What's your favorite way to show someone you appreciate them or you care about them?
For me, it's pretty much always food. No matter how “creative” I get, whenever I dream up a gift for someone, it's pretty much always related to food in some way. Food is my heart language, you could say.
So when there are so many people in my family's life to whom I want to give a simple, precious gift to say, “YOU are loved!” or “I appreciate you” or “Thank you for what you do for our community” during this festive season, the gifts to which I tend to gravitate… yup, food.
Are you at all like me?
The problem is, while a plate of our most nourishing cookies or a jar of candied nuts can certainly express our appreciation, there is a deeper, more meaningful way to give food gifts as well. Think of our food as ministry, as a specific way to touch a need in the recipient's life. (By the way, don't miss the series Lindsey wrote earlier this year on Food as Ministry — here's Part 1 and Part 2. They're excellent.)
Thus, I thought I'd gather a list of a few ideas for real food gifts that specifically provide for a need or hearken to a greater gift than just the gift itself. These gifts are a thoughtful ministry to honor and care for the deeper physical and emotional needs of our friends and neighbors.
For example, as lovely as homemade cake mixes look when they're stacked in a jar, a person generally doesn't have a need for more cake in their life. (However delicious it may be.) However, a tea blend they can savor while they unfurl at the end of a long day during a busy season of life or a herbal tisane to be sipped the next time they have a cold provides a gift at holiday time that continues to be a gift long after the item has exchanged hands.
Now, some of these are food items, such as jams, curds, and fruit butters. These do indeed hearken to a deeper care because — unlike cookies or my favorite candied nuts — they're not just treats to be munched in the holiday season, but they're meant to be enjoyed year-round. The intentionality of that is palpable. They're typically handcrafted, usually nourishing, and they certainly communicate oodles of love and thoughtfulness. I know I smile each time I open a jar of something delicious and remember the person who lovingly made it and passed on a jar to our family.
And of course, the real key here is to keep the person you're honoring in mind. The best gifts are when you provide a gift that meets a true need in that specific person's life — major or minor alike — and share it with great warmth.
And don't forget that the packaging can make the gift feel extra-special. I'm NOT crafty whatsoever and Christy's article on wrapping and packaging food gifts last year really inspired me — and taught me several new tricks!
Please note that I am not denigrating the lovely gifts of cookies and other treats that so many of us make this time of year. I merely want to encourage each of us to take the opportunity to meet a need in another person's life while also telling them how much we appreciate them. Give whatever comes from your heart!
Here are just a few ideas to get you started.
Homemade, Real Food Gift Ideas
1. Homemade vanilla extract (This lovely homemade vanilla extract comes from Wardee and it's absolutely beautiful. If you're interested in other flavors, I've included instructions for how to make chocolate, coffee, mint, lemon, and other extracts in my book, The DIY Pantry, as well. Basically, just stuff a jar full of mint leaves, coffee beans, or the ingredients for whichever flavor you'd like to make, pour vodka over, and let it sit for 3-9 months in a cool, dark place.)
2. A basket of homemade spice mixes (use small bottles or this may become a very expensive project if you're making multiple batches!)
12. A popcorn lover's basket: Include unpopped popcorn, homemade popcorn oil (made by melting together sustainably-harvested red palm oil and coconut oil in a 1:3 ratio — store in a small mason jar and use 1 tablespoon per half cup of popcorn kernels), and a few seasonings
14. Bring a meal or groceries to families or individuals who need extra support this season. If you have the means (and time), perhaps even consider making a week's worth of meals for a senior who's snowed in, a newly single mom, or someone who's especially feeling the weight of life this year.
What would you add? What have you received that blessed you deeply?
Many blessings to you and your family as you celebrate this holy season! Please share in the comments below what food-related gifts YOU most like to share.
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