Give Some Thought to Food Gifts

Feeding others or providing edible holiday gifts is a long held tradition, and we’re all for it! Giving food gifts—especially homemade ones—is an act that comes from the heart and shows care and consideration. And that’s what you’re going for when you give a food gift, right? Purchased food gifts of high-quality provisions or local specialties are also welcomed by most (I myself love getting those nice boxes of citrus fruit) and the convenience factor for the giver cannot be beat.

When it comes to food gifts, either way you go—homemade or not—there are a few things we suggest keeping in mind as you plan, prepare, or purchase your gift.

Quick Black Bean Mexican Soup

Quick Black Bean Mexican Soup

Three Guiding Stars iconThree Guiding Stars indicate the best nutritional value. Give a recipe with a lot of shelf-stable and long-lasting ingredients in a basket, along with a gift card for more perishable items.

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Think about the practical matters.

Is the food perishable?

Is there a “time limit” on the food you are giving or sending? Not everyone has the time at the holidays to immediately cook or use what you’ve sent, not to mention that if they don’t get to it, your gift may go to waste.

Will the recipient be home to receive the gift?

Food gifts are fun to get if one is home to get it—coming back from vacation or holiday travel to find a soggy, frozen, or otherwise spoiled box of food on the front porch is a big bummer. My sister sent me a big box of this special candy from a Chicago store that I love and I didn’t notice it right away—squirrels got into it and ate/ran away with about half of it—true, sad story!

Does the recipient have to cook the food you’re giving?

Being here in Maine, lots of people like to send fresh lobster to friends around the country. That’s usually a welcome treat for people who don’t get lobster very often, but not everyone wants to or knows how to cook it (or has a pot big enough). Make sure that if you are sending something like this, that you make sure the recipient is on board with the prep and that delivery is coordinated with their schedule.

Consider the dietary matters.

Does the recipient have any dietary restrictions that impact the choice of food gift?

Someone with celiac disease who cannot have gluten-containing foods would be dismayed to receive home-baked goodies that are not made with gluten-free ingredients. Someone with high blood pressure (who may be watching their sodium intake) might not be the best candidate for a gift box of salted nuts and salami. Whenever you send or making a food gift, it’s always considerate to tailor it to the recipient’s dietary needs and restrictions. If you’re not sure, just ask—people would rather get something they can actually enjoy than be surprised with something they can’t eat.

Will the food gift be something the recipient even wants right now?

Lots of folks bemoan the influx of sweets and treats that end up at the office at this time of year, and the same could be said of getting food gifts at home. Some people try very hard to stick to their healthful eating plan during the holiday season—these recipients would not be a good match for a gourmet cookie bouquet or big box of homemade fudge, but they might love getting a fruit basket or a non-food gift instead.

Keep food safety in mind.

I can’t think of a worse food gift than one that causes food poisoning for the recipient!

I’ve received hostess gifts of perishable food (and homemade food gifts sent in the mail) that gave no indication that they needed refrigerating. You never know when the recipient will get around to opening the gift—sometimes it won’t be for a week or more, so follow good advice for safe food gifting. Mail order food gifts typically indicate the perishable nature of the contents on the outside of the box. When you’re giving a homemade food gift that’s perishable, put a little tag on it that indicates it needs refrigerating or is perishable. No gift recipient wants to have to toss out your gift because it’s spoiled or is too risky to consume.

Consider giving healthy DIY food gifts.

Homemade or DIY food gifts don’t have to be cookies or candies—most of us get more than enough of these things over the holidays anyway, right? Check out our easy ideas that will be just as impressive and warmly received as any super-indulgent treats. Knowing your recipient well makes this option much easier to pull off. Get creative and remember that presentation is a big part of gifts, too!