Valerie Phillips: Treat neighbors to cheap gifts this Christmas

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 14 2010 5:12 p.m. MST

'Tis the season for neighbor gifts. With the economy being what it is, you might be thinking of skipping this tradition. But, they don't need to be lavish; in fact, they can be quite practical.

In my 10 years as food editor, I've kept a running list of ideas, and more as they show up on my own doorstep. I'm always amazed at the creativity and fun tag lines.

Here are some ideas:

Homemade Sweets

Pretzels or Ritz crackers: Dip in melted chocolate, with 5 to 6 drops of mint oil added per cup of chocolate. Tag line: "We 'mint' to wish you a happy holiday!"

Homemade divinity: "Have a divine Christmas!"

Loaf of bread: "No matter how you slice it, you're a great neighbor!"

Frozen cookie dough: "Here's a little extra 'dough' for Christmas."

Jar of jam: "Hoping your Christmas is 'jam' packed with cheer."

Flavored butter: "Spreading cheer this time of year."

Food Storage

Canned soups: Stack them pyramid-style into a Christmas tree. "Have a souper holiday!"

Dried pasta: "Have a pasta-tively happy holiday!"

Box of powdered milk: "This gift isn't fancy with satins and silk; But in times of need, you'll always have milk!"

Jar of honey: "For years of love and friendship, and the fact that you're so sweet, We remember you with honey; it's a Merry Christmas treat."

Package of gelatin: "If times get hard, you'll never have to cry; If you have some Jell-O in your year's supply."

Drink, and Be Merry

The two-liter bottle of soda pop: "May your holidays bubble over with fun!" or "Pop, pop, fizz, fizz, oh what a great neighbor you is." Or "May your Christmas be merry and Sprite" or "We're soda-lighted to have you as our neighbor."

Mountain Dew: " 'Dew' you know we want you to have a merry Christmas? Well, we 'Dew.' "

No-Bake Gifts

Almond Joy candies: "Here's wishing you joy at Christmas."

Cake mix and wooden spoon: "Not a creature was stirring. ..."

Muffin mix: "You're getting muffin for Christmas!"

Ice cream scoop: "Have a cool yule!"

A box of Ho-Ho cupcakes: "Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas."

A can of nuts: "I just go nuts at Christmas."

Small jars of spices or spice blends: "Seasoned Greetings."

Bubble gum: "We chews to wish you a Merry Christmas!" or "May your holidays bubble over with fun!" or "By gum, have a great Christmas!"

A hunk of cheese and grater: "To a grate neighbor from your cheesy friends next door."

Hershey's Kisses in a wire whisk: "We whisk you a Merry Kissmas."

Oven mitt filled with candies: "We ad-mitt you're a great neighbor!" or "Thanks for your helping hand" or "Merry Christmas from our pad to yours."

Chex Party Mix: "Santa always Chex his list."

Juice pitcher filled with candy canes: "We pitcher you raising a little cane during the holidays."

Ready-to-bake pizza or pizza gift certificate: "To someone with pizzazz."

Oranges (or a chocolate orange): "Orange you happy for Christmas!"

Packs of microwave popcorn: "Just poppin' in to say Merry Christmas" or "Merry Christmas from your corny neighbors!"

A bag of nuts and a dozen doughnuts: "Sometimes you feel like a nut; sometimes you doughnut!"

A bag of M&Ms: "Have a Merry & Marvelous holiday!"

Jolly Ranchers: "Have a holly, jolly Christmas!"

Mousse or pudding mix: "Merry Christmousse!"

Giant-size candy bars: Remove the paper wrapper, and make your own personalized one.

A bag of gummy bugs: "Bah humbug! Merry Christmas anyway."

A box of brownie mix: "Roses are red, Christmas is sweet, I'm all stressed out, so make your own darn treat!"

Animal cookies: "This place would be a zoo without you!"

100 Grand candy bar: "Your friendship is worth a million bucks, but we can only afford this much!"

Gummy frogs: "Hoping you have a toadily fun holiday!

Packaged cookies: "Homemade cookies would be so fine, but these are so much better than mine!""

Bread sticks: "We knead your friendship!"

Frozen rolls: "Here's a little holiday treat. Rise and bake, and then just eat!"

Fruit basket: "When you feel like a basket case, remember to slow down and enjoy the holidays!"

Nonfood Gifts

A laminated, credit card-size phone list of everyone in the neighborhood to keep for emergencies.

Toilet paper: "Emergency! And you're prepared! Because of some of us who cared."

Paper towels: "Blot out your troubles; 'absorb' the Christmas spirit!"

A box of long-handled matches: "To our matchless friends."

Measuring cup or spoons: "Wishing you joy beyond measure!"

A new roll of wrapping paper: "Wrap your holidays in love and cheer! And now you won't run out this year!"

"I Spy" bottles for kids: Make from clean plastic jars filled with 30 or so small trinkets and bird seed for filler. Kids can fall asleep on Christmas Eve while trying to "spy" all the different items in the jar.

A bag of simmering potpourri: "Scenting you holiday greetings!"

Windshield scraper: "Amid snow or sleet or hail or slush, Merry Christmas from all of us!"

e-mail: vphillips@desnews.com