From treats to skincare, these are more thoughtful ways to give a gift than anything you'll find at the store.

Jessica Ball, M.S., RD
December 06, 2020
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Hot Chocolate Bombs

Welcome to Thrifty. A weekly column where assistant nutrition editor and registered dietitian, Jessica Ball, keeps it real on how to grocery shop on a budget, make healthy meals for one or two, and make earth-friendly choices without overhauling your entire life.

'Tis the holiday season yet again. This means joy, Christmas cookies and gift giving… which can get expensive. In the wake of 2020, a lot of people are trying to balance saving money while also making the holidays feel extra special. One thing I will be doing to accomplish both of those things is to make my own homemade gifts for those I love this year. Homemade gifts are more customizable, affordable and meaningful. They can definitely be more special than what you buy at the store. Help brighten the day of friends and family members with these easy food gifts you should be making, not buying.

6 Gifts You Should Be Making, Not Buying

Here are a few ideas to inspire your DIY gifting this year.

1. Hot Cocoa Bombs & Candy

Nothing will bring your friend with a sweet tooth joy like an individually packed treat. For something trendy, try making hot cocoa bombs as a gift—just add warm milk and enjoy! They are sold out all over the internet, so making your own helps you beat the system. We have several ideas for homemade food gifts and candy, ranging from truffles to Gingerbread Marshmallows. I am partial to anything with chocolate. They can unwrap and devour on the spot, or save them to be cherished later on. These are great ideas for a socially-distanced gift swap or exchange.

2. Preserves

This may feel simple, but a jar of delicious homemade jam, jelly or preserves makes a special gift. This will cover all of someone's preserve-related needs, from adding a touch of sweetness to charcuterie boards to making a classic PB&J. Just be sure to can them safely for room temp storage, or to keep them refrigerated so they can be enjoyed safely. Branch out from the classic fruit flavors and try something unique like Spicy Onion Jam or Chai Apple Butter to make it a little more interesting. Bonus points for fun, homemade labels.

3. Body Scrub

Give the gift of an at-home spa day with DIY skin and hair care products. Recipes like Lavender Toning Face Mist and Cucumber-Mint Sugar Body Scrub utilize easy-to-find ingredients you probably already have on hand. Making specialty products like this from scratch can cost a fraction of the price of boutique store-bought versions. The soothing aromas can help calm stress. Help your friends keep their hair and hands hydrated and skin glowing this holiday season.

4. Baking Mixes

Give a cute layered mason jar of the dry ingredients for muffins, bread or cookies. Include the recipe with cooking instructions to spread cheer to the baker in your life. They can take the mixes home and just add whatever wet ingredients, like milk or eggs, that aren't included. We have a bunch of simple baking recipes that work great for this. Again, fun and thoughtful labels make all of the difference here. For those who don't bake, try gifting a hot cocoa mix instead.

5. Boozy Ornaments

Give the gift of Christmas cheer by making a homemade ornament for someone you love. You can make it sentimental and special, or spice it up a little bit. Some companies sell fillable "boozeball" that are exactly what you're thinking. You can fill these ornaments with booze so you can deck the halls and cheers around the Christmas tree. For a more kid-friendly option, get the whole family involved and try buying blank ornaments you can paint and decorate.

6. Recipe Box

Last but certainly not least, consider making a homemade recipe box for someone you know who loves to cook. The year I moved out of my parents house, which still feels like just yesterday, my mom gave me one of the most special things in my possession. She hand wrote out all of my favorite recipes she cooked on index cards and put it all together in a recipe card folder labeled "Jesse's Recipes". They were organized by dish type and impeccably easy to follow, because that's just who she is. Whether it is putting pen to paper when it comes to your grandma's classics, or giving new ideas to a younger sibling, a homemade recipe box is a gift a new cook in your life will cherish.

Bottom Line

This holiday season, make a gift that is extra special and also saves you money. Homemade gifts like individual treats, a recipe box or DIY skincare products are customizable while utilizing things you may already have on hand. With a little time and planning, these gifts will show those in your life you care and bring some joy to close out the year.