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Holiday season is fast approaching! I am not one to play Christmas music before December, but I do enjoy the opportunity to give gifts to others!

Here’s the thing though: I hate Christmas shopping. It’s way too busy, advertising and sales associates are working their hardest to make you impulse buy, and the flood of returns after Christmas indicates to me that most people receive gifts that are either useless, meaningless, or both. Hence, my gift-giving philosophy:

  1. Never give a gift out of obligation. Obligation makes it a payment, not a genuine gift.
  2. If I find something that I immediately know would be loved by someone else, I am going to give it to them regardless of special occasions. Gift-giving can be spontaneous, y’all! It doesn’t have to be centered around birthdays and holidays!
  3. It doesn’t have to be expensive.

I’ve been in a crafting mood lately – today I baked dozens of cookies while waiting for my order of soapmaking supplies to arrive – and I would love to give homemade gifts this year. But no one needs more crocheted potholders, kitschy picture frames, or painted mason jars! So what sort of things could I make?

gift-ideas

One of my friends shared with me a few years ago that her family generally gives consumables or experiences, not stuff that sits around collecting dust. I think that is a great idea! I’ve been researching (read: aggressively browsing Pinterest) for homemade consumable ideas, and here are some of my favorites:

Personal Care

Lotion Bars

This was the project that inspired me to write this post! My hands are getting sooo dry with the winter weather in eastern WA, so when I came across lotion bars on Pinterest I immediately thought it would be more convenient to carry lotion around in an empty mint tin. (Ever had a tube of lotion leak in your purse? It ain’t pretty.) An added bonus is that I have control over the ingredients, so I can use whatever essentials oils I like to add scent. Since there is no water in them, they have a long shelf life of about 6-12 months (you could store them in the fridge if you’re really concerned).

I ordered my supplies from Bulk Apothecary and followed FoodFunFamily’s recipe of 1/4 c beeswax, 1/4 c shea butter, and 3 Tbsp of coconut oil. The bars are very nourishing but felt a little too melty for my taste…so as I write this I’m melting the bars back down again to add a little more beeswax.

(That’s not an affiliate link BTW…I ordered from Bulk Apothecary because the same supplies I found through someone else’s Amazon link were way more expensive. Think $6/lb vs $12/lb for shea butter. And I checked a health food store to see if I could buy shea butter in bulk without packaging…it was $17.99/lb!)

Handy tutorials (the ones I’m referencing, anyways) can be found here and here. The one blog says it cost only about $0.31 per bar, but I did my own calculations with the Bulk Apothecary prices and it came out to $0.19 per bar! So this is also quite economical.

Beard Balm

This is great to make along with lotion bars, since it uses the same basic ingredients in different proportions. As an added bonus, you can add a few drops of a nice smelling essential oil – my husband has requested pine for his beard balm, but other good options would be cedar and sandalwood!

Tutorial here.

Soap

You don’t even have to actually make the soap from scratch, you can just order melt-and-pour blocks, add scents and colors, and pour them in a soap mold. According to this tutorial, goat’s milk soap has quite a few potential benefits to explore. My only caveat is read the ingredients, as most of the “goat’s milk soap” I looked at was actually a detergent-based soap goat milk added in (sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate are the typical detergents) than a genuine soap (oil + sodium hydroxide). I’m still waiting for my order of soap to arrive, but the best price I found is from Bramble Berry. A regular bar of soap is around 4 oz, so at $3.30/lb that’s $0.82 per bar of soap. You can add a few cents for the cost of any dyes or great-smelling fragrances, but that’s still really inexpensive for soap!

(…I wonder how much money I’d save if I just bought soap in bulk and scented it at home?)

Tie a pretty ribbon around it or wrap it in nice paper and you have a gift you can give to both ladies and gents!

Microwaveable Heat Packs

I grew up with an electric heating pad, but sometimes those get way too hot! And my chiropractor told me that if you use those, you should alternate between hot and cool on the area you’re using, to promote better circulation. I just want something that’ll help me stay cozy, not overheat.

Microwaveable heat packs are pretty easy to make. In its most basic form, you sew a rectangle pouch and fill it with rice. You can throw in a few drops of a relaxing essential oil if you like. If you are very skilled, you can sew other things too – at one craft fair I once saw a stuffed animal that was filled with rice, so that it could keep children warm on winter nights.

This isn’t really a consumable gift, but I think a pair of handwarmers for a loved one’s coat pockets would be a perfect Christmas gift to make.

You don’t even have to click through the full tutorial here, since (I think) the cover photo is pretty self-explanatory.

Shower Disks

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never filled up the tub for a bath. Maybe I’m missing out, but because of my preference for showers, I don’t use bath bombs. Who says a shower can’t be just as nicely scented, though? For all your shower-loving friends, here is a gift they don’t need a bathtub for. Even if you’re not crafty, it’s super easy to make. Easier than pancakes.

Tutorial here.

Yummy Treats

Homemade Treats

Got a signature baked good or two? Why not make a few dozen and put them in gift tins for friends? There are so many possibilities for different cookies, as well as presentation ideas. If you’re a baker, this is a great idea to share your talents.

If chocolate is more of your thing, you can also make a variety of chocolate-covered confections, or melt chocolate and put them in cute molds (like the soap idea above). More adventurous confectioners can also add a dash of peppermint essential oil or orange essential oil (essential oils are less finicky to work into chocolate than extracts, IMO) for some flavor.

If you are good at allergen-free baking, this can also be a wonderful gift for gluten-free, dairy-free, and other-free friends who otherwise have to miss out on holiday treats.

No tutorial link needed! Pinterest has a lot of great presentation ideas though.

DIY Extracts

Extracts are helpful to have on hand in any kitchen, and are pretty easy to make. Just put your extract object (e.g. mint leaves, or vanilla beans, or citrus zest) into a bottle, fill it with vodka, and let it age for a few weeks. Add some nice packaging and you’ve got a gift set for your culinary friends.

Tutorial here.

Treat Kits

Put your favorite recipe’s dry ingredients in a jar, add instructions for what wet ingredients to mix in, and baking instructions. Presto! You can do this for cookies, brownies, and cakes.

Here’s a tutorial for chocolate mug cake mix in a jar, and another for ice cream sundaes.

Herb Butter

Ohhhh this sounds so yummy! And perfect for that friend who loves to entertain and/or eat fresh homemade bread! Typically they use savory herbs, but sweeter flavors are an option too (honey butter on an English muffin, anyone?).

Excellent tutorial with 3 recipes and pretty pictures here!

Some Other Ideas

Toilet Cleaning Bombs

Confession: I hate cleaning toilets. I was never taught how to while growing up, so I usually convince my husband to take care of it. However, this week he was away at a work conference, so I had to tackle the job myself.

Afterwards, I came across a recipe on Pinterest for toilet bombs. The author wrote that they allowed her mess-free and hands-free toilet cleaning – just drop one in and let it fizz! I wish I’d found this earlier this week!

Cleaning supplies are kind of an odd gift to give, but hands-free toilet cleaning sounds pretty awesome to me. This is also a good gift idea for a friend who is looking for ways to green up/simplify the cleaning of their home, or as part of a cleaning kit for a friend who has recently moved.

Personalized Scrapbook/Memory Book

After our first year of dating, I made an accordion-style scrapbook for Sean and filled it with a timeline of memories from the two years we had known each other, including things like quotes from my journal. He kept it, along with every single little note I gave him ever (including a candygram from high school, the candy cane still intact) in a large yellow envelope and took it with him to college.

Memory books are definitely a sweet gift to give to friends, especially if one of you will be moving or if your stages of life just make it tricky to get together as often as you did in high school or college.

Time

If you are one of those lucky few people with a flexible schedule, one of the most valuable gifts you can give is your time. It might be in the form of babysitting so some friends/relatives can go out for an evening, or it might be as simple as telling a friend with depression or anxiety that they can call you at any hour of the day or night if they need someone to talk to.

One of the most memorable ‘time’ gifts I was offered as a teen was from a youth leader at my church: if any of us were ever out too late at night and not able to get home safely (and calling our parents wasn’t desirable or a possibility), we could call the youth leader and they would come take us home, no questions asked. This was offered to us because the youth leader in question had recently lost a young relative who was being driven home from a party by an inebriated teenager. The driver crashed and the passengers were killed.

Quality time is often a gift that speaks louder than tangible things. Don’t underestimate the value of your time to others.

What have been some unique gifts you’ve given or received? Any favorite things you like to make?

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