By Kathryn McLean

It’s December and many of us are celebrating a holiday (or two) this month. Are you looking for simple gift ideas? Maybe you don’t celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah yourself, but have a gift exchange at work. Or a friend invited you to join their family’s Kwanzaa celebration. Do you need a gift for a get-together or New Year’s party?

Consider food gifts. Here’s a simple guide for gifting food.

  1. From your kitchen

Think about the items you make regularly. Maybe a sauce, soup, salad dressing, marinade or other jarred food would be appreciated by someone on your list. How about your unique spice blend? It would likely be simple for you to make extra for a gift. Perhaps a neighbour or family member who doesn’t make that item for themselves would appreciate some.

Consider the dishes you’re known for among friends or family. If you’re willing to share the recipe, print it out and pack it up with a couple of ingredients from the list.

If you don’t have a specialty that you love to make but still want to try a gift from your own kitchen, choose a recipe with few ingredients and steps. Try making caramel popcorn or roasted and seasoned nuts. You can easily find recipes online and in cookbooks. Then pack up your homemade treats in a jar or cellophane bag with a ribbon and you’re all set.

You can buy jars, canisters and other containers at home and kitchen stores, as well as many dollar stores.

Are you a baker? Packaging some of your favourite baked treats and passing those along is a great gift. Home-baked cookies and squares are almost always appreciated.

  1. From a local shop

Shopping local is still a thoughtful way to spend your money. Independent shop owners always appreciate that, and you’ll be supporting a small business.

Consider gift cards, too. Some food gifts will stay fresh for a few days, but some really won’t. In that case, look to neighbourhood restaurants, takeout food shops and bakeries for gift cards.

  1. From the grocery store

You’re already going to the grocery store, so consider picking up a few extra items as a gift. Decide on a theme for the gift first, then look for items that fit that theme. Consider brands or packages that the recipient may not already buy for themselves to make the gift more special.

You can put together a nice gift from the grocery store for just a few dollars. Choose a selection of jams and pack them alongside a box of crackers. Purchase a package of teas or hot chocolate powder, and add a box of cookies. Tie them together with a ribbon and that’s done.

Try a pasta dinner kit. Include some of these: a package or two of pasta, jarred olives or olive spread, a bottle of olive oil, jarred marinated veggies like sundried tomatoes, roasted peppers, eggplant or hot chilies. What about adding a cheese grater or pasta strainer? And maybe some boxed breadsticks.

A sweet and salty snack gift might include jam, crackers, nuts, chocolate, candies, cookies and dried fruits.

If you know somebody who likes to cook, try buying a collection of ingredients that you think they’ll like. A bottle of quality olive oil and a few different types of vinegars for making salad dressings would be good for a friend who enjoys making salads. Or choose a selection of spices and dried herbs along with a bottle of lemon or lime juice and a flavoured oil.

Celebrating the holidays can often mean giving or exchanging gifts. Turning to food gifts can make it easy for you to give a meaningful gift by shopping at the stores you already frequent.