basket with the organic canola oil, or a really good extra virgin olive oil, or a hot pepper infused oil and a special vinegar (if not champagne than perhaps a good balsamic, sherry vinegar, or fruit vinegar, etc.).

If you know someone loves a particular kind of ethnic food then a gift of condiments would be lovely for their pantry.  For instance, a bottle or jar of something like the above Bangkok Peanut Sauce, a package of rice noodles (or angel hair pasta), and one or two other Thai style items would be lovely for one who likes spicy Thai food.  Carefully wrapped so they don't break and slipped into a gift bag... I don't think that would get sent to Goodwill.

For one whom you don't know if they like spicy or not... a small basket with a few safe spices and perhaps a sea salt would be welcome and used!  I showed the tiny bottle of organic cinnamon above as an example that one does not need to spend a lot of money to give a few spices.  Our local Target sells these small versions of organic spices, usually less than $3.00 according to the spice (slightly higher for a few).

Once again... just a reminder that what seems too simple to give at Christmas can be quite wonderful to many.  Let's say you know a person who loves gourmet cooking but is on a very tight budget.  One small jar of an expensive spice such as saffron, or a package of high quality vanilla beans, or even a package of a special salt such as Celtic sea salt would not be a huge price for a gift but beyond the means of a gourmet on a limited budget.

Some food gifts can be simple and inexpensive.  I saw this done somewhere in a magazine and thought it clever for last minute gifts.  They took one package of a very good quality bean mix (like the 11 bean mixture shown in the picture), poured it into a Ball jar, put a square of pretty fabric on the top of the jar (affixed with a rubber band), and printed out a small label with the instructions.   Great last minute gift if you have glass jars available (for it only looks stunning if you can see the various colors).

Of course, you can make your own bean mixture at home for multiple gifts.

This week I plan to make some brownie mix in a jar to give for Christmas.  Hopefully there will be pictures next week!

This recommendation is a gift I gave Elisabeth that she liked very much.  It is one of my very favorite Homestead Blessings DVDs (my other favorite is their DVD about growing herbs).

I own this one, too.  It is a wonderful DVD for the beginning bread maker as well as the more experienced baker.  You can find it at this Amazon Associate's link... here.   I keep it handy to watch again and again.  I know it sounds silly but I find their DVDs quite relaxing...

I hope some of these suggestions will spark your own ideas as you shop this Christmas season.  Let's make it a goal to keep gifts out of Goodwill... unless it is in my town and something I'd love for just pennies on the dollar.  ;)


Anonymous said...

Yes, Yes, Yes! gifts of food stuffs are always appreciated! Homemade goodies or put together baskets. Jelly or jam with a loaf of homemade or even good store bought bread. I was blessed to find the bread Dvd for $1 this fall. I felt I hit the jack pot! I keep looking for anything I can use for gifts at the used stores. As you said it is amazing how many things unused you can find at the stores. It takes looking throughout the year but we give small gifts to many people and it really helps. Also you find unusual things you could not other wise find or afford. I also scout out ideas in magazines and in such good blogs like yours!!! Sarah

Echoes From the Hill said...

We have a large raspberry patch, so we make jam and jelly for gifts. This year we had a bumper crop, so we will be giving multiple jars to friends and relatives.

I have a friend, who gardens, and makes pickles. Every year, she gives a case of pickles to her brother, and that is his favorite gift.

An inexpensive gift basket, of things you know people will like, is appreciated by most. You can make it pretty with cellophane and a pretty ribbon.

I have purchased plastic bags of beautiful bolts of ribbon at Goodwill for a few dollars, and it is used on my gift baskets.


Vee said...

Good suggestions all! I remember your talking about watching this family...there were some snippet videos somewhere...must look for them again. Perhaps I should do some shopping at Goodwill, though it's not the same anymore...Goodwill that is.

Anonymous said...

My daughters, especially the younger one, love to open gifts. Their main birthday gift is always a check, but two years ago I began a tradition with the younger one of filling a basket with "tea time" goodies. The basket is lined with a napkin made from my fabric stash that I crochet a simple edging on. I filled it with things I know her budget does not allow..flavored coffees, small boxes of tea, boxes of special tea time cookies, her favorite "K bars" shaped in a heart and dipped in chocolate, packages of special flavored coco and plastic spoons dipped in chocolate and decorated in some way. AND..chocolate covered coffee beans. I also add things that I pick up like small calenders, tea bag holders,etc. She loved it and enjoyed it all winter. My older daughter loved the basket so much she asked if she could have one now I give them each one. It makes memories, I have fun doing it..and they love it. They are also my favorite gifts to give...

Kim Stewart said...

This year I am making a variety of food gifts. In the summer I canned tomato jam to give since everyone raves about it so much. I also made green tomato salsa to give.

Yesterday I made whipped honey butter with organic Trader Joe's Honey that had crystallized. The almost full bottle of honey was at church and the person I was cleaning the cabinet with wanted to throw it out. I said I'd take it so it wouldn't go to waste. At home I squeezed into a Pyrex measuring cup and heated it in the microwave and now I have perfectly fine honey.

Shortbread will be another gift since I was able to get 40 lbs. of flour for less $4 and butter for $1.69/ lb. I have 3 stoneware shortbread molds that I have picked up thrifting that will make lovely shortbread!

Anonymous said...

These ideas are especially good for any elderly people on your list. My mom in law is no longer able to bake and the last thing they need is more Things to clutter their house.

Heather Anne said...

I love all of your suggestions Brenda - I love to give gifts and for a while when our finances became just so tight I thought that I could not longer really 'give' and it hurt me so much. Since I've always made lots of homemade gifts I just went back to doing that, but even than I was apologizing for the fact that it was homemade! A sweet friend set me straight (even though my hubby had been trying) and taught me the grace of heart felt giving once again!

Elizabeth said...

Wonderful ideas ! Thanks for sharing. I think I will give it a try! said...

In case you can't find a good price on the Candy Cane Tea, here is my suggestion: I buy the red and white stripped "Bob's" soft mint candy sticks for about $1.00 a bag and use that all year long in my tea. Plus it makes a great little gift for the kiddies, because the peppermint stick is like a straw when you put it in hot tea or even hot chocolate!

Anonymous said...

Very good ideas here! Please tell where you got the tin of holiday tea and the organic canola oil. I've been looking for organic canola oil and haven't found any.

Deanna Rabe - Creekside Cottage Blog said...

Great ideas!

We enjoy the West Ladies dvds. We like to learn new things and this is a great series to watch with kids.

I love gift giving, but only if it is meaningful to the receiver of the gift.


Deb said...

Brenda, I enjoyed this post with all of your very usable suggestions! I wrote a gift post that will come up early next week and will link to this post. I loved your last line about sending gifts to Goodwill so you can purchase them later. LOL!

Anonymous said...

I love to receive these type of gifts! It is fun to think of the giver as I use them! I make freezer meals for my elderly mother year round and do special recipes at Christmastime along with her favorite coffee.
Brenda, I am sipping Candy Cane Lane as I read your blog! :-) Dee

BECKY said...

All so true, and I LOVE Melissa's suggestion in her comment, about the candy canes!

magnoliasntea said...

Hi there! I found your lovely blog through Deb @ Mountain Musings. Love the gift ideas, and you're right, a gift from the pantry is a good one. Have a great week!