By Carolyn Malcoun , November 19, 2010 - 12:54pm
Despite my best efforts to keep things simple, my holiday gift-giving often turns into some sort of tortuous math equation. The amount of time I spend racking my brain for “The Most Perfect Gift Ever” seems to be inversely related to the look of joy on the recipient’s face. So this year I’m keeping things simple and giving everyone something they’ll love: food.
Soup mix, spiced nuts, pasta sauces and more homemade gifts from your kitchen 
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I know that I’d love to unwrap any of these tasty tidbits (hint, hint). Even better, these recipes take less time and effort than shopping (which I detest anyway!) and they can all be made weeks in advance. You can spend those precious moments doing one of the other million things that demand your attention at this time of year. And during the busy holiday season, anything that saves me time is just about the best gift ever.
Related: Printable gift tags for EatingWell’s holiday gifts 
Here are four gifts that taste great and are a cinch to make—bonus, they all cost less than $8 apiece!
Under $8 per gift
Spiced Nut Trio: If you’re addicted to store-bought spiced nuts, you’ll flip when you see how easy they are to make—and how much better they taste. Here are our three favorite flavor combinations, but feel free to experiment. Just use our master method and keep the ratio of nuts, seasoning and liquid the same.
Makes: 6 tins of nuts with 3 kinds of nuts in each for less than $50 ($8 each tin/gift, not including packaging).
Gift-giving hint: Package 1 cup of each into a tin like we do above and present it with a 6-pack of holiday beer.
Make ahead tip: Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 weeks.
Curried Cashews 
Chile-Lime Peanuts 
Five-Spice Pistachios  
Under $3 per gift
Fig-Anise Compote : A spoonful of luscious anise-scented fig compote elevates a simple roast pork tenderloin or grilled cheese sandwich. Cook the figs in this compote down until they can be spread with a knife or spoon. If you’re giving this as a gift, include a card with serving suggestions.
Makes: 6 1-cup jars for less than $18 ($3 /jar, not including packaging).
Gift-giving hint: Pair a jar of compote with aged Vermont Cheddar cheese and a cheese board.
Make ahead tip: Refrigerate in airtight containers for up to 3 weeks.
Under $2 per gift
Southwestern Three-Bean & Barley Soup Mix : Receiving a jar of this bean and barley soup mix, spiked with Southwestern flavors, means your loved ones won’t have to think twice about what to make for dinner on a busy day. Don’t forget to make a few jars for yourself to stash in your pantry, you’ll be so glad you did!
Makes: One jar. Make 6 for less than $10. (Less than $1.50/jar, not including packaging)
Gift-giving hint: Layer in a glass jar and tuck it into a gift bag with whole-grain crackers along with this printable gift tag  with instructions of how to make the soup.
Make ahead tip: Store in an airtight container for up to 1 month.
Related: Warm and satisfying soups ready in 30 minutes or less 
What’s your favorite gift to give from your kitchen? Tell us what you think below.