'Gifts from the Kitchen,' gifts from the heart

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 6 2011 5:01 p.m. MST

Cookie mix gift jar and cookie box from the book "Gifts from the Kitchen."

Covenant Communications

Looking for a unique gift for someone special without blowing the budget doesn't need to be time-consuming. Shoppers may be able to find the perfect gift right in their own kitchen.

Food gifts for Christmas are a wonderful way to make gift giving personal, useful and inexpensive.

“We consider the kitchen the heart of the home, so gifts from the kitchen are from the heart,” said Debbie Harman, author of the book, “Gifts from the Kitchen: A Tasty Collection of Recipes for Every Gift Occasion” (Covenant Communications, $19.99).

In addition, food gifts are a great option when a consumer's list is long, but their funds are low.

“Most of us have a long list of people on our gift list like neighbors, co-workers, teachers or service providers where you can't spend $15 to $20 per person, but you can give them a little something. That's what makes food gifts great,” added Texas cookbook author Gloria Lyons.

Food gift options

Popular gift items from the kitchen include a plate of cookies, candy, cakes and pies. For those who don't know their way around the kitchen, food gifts are still a viable option. Non-cook gift options include prepared drink, cookie or soup mixes in a canning jar or mug.

“That's one of the advantages of some of these gifts from the kitchen," Harman said. "They are homemade, can be personalized and given from the heart, but it doesn't take a cook to prepare them. Anybody, I think, would have the skills that they can pour ingredients into a jar and tie a tag on with the instructions on how to prepare them."

Both Harman and Lyons agree that food gifts can be as expensive or cheap as they consumer can afford, depending upon the ingredients and personalization items used.

Ways to personalize

Common packages for food gifts include canning jars, decorative mugs, paper bags and tin cans. These items can be decorated with fabrics, gift tags and seasonal papers.

Harman, also an artist, includes a CD-ROM with printable gift tags, boxes and recipes in her book. Readers can add her artwork and printables to personalize their own food gifts.

To save money and reduce waste, consumers could reuse store bought jars, containers and gift bags. Fabric bags are also a great sustainable option for wrapping or packaging food gifts. Both Harman and Lyons offer a pattern in their books.

In addition to personalizing the presentation of the gift, consumers can also personalize the recipes based on the dietary needs of the recipient. Mixes and baked goods could be tailored to those who suffer from food allergies or adhere to dietary restrictions.

Storage and usage

Unlike store-bought foods, homemade food gifts do not contain preservatives that give them a long shelf life.

“Everything that's baked should be used immediately, unless you were to freeze it," said Harman. "If you freeze it, then it could last for a few months."

Frozen treats that are packaged well could last two to three months and prepared mixes can be expected to last three to four months. Prepare a notation explaining this and include it in the packaging.

“It doesn't last forever. You can't keep it for a year and expect to use it. Always put a 'Use By' date on food gifts,” said Lyons.

Precautions to keep in mind

When preparing food gifts, there are some safety precautions to keep in mind.

  • Wash your hands regularly and be sure to keep cooking area clean
  • Wash any jars, mugs or containers thoroughly before use
  • Keep your hair pulled back or covered when preparing food
  • If using mugs for mixes or prepared foods, make sure they are microwave safe
  • Do not use recycled store jars to bake goods in. Canning jars are better for high temperatures.

Tequitia Andrews has written about parenting and family issues for several newspapers, magazines and websites.