Low-Stress Holidays: The Art of the Gift Basket

published Dec 1, 2017
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Growing up, I remember the time leading up to Christmas being weeks that my mother had the makings of her annual gift baskets strewn throughout our infrequently used formal dining room. Baskets or buckets, Carrs crackers, pepper jellies, candied pecans were a few of the items. Oh, and rolls and rolls of cellophane and ribbon. Our dining room became her own little elf workshop where she carefully put together anywhere from 10-50 gifts for the people in her life – co-workers, teachers, neighbors, and distant relatives who might unexpectedly drop by for a holiday visit.

While I personally couldn’t stand the look of cellophane and curled ribbons (I know, what 10-year-old isn’t into curled ribbons?), I did appreciate the attention she put into making the perfect gift basket. It is, in fact, an art.

If you’ve turned your nose up at gift baskets in the past, I’m with you. They can be tacky, impersonal, and sometimes just full of, how shall I say, crap. But knowing how much time and effort my mother put into creating the perfect assortment, it might just be the way to go this holiday season – especially if you’re gifting to the masses.

Follow these simple guidelines for the best gift basket:

  1. Pick a theme. Having a game plan helps guide you in all your purchases. Think themes like A Cozy Night At Home, Family Game Night, Gifts for Hosting, or End-of-Semester Teacher Survival Kit to get you on the right track.
  2. Start with a good container. Pick something that can easily be reused or repurposed. And by all means, don’t just go for a brown basket! (See our favorite picks below.)
  3. Stick to coordinating colors, when possible. This might even mean re-packaging some things.
  4. Include some edibles. I’m not talking about oranges and pears. Edibles are a great affordable filler, but do note your recipients’ allergies and aversions. Nothing says “I don’t care” more than gifting a jar of nuts to a person with a nut allergy. If you’re not sure, it’s good to avoid nuts & dairy, unless they’re individually wrapped/sealed.
  5. Go for the fancy(ish) candle. Don’t want to spend a ton? Wait for them to go on sale, buy in sets of 3, purchase minis, or make your own. Don’t you dare go to the Yankee Candle Store…
  6. Buy in bulk. Again, you don’t need every gift basket to look the exact same – part of the recipe is to make sure the gifts feel somewhat personal. But when it comes to containers and other staples, try buying in bulk or in sets that can be divvied up.
  7. When in doubt, add some booze. Most people will never refuse a nice bottle of wine, gin or bourbon. Throw in some extra fixings too! Of course, do not gift your alcoholic or anti-drinking friend a bottle of booze. And if cost is an issue, grab a few minis from the local liquor store.
  8. Don’t monogram anything, ever. Why? So if they do happen to hate it, they can return or regift it. I know monogramming may seem like a great way to make a generic gift basket feel more personal, but there are plenty of better ideas for that.
  9. Take off price tags. Yes, Marshalls and TJMaxx are great places to find discounted items for your baskets, but for the love of all things good, please remove the price stickers! No one needs to know you only spent $1 on a box of “gourmet tea.”
  10. If you can avoid it, don’t wrap in cellophane (sorry Mom). Nothing says “I love making gift baskets and knitting things nobody wants” more than a brown basket wrapped in noisy cellophane. Consider wrapping in tissue paper, fabric, or simply tieing a ribbon on the handles instead. Now excuse me while I try to forget the years of crinkling cellophane from my holiday memories…

Get started with some of our favorite basket picks:

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Round Copper Basket , World Market; $5.59 (Image credit: World Market)

And if I still haven’t convinced you to try out the art of gift-baskets this year, check out some of our favorite DIY Holiday Gifts That Look Luxe.