From the Heart: Homemade Food Gifts That Speak Volumes

10 min read

Are you searching for a gift that conveys warmth, thoughtfulness, and a personal touch, while nourishing the recipient and being kind to the planet? Look no further than your own kitchen! Homemade food gifts are a delightful way to show someone you care. Here’s how to find recipes, prepare them safely and efficiently, and package them beautifully and sustainably.

According to Good Housekeeping magazine, three of the most popular holiday gifts include a set of fishing tackle for catching largemouth and smallmouth bass (for men), a waffle knit pajama set with long sleeves and short pants (for women), and a piece of molded plastic called a Bilibo, which according to the manufacturer’s description can serve as “a turtle shell, a sand scooper,… a rescue helmet,… a cradle for dolls,” depending on the recipient’s imagination.

If none of these seem like the perfect gift for the special people in your life, and you’re thinking of maybe even staying away from mass-produced items entirely, here’s another suggestion: Give the gift of homemade food.

Everybody eats. And while there are lots of delicious items you can buy in stores, there’s really nothing that compares to food made with love and care. And it’s even better when that food was created with you in mind.

Now, let’s put the oven mitt on the other hand and consider how cool it would be for you to make delicious homemade treats for the special people on your “nice” list. Whether for holidays, birthdays, or — my personal favorite reason for gift giving — “just because,”  there’s a unique joy in both giving and receiving something homemade, especially when it’s edible!

Unlike mass-produced food items, food gifts are not just about what’s inside the package but also about the love, effort, and care that you pour into the final product.

In this article, we’ll explore the art of giving homemade food gifts with seven delicious recipes that you can easily give any time of year. And in keeping with our mission here at Food Revolution Network, they all pass our triple test of “healthy, ethical, and sustainable” — in addition to being totally delicious and festive!

Why Homemade Food Makes a Great Gift

Glass jars with different kind of jam and berries on wooden background.

Gifting something homemade rather than store-bought is great for you, the recipient, and the planet.

1. Save Money on Gifts

For one thing, you can save money by making gifts in bulk for multiple recipients. For example, the toasted spice blend recipe below includes sunflower and sesame seeds, as well as small amounts of several spices. You might pay up to $15 for just one spice blend from the store — or you can spend $20 on ingredients and get up to a dozen homemade batches that you can gift to others.

2. Reduce Plastic Waste

The planet benefits when you avoid the plastic waste that often serves as packaging for store-bought food and gifts. (I hereby declare that you get bonus points for gifting the food in a reusable container like these stainless steel food storage containers or even wide mouth mason jars.

3. Practical and Useable

The recipient of a food gift gets something usable and delicious, and, if you’ve done your homework, something they actually want. And — since it’s made with your love — they’ll get something unique. You and your recipient will also know the item was made and given with love (and received with love), which can strengthen and enrich your connection.

4. Controlled Ingredients

Speaking of homework, I’d recommend finding out about your recipients’ taste preferences, dietary restrictions, and allergies, so you can tailor your homemade food gifts to each person. Not only does this ensure a personal touch that store-bought gifts often lack, but it can also avoid the unfortunate situation where your holiday nut brittle sends your favorite aunt to the emergency room in anaphylactic shock.

Even without allergies to think about, when you make food gifts yourself, you get to control the ingredients. You can choose high-quality, whole-food ingredients without any refined sugar or questionable additives.

5. It’s Fun!

Homemade food gifting can also be fun for kids and adults, both as givers and receivers. Let your creativity go wild and create something you’re proud of!

Tips for Choosing a Food to Gift

When choosing a food item to gift, do so with the recipient’s likes and dislikes in mind. The easiest way to gather this information is also the most straightforward: Ask them.

A high-probability strategy to avoid seriously bad outcomes — especially if kids are involved — is to make something that does not contain any of the nine major allergens (milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, soy, and sesame seeds). If you stick to 100% plant-based treats, you automatically avoid four of them, so you just have to be cognizant of the nuts and seeds, wheat, and soy.

As I mentioned earlier, one of the benefits of food gifting is the chance to cook in bulk, saving both time and money. If you’re unfamiliar with the practice of batch cooking, our meal prep guide has you covered.

Since you’re not FedEx, you may also want to consider making food gifts that are small or at least portable and easy to transport. If you’re going to gift wrap them, think about a form that’s easy to wrap, or at least to stick a bow on.

Some ideas of small and conveniently transported food gifts include the following:

  • Baked goods
  • Homemade canned goods, quick pickles, preserves, etc. (here’s where mason jars come in very handy)
  • Dried herbs, spice mixes, and loose-leaf teas (also a good use of mason jars — look for fancy ones often sold as wedding favors for that extra dash of class)
  • Spiced nuts and seeds or granola
  • Fire cider or kombucha
  • Sauces, soups, dressings, spreads (and DIY kits to make them)
  • Fruits, vegetables, and herbs from your garden

Unless you know that your recipient will want to consume the gift right away, it’s typically more convenient for them if the food is shelf-stable and doesn’t require refrigeration.

Alternatively, you can always gift a coupon for an item that the recipient can redeem at your mutual convenience (and you can have fun and use all your artistic creativity creating the coupon).

Where to Get Food Gift Ideas From

Young women reading recipe for meal, preparing food

To get ideas for food gifts, peruse your favorite cookbooks, or think about cherished family recipes. At the risk of immodesty, this feels like a good time to mention the very first Food Revolution Network hardcover recipe book, Real Superfoods: Everyday Ingredients to Elevate Your Health.

Some of the recipes in that book that might qualify as excellent gifts include Golden Glow Lemonade (an awesome and delicious healing tonic), Crispy Miso Onion Chickpeas, Super Seedy Granola (seedy in a good way, I assure you), Velvety Chocolate Berry Dessert Cups (yes, healthy, although your recipient may not believe it after taking a bite), and Sublime Sweet Potato Mini Drop Biscuits. To whet your appetite, I’ve included two giftalicious recipes from Real Superfoods below: Sweet and Savory Spiced Pecans and FRN’s Fuel the Fire Cider.

You can also find candidates for food gifts in many other wonderful health-focused, plant-based cookbooks that we love. Check out the cookbook roundup on our blog for additional inspiration.

Practice Food Safety

Since you probably aren’t going to be preparing these food gifts in a commercial kitchen that has to undergo regular safety inspections, it’s really important that you practice fundamental food safety protocols. You do not want to share a side of salmonella with that jam because you did a slapdash job of washing a cutting board.

For kicks, let’s take a minute to review the basics:

  1. Keep things clean: wash your hands and food prep surfaces often.
  2. Separate: don’t cross-contaminate. Don’t chop veggies, for example, on a cutting board where you prepared a block of tofu (or meat if you eat it).
  3. Cook: heat all foods to proper temperatures to kill any pathogens, checking with a food thermometer to be on the safe side.
  4. Chill: refrigerate promptly to prevent bacteria from colonizing foods left for too long at room temperature.

If you will be canning items, be sure to also follow recommended food preservation guidelines to prevent spoilage.

What to Store or Wrap Your Gift In

While the food inside is the main attraction, the food gift packaging can also add fun, sparkle, and class to the experience. You won’t care how great your friend’s homemade applesauce is if they just ladle a pint of it into your lap — which I realize is an extreme example. But this is what my mind sometimes does when I’m a bit hungry while writing about food.

As we’ve seen, another great thing about homemade food gifts is the opportunity for sustainable or zero-waste packaging. And you can decorate this packaging with love and the help of your cleverness and creativity.

Mason jars — and here are a pair of very fancy ones that just scream “vintage” — or upcycled glass containers work well because they’re see-through, so a beautiful spice mix or granola can serve as its own decoration. You can also paint on the glass, or adorn it with ribbons (which I realized just moments ago is an anagram of my last name) and other accents.

You can wrap baked goods in a classy tea towel, a pretty fabric scrap left over from a project, or a reusable food wrap. Then you can deliver them in a basket, tin, or decorated produce bag.

Cereals and mixes can go in reusable silicone bags, which themselves make lovely and thoughtful gifts for someone who likes cooking. If you enjoy secondhand shops and garage sales, you might be able to amass a collection of vintage cookware that would make excellent containers for your homemade food gifts.

Recipes to Give as Food Gifts

Giving can be just as fun as receiving, especially when you tap into your creative talents as an expression of thoughtfulness, care, and gratitude. Giving the gift of scrumptious food not only provides an exciting and rewarding experience for you, it makes sharing delicious plant-based foods even more fun. We hope you enjoy creating and giving these wholesome gifts from the heart with the help of these nourishing recipes!

1. FRN’s Fuel the Fire Cider

FRN’s Fuel the Fire Cider food gift idea

Give the gift of warmth this holiday season with Food Revolution’s Fire Cider. Warming and immune-supporting ginger, turmeric, onion, garlic, and horseradish root create an invigorating, nourishing, and healing tonic that is the perfect gift to give those who could use a little plant magic. What’s more, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. When the vinegar runs out, simply refill and steep again!

2. Toasted Spice Blend

Toasted Spice Blend

Creating your own homemade spice blend as a gift is a thoughtful and tasty way to express your love and appreciation any time of year. This easy-to-make blend is bursting with flavor from the variety of healthy seeds and spices and can transform any meh meal into a fantastic one in a snap. Plus, it’s guaranteed to put a huge smile on the receiver’s face!

3. Pickled Beets

Pickled Beets food gift idea

Vibrant jewel-colored beets set the tone for a merry and bright gift that is as delicious as it is festive! These sweet and tangy beauties are quick to make and don’t require complicated canning. Just stick them in the fridge overnight and enjoy! Pickled beets are an affordable, sustainable, and unique gift that the receiver can enjoy again and again on their own or as an ingredient in a variety of plant-based recipes.

4. Sweet and Savory Pecans

Sweet and Savory Pecans giftable food

When giving the gift of Sweet and Savory Pecans, be prepared for many thank-yous and compliments. What may seem like a rather complex and elegant gift actually couldn’t be more simple to create. These easy-to-make pecans are perfectly sweet, a little savory, and plenty crunchy. To gift them, add them to a mason jar, reusable box, or storage container. In fact, you may spend more time considering how you’d like to present the gift than making the gift itself!

Editor’s Note: Obviously, this is not a recipe for those with nut allergies. If you or your recipient is allergic to nuts, you could make a variation of this with sunflower and pumpkin seeds or try our Super Seedy Granola instead.

5. Balsamic Fig Jam

Balsamic Fig Jam giftable food

This jam is sweet, savory, and just a little bit tangy. A delightful fusion of caramel figs, tart-yet-sweet balsamic, and minty thyme, Balsamic Fig Jam makes a great hostess gift to bring to your next gathering or to contribute to a celebratory vegan charcuterie board! We highly encourage you to whip up a few batches to gift to those on your list who love a sweet and sentimental gift made from whole fruit.

6. Crispy Rosemary Cracker Thins

Crispy Rosemary Cracker Thins

Cracker-making in your own kitchen?! It’s not only a fun activity for you and your family to do together, but it can also make gift-giving even more exciting! These homemade crispy cracker thins are a simple way to express your thoughtfulness and care. Best of all there are no natural or artificial flavorings needed. Thanks to the addition of rosemary, you’re left with a festive and delightfully herby flavor that’s perfect for the gift-giving season!

7. Pecan Cranberry Snowball Cookies

Pecan Cranberry Snowball Cookies gift

Show your appreciation to friends, family, and neighbors this year with the gift of these tasty snowball cookies. You can gift them in a recyclable container or large mason jar. And don’t forget to include a handwritten note about how much you appreciate them (the recipient, that is, not the cookies). Once they try these snowballs, however, they’ll likely send some appreciation right back to you. (P.S. Double the batch so you have some to keep for yourself!)

Editor’s Note: For a nut-free version of this recipe, replace the almond meal with another cup of oat flour and use seeds in place of the pecans.

The Gift of Food Is the Gift of Health

Homemade gifts can be incredibly special both for the giver and receiver. And food, in particular, makes a great gift. You know it’ll get used, and it won’t take up space the way many consumer goods do.

There are many different ways to give food as a gift. But you can start by unleashing your creativity in the kitchen. And then keep that creativity going by using reusable or upcycled items for packaging and containers. Because with homemade food gifts, you’re also giving a piece of your heart, time, and effort, which is a beautiful way to express your love and care for the recipient.

Tell us in the comments:

  • Have you ever received a homemade food gift? What was your favorite thing about the experience?
  • What are some dishes you make that might make great gifts?
  • Who are three people you can think of who would be grateful recipients of the gift of homemade food?

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