Another Turkey Day has come and gone and the Christmas shopping season is in full swing. If you were brave enough and crazy enough to venture out on Thanksgiving night or on Black Friday to do some Christmas shopping, but came up empty handed or with less than what you had bargained for, rethink your gift list and think simple this year.
If you are tired of driving to the mall and dealing with all the crowds at the big box stores, or you're not sure what to get the loved ones left on your Christmas list this year, skip the malls and shop at your local meat market or cheese store or even grocery store for food gifts.
Putting together gift baskets of food can please even the hardest to shop for family members and friends on your list as well as your pocket book.
You could start by visiting a couple resale shops, such as Goodwill or St. Vincent's DePaul, to find some gently used baskets for $2 to $5 each. Buy a variety of shapes and sizes to help you customize each gift. Purchase some crinkled paper confetti and large bows in red or green to help dress up your baskets.
If budget is a concern, decide ahead of time what your spending limit is per basket. Consider how many of your gifts are going to single-person households, to couples and to families. Use the larger baskets for families and your smaller baskets for one-person households. Make a list by household size you are shopping for.
Visit your local meat market. Popular items that most everyone likes to eat are beef sticks or salami. They come in 10-ounce sizes on up to five pounds each. Buy smaller amounts for the single people on your list and larger sizes for families. Shop your local cheese store if there is one near you for cheese, or you can even buy cheese at your local grocery store. You can stick to the popular mild or sharp cheddar in 8-ounce or one-pound packages or go with some specialty cheeses that come in 8-ounce to 1-pound sizes. Tailor your purchases to your loved ones' choices. If you know they don't like spicy foods, stick with cheddar , mozzarella or Colby cheese or fresh cheese curds. But if they prefer spicy or more exotic cheeses, consider pepper jack, blue cheese, soft mozzarella or cheese spreads that come in a variety of flavors. Keep all of your purchases refrigerated.
Fill your baskets. If you still need additional items to complete your baskets, consider buying locally made jams or jellies in a variety of flavors and small boxes of crackers. Store all of the food items in your refrigerator. Assemble your baskets the morning you are delivering them. Keep them in the trunk of your car if you are traveling more than an hour from home so they stay cool.
You may decide to give someone special on your list a half a dozen ribeye steaks or New York Strips. These items can be wrapped individually by your butcher and kept in your freezer or purchased the day before you deliver them. If you really want to keep it simple, buy gift certificates at a meat market or cheese store near your loved ones' home so they can buy exactly what they want.
No matter which option you choose, local gifts of food are gifts that can simplify your Christmas shopping and are sure to please the hardest to shop for people are your list.