Real Food Tips: 12 Homemade Holiday Gifts (that aren’t cookies!)

Admit it. When you think of “making” or “baking” some type of holiday gift you think of cookies. Or maybe candy. No matter what it is I guarantee it’s full of sugar, and collectively there’s just too much of that going around this time of year (in my opinion)! I personally think there are many other little holiday gift ideas that are more exciting – and more original – than cookies, and since I like to play by my own rules here’s some of what I will be giving out this year…

  1. Homemade Vanilla Extract

One of my favorite things about this gift (other than how cute the bottles are!) is that you can make them in advance. In fact – this is a gift that will actually get better with time, which is quite the opposite of a lot of other homemade goodies. Simply slit two vanilla beans down the middle, drop them into 375 ml of vodka (I used the red Smirnoff) and within a few weeks you will have infused pure vanilla extract that someone can use in all sorts of recipes like granola, pumpkin bread, French toast, and oatmeal. And save some money by ordering your vanilla beans online instead of buying them at the grocery store! Amazon is cheaper for large quantities, but reviews are mixed. We get ours from J. Crow’s Marketplace.

  1. Assorted Whole-Grain Muffins

I adore all those cute treat boxes this time of year, and the ones pictured below from Michael’s Craft Store (that I purchased with a 40% off coupon) are no exception. But just because they are “treat” boxes doesn’t mean you have to fill them with cookies, sweets, and cupcakes…try thinking “out of the box” instead! Okay, kidding. There’s nothing like a cheesy joke to lighten the day. :) Anyway, pictured is an assortment of whole-grain pumpkin, zucchini, corn bread, and blueberry muffins or you could also add some banana nut or cinnamon raisin muffins to the mix as well. As far as I am concerned you can’t go wrong! (Hint: Make your muffins in advance, and store them in the freezer until gift-giving time.)

  1. Seasoning Mixes

Whether it’s a meat rub for chicken or pork or a spice mixture for homemade ranch dip (or all three!) this could be yet another unique holiday present. Craft stores like Michael’s and A.C. Moore sell cute little containers and jars – meant for wedding favors – and with one of their weekly 40% or 50% off coupons it could be a rather affordable gift idea as well. Attach a recipe card detailing how to use the spice mixes and you end up with another creative gift idea!

  1. Homemade Granola Cereal or Granola Bars

This is what we eat (and love) for breakfast almost every single day so I can’t think of a better reason to share it with others. You could give the granola cereal version in a jar or gift bag or make some granola bars with dried fruit and put them in little treat boxes (which is what I gave out last year). Don’t forget a little recipe card to go along with it because you know you’ll leave them wanting more!

  1. Homemade Bread

If you make your own bread either in the oven or in a bread maker you have an advantage because that’s just one more very thoughtful and tasty holiday gift you can offer. Whether you want to make the standard Honey Whole-Wheat Sandwich Bread or a Cinnamon Raisin Loaf I can’t imagine anyone being disappointed. I’ve actually given out loaves of bread as “thank you” gifts before, and they were very well received!

  1. Glazed/Candied Nuts and Popcorn Mixes

This Cinnamon Glazed Popcorn recipe is easy to make and a crowd pleaser. I also have a standard glazed pecan recipe that we love, but don’t be afraid to mix it up by adding extra pepper or even making something with a stronger flavor like Thai Curry Cashews. You could also add in extras like plain popcorn, pumpkin seeds, dried fruit, or unsweetened coconut to make more of a spiced trail mix. The possibilities are endless!

  1. Homemade Whole-Grain Pasta

If you have a pasta machine (like me!) then don’t be shy because just about anybody would love to get some fresh, homemade whole-grain pasta as a gift. You could pair it with a jar of organic and/or local tomato sauce and block of good Parmigiano Reggiano cheese if you really want to get fancy. It would make a very nice – and memorable – holiday gift.

  1. Home Canned Goods

I personally have never canned anything (it’s on my to-do list!), but if your pantry is stocked with homemade pickles, salsa or whatever else you were busy making this summer then wrap a red bow around it and call it a day!

  1. Frozen Meals/Soups

I do happen to have a lot of homemade soups in my freezer (in both small and large jars), and if you were giving a gift to someone that could refrigerate or freeze it again right away I think this so-called “meal in a jar” would be very much appreciated. Even a cold soup (or assortment of soups in small jars) that had not yet been frozen would be nice to offer as well. Think of those teachers that have to try to avoid the lunch line every single day!

  1. Meals in a Jar

Rather than giving someone premade soups you could also create a jar full of pretty layered dried beans and spices along with a recipe card for making homemade soup. Also, I saw a picture on pinterest where someone made their meals at the beginning of the week in attractive layers in big clear glass jars (would love for someone to do that for me!). Once again if you are giving a gift to someone that could keep things cold this could be a very unique and useful idea.

  1. Dried Fruit or Beef Jerky

If you have a dehydrator or know how to make your own beef jerky or dried fruit (cinnamon spiced apple chips, anyone?) in your oven this could also be packaged up in cute little bags and given as a holiday gift. I might have to experiment with this idea myself for next year!

  1. Advent Calendars

This is a little off-topic since it isn’t a gift you give to others, but it actually is sort of a “gift” you give to your children as you count down to Christmas. I’m sure we’ve all seen those pre-filled advent calendars with a piece of candy or chocolate for each day, and two years ago I followed suit by filling my own little advent house with everything from skittles to M&Ms to gum, etc. Well, last year was our first holiday season since our switch to real food so I was racing all around town looking for little gadgets, figures, and toys that were small enough to fit in the little doors of our advent calendar. It ended up being a bunch of plastic junk that the girls quickly lost interest in…or actually just “lost” because they were all so small! So this year I’ve been inspired by an idea from This Lunch Rox to turn our advent house into a “giving house.” She created a gorgeous little “giving jar” with some amazing ideas, and since I don’t want to over commit our already busy family we are going to do a scaled down version of her brilliant idea! I am going to get a set of blank business cards from the office store and write little suggestions on them that my daughters can do each day on their own. Some examples might be writing a nice letter to their teacher, making holiday cards for children who are ill, writing a letter to a soldier overseas, or even giving extra hugs or compliments to others that day. I figure those little cards will fold up and fit in the doors of our new “giving house” nicely, and if I intertwine them with a few fun gadgets (similar to last year) it will hopefully be a smooth transition!


If you have any other “real food” homemade gift ideas please leave them in the comments below!

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283 thoughts on “Real Food Tips: 12 Homemade Holiday Gifts (that aren’t cookies!)”

  1. Thanks for the ideas! I made a big batch of vanilla extract this morning. I’m super excited to use them as homemade, unique and totally usable hostess gifts this holiday season. I ordered organic vanilla beans from They arrived quickly and were pliable, sticky and smelled heavenly. I looked for organic vodka but apparently there are only one or two brands, none of which are available in my area (having them shipped was crazy expensive) so no luck on that. BUT I did do a little Googling and learned that Absolute vodka is GMO free because it’s made in Sweden where GMOs are not allowed. And as a bonus, my house smelled insanely good all day after after slicing up the beans! Thanks again! Love!!

  2. Hi Amy,
    I am wondering about the size of the bottles – I have found 4oz. bottles that look like this, but 375ml would require a 12oz. bottle. Do you have a link to the bottles or approximate size dimensions?
    Thanks so much – love this idea and can’t wait to get started.

  3. Hi! Love this idea and just placed my order… question… does this have an expiry date or is it safe to consume for long after? Thanks.

  4. I have been making my own vanilla for years. I slit, mash the beans and toss the entire Madagascar vanilla bean stalk (5 or 6 stalks) into a bottle of cheap vodka (a half gallon) and let it sit in a cool, dark place for at least three months. After three months I then strain some of the vodka through a piece of cheesecloth. The rest I leave in the bottle with the vanilla beans until I need more.

  5. You’re vanilla recipe requires 2 bean pods per 375ml of vodka (approx. 12.75 oz). Other recipes I’ve seen require 3 pods per 8 oz. Will your recipe need to soak longer or will it be weaker in flavor?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Maria. I am not sure about other recipes. This is the recipe that Lisa uses and allows them to steep for a few to several weeks. She also does not remove the seed pods. ~Amy

  6. I have been using an advent house for 4 years now…each day I put a different family activity in the door. Examples are: inside tent camp-out, scavenger hunt, game night, ice-skating etc. the kids love it and look forward to it every year – especially the tent!!

  7. About the vanilla extract- do you leave the beans in the bottle until you run out of extract or should you remove them after a certain amount of time? Also, while infusing do these bottles sit on the counter or need to be in a dark cabinet? Finally, does something happen to the alcohol content or am I essentially gifting vanilla flavored vodka? Not that that’s a problem, just asking…

    1. I’ve had the same bottle of vodka & beans for a few years now. I just add vodka and more bean pods from time to time (maybe a handful of times a year?).

  8. I also have questions about the vanilla extract- 2 beans for each 375 ml of vodka, correct? And do you leave the beans in there to continue fermenting after the 2 weeks? If they should be taken out, to the beans need to be scraped at all>? thanks so much!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Shawna. We haven’t but apparently our readers have tried other forms of alcohol with much success! ~Amy

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi there. That would completely depend on the size of the jars/bottles you are filling. And yes, it is two vanilla beans split in half (so you have four pieces) in a 375ml vodka bottle. ~Amy

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Christina. I think that would be up to you. A couple readers suggested spiced rum. Each different alcohol would infuse a somewhat different flavor. ~Amy

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Camille. This is a rough guess as the sizes will vary. But, I would say 2 large beans are 2-3 ounces. ~Amy

  9. I’m making homemade cleaners for friends this year. I don’t like using harsh chemicals around my apartment, so I make a lot of my own cleaners. Friends have expressed interest in this, so I thought I’d give them as gifts this year. Good plastic spray bottles are available for cheap on Amazon, and vinegar based cleaning recipes will be filling them! Put a cute label on the bottle, and a bow around the neck, and it is a super cute/practical gift.

  10. Another candy-free advent idea we did last year is to wrap up a bunch of short children’s books individually and each day let them pick one to open and then snuggle with them and read it!

  11. Since my daughter was diagnosed Type 1 diabetic four years ago we stopped getting Advent calendars with candy in them. One year we hung a string of miniature stockings with the days counting down (found them at a craft store) and filled each one with something different. We had three young kids at the time so some days was a Bible verse picked for each of them, or a small gift (miniature decks of playing cards etc that we found at the dollar store in multi packs, or we simply put a dollar for each kid in a couple of stockings. Then I discovered that they make advent calendars with some of our kids favorite toys. Littlest Pet Shop, Barbie and Hot Wheels have been some in the past. This year the youngest (the diabetic one) is twelve and the others are much older, so we are down to one advent calendar and I splurged on a Lego Friends calendar that will be given as a birthday present (her birthday is Dec 1st!) due to the expense. We encourage the older ones to create their own advent calendars after Thanksgiving. Thanks for the DIY ideas for gifting. Working with a budget can be very difficult come the holidays and almost all of our gifts will be DIY. I am even making some jewelry for the daughters this year and sewing ties for the adult sons and the hubby!! Hope they like them!

  12. For the Rub recipes that call for garlic cloves- I assume you can substitute with garlic powder- but how much powder?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi. They are readily available online but I’ve not researched where to find the best price. Lisa bought hers at a local craft store. There are all shapes and sizes, too. It just depends on how much you wish to make and separate into smaller bottles. Having a bean in each bottle also adds to the look and keeps the flavor developing. ~Amy

  13. These are brilliant! I was having anxiety over what to do this year for my grandmother when my dad mentioned how much she loved my homemade marinara I canned and sent to her. Then you posted this on FB. Perfect!

  14. I love all these ideas but I especially love the giving house idea and will be doing that this year. Where did you get your house from?!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Amanda. Not sure where this one came from but you can find various versions of advent houses and advent calendars throughout stores during the holiday season. Target, Walmart, department stores, and places like Pottery Barn Kids have them every year. You can usually find little pocket versions of them at the Target dollar spot in mid-November. :) ~Amy

  15. regarding the vanilla, you need 375 ml of vodka for only two pods? do you do it all together at first and then dish it out among your containters or do you do it in each container?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Cidney. Yes, two pods split in half so you have four halves in 375ml of vodka. After it has developed, you can distribute it among your containers. You can put a pod in each container so it continues to develop and adds to its homemade look. :) ~Amy

  16. We make vanilla extract by the quart. When we gift it or sell it we pour it into the small jar with a vanilla bean. is a good place to purchase bottles of various sizes at a good price. We make bourbon and rum vanilla which are for more specialized baking.

    @Stevie: Vanilla extracts (even from the store) and most extracts are alcohol based as that is the best way to extract the vanilla from bean to liquid. Imitation extracts typically do not have alcohol because they are flavorings.

  17. I just made my vanilla last week to be ready for Christmas. I need to find some cute jars, but do use pretty jelly jars for mine. I also make my vanilla with rum and it is amazing that way as well!

  18. My grandkids are already asking if I am making peanut brittle this Christmas. It’s great to make and give in tins because it makes a lot and once you get the hang of it, it is pretty easy to make. Homemade is so much better than that stale stuff on the box.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Stevie. I know you can steep vanilla in liquids that you will be using in recipes in order to infuse vanilla flavor but I do not know much about the process. ~Amy

  19. I will be gifting some homemade seasoning mixes this year. I’ve started combining my own seasoning mixes (taco seasoning, seasoning salt, greek seasoning, etc) using recipes off the internet instead of buying the prepared mixes that are so expensive in the store.

  20. Hi, can you give any more details about making the vanilla? It’s all a bit foreign to me. Like, in what to do keep the two split breaks and vodka in while they are sitting? The jar right away, with cork? Then do you take the beans out? It looks like you have the whole stick in your jars, not just two beans? Thx!,

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Brenda. You can steep the two (or more) split beans right in the vodka bottle and then distribute to smaller bottles in a few weeks time. If you wish to place beans in each smaller bottle and steep each separately, that is fine, too. Lisa does not remove the beans. The flavor will continue to develop and it looks pretty. :) ~Amy

    1. A friend of mine used spiced rum and really enjoyed the depth of flavor that came along with it. Im not sure of any alcohol free options if thats what you were thinking.

  21. Good day. I want to make the vanilla extract for Christmas gifts. The jars in your pic look like the size I would like to use. May I ask where you purchased yours, please? Thanks!

  22. Many of the things listed we already do for our friends… we make Christmas baskets with a variety of homemade goodies each year. We also include homemade Creamy Hot Chocolate & a new small homemade ornament and/or homemade holiday decoration. I also include the recipes for them. :) Plus each year we try to add something different, but at the request of our friends some of the things made have become a standard thing to include in the baskets.. the main request is the homemade Creamy Hot Chocolate. We have been told that they look forward to it every year. <3
    ~ Ruth

  23. Can make flavored salts using dried herbs, 1 cup salt to 2tsp(?) dried herbs. Let sit for two Weeks shaking every day. Can place stem of herb on side of jar to indicate flavour. Can also do this with sugar and vanilla bean, citrus zest, and lavender. Happy creating!

  24. Hi! I started the vanilla and it seems there is a film building up on the beans….is this normal? I followed your instructions with the vodka and beans in the bottles. I don’t want to give my friends and family bad vanilla. Help!

  25. In the spice mixes, the ranch one is pretty straightforward, but for the pork rub, do you just add the Oregano, Salt, Pepper,and Cumin? And for the chicken, just use the dry spices from the recipe link of the Crock Pot Chicken?

  26. The link to vanilla shows prices that seem extremely high . . . they show 1/4 lb for $50. I found an organic vanilla (including shipping) for $20 . . .

  27. Hi, silly question but how many liters is375 ml? I wanted to make one big batch them separate. I have a 1.75 liter of vodka.

  28. We have a tradition similar to the one you posted about the giving tree. Sometime before December, we sit down with the calendar and put all ‘must-do’ activities on it. Example – school programs, town tree-lighting, and then begin to fill it in with must-do’s. My husband and I figure out the best day for getting the tree, decorating outside, visit out-of-townn folks or invite folks in. Then we fill in with good-will acts – visit SPCA and take treats, letter to soldier, donation to food bank, etc. Lastly we fill in fun things – cookies, crafts, letters to Santa, hot cocoa and Christmas movie. Then I put up a chain with an activity on each that coordiates with the December calendar. Also, I keep track so if I need to make a switch-a-roo (ex – bad weather on outside decorating day) I can easily. Hope this helps and will be anxious to read other ideas.

  29. For the Advent Calendar, no need to fill the kids with trinkets – rather create an Advent of Activities – one different per day, some fun (baking real food treats), some silly (camp out under the tree), some serious (reading t’was the night before…) I have a list! :)

  30. I already have vanilla going for friends as well, been aging now for 2 months and looking dark and lovely, and was thinking what to put with it, the granola sounds like a terrific addition!

  31. Homemade Christmas gifts are my favorite things to do!Thanks for some new ideas. Last year and this year I dried my herbs from my garden mixed them all together and made “Summer Harvest Herbs” packets in clear cellophane bags with a cute label and ribbon. Family,Teachers and friends loved them and I heard through out the year when they used them and on what! A gift that keeps giving! (Thank you Mother Nature!!)

  32. I have a question about the little tins that you put your spices in…what size are they? I don’t have either of those stores around here, so I am trying to find some online. However, when I look at the dimensions they seem incredibly small. I was looking at the ounces of the containers. I am wondering if a 4 oz container is going to be too small.

    1. Stephanie – I am so sorry to be getting back to you after the holidays (too late) with an answer! I hope it worked out for you regardless.

  33. LOL, I had already thought about sending the vanilla as gifts. The advent GIVING calendar is an amazing idea. We have one that hangs on the wall with little pockets that I can slip little cards into. Thanks for all the GREAT ideas. I am all for sending gifts that people can really use and giving healthy gifts is even more of a bonus!!

  34. Hi There! Regarding the vanilla….how many beans go in each bottle? I wasn’t sure if it was 2 beans per bottle (so 4 pieces), or it was 1/2 a bean (1 piece) per bottle? Thanks!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Nikki. Yes, it’s the 2 beans split in a 375ml bottle, but, if you have a smaller bottle, then you can split them. Jill

  35. How about home made BBQ sauces. Especially for the men in your life. And of course salsa. Because the ones in the stores have chemicals and preservatives.
    I make a smoky tomato soup base. That is canned. Then who ever I give it to. Just has to add milk or cream. Yumm. Smoke some tomatoes. And make a soup.
    And I like condiments for cheeses. Like chutneys and pesto. Or dips for bread. With tapenade or basil and sun dried tomatoes.
    I love your blog by the way. I eat clean. With the odd slip up. But I am a chef and I use no pre made sauces etc. just home made goodness. And I know what’s in my food. Good for all of us to try

  36. Just a thought – homemade stock. I started making my own stock years ago and was amazed at how easy, tasty and let’s face it – hugely superior it was to the store bought kind. A pretty jar with a ribbon and a festive handmade label could make for lovely presentation of a quart of homemade stock. (And who wouldn’t love to receive something that will make their next few soups or stews extra delicious!?)

  37. I have a quick and maybe dumb question. How do you thaw frozen muffins and bread? I froze the whole wheat zucchini muffins and put them in the oven but the middle was still cold. I’m asking because I want to make them for gifts ahead of time and freeze them and mail them to family. Thanks!

  38. Thank you for the vanilla extract recipe, I made for a cookie exchange gift, and I found the bottle at Michaels.

  39. Homemade infused olive oil – you can make with chilis, herbs,etc and put in small bottles with a cute sticker on it with the oil flavor

  40. Love this post….wondered where you got your adorable advent house…also, the glass jars for the vanilla beans! (I’m already gearing up for Christmas! ;) ) thanks!

    1. Thank you! I got the advent house at Target (a few years ago) and the bottles can be found at A.C. Moore and World Market.

  41. Ive made homemade Kahlua before, easy and oh so tasty! The friends and I always do a baking gift exchange which is super nice and easy

  42. Thanks for the great holiday gift ideas. Just curious if you could share how’s money you save by making these wonderful gifts. I love making homemade holiday gifts, but often find myself spending more money that way.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Lillian. I’m not sure that it’s necessarily a money saver as much as it is just a change from the usual cookies and items of that sort. I find myself probably spending about the same. Hope you can get some great ideas for this holiday season. Jill

  43. Last year I gave out applesauce. 4 ingredients-apples, frozen blueberries, frozen apple juice concentrate (1/3 of a container per 5 lb of apples) and cinnamon. The blueberries and apple juice add so much natural sweetness that no cane sugar is needed.

  44. Hi! I’m making the vanilla extract for gifts this year. Do you leave the beans in the bottles even after 6 weeks? Do you leave the beans in the gift bottles & leave them in until the vanilla is gone? I’m making it today so just not sure if I need to leave the beans in the bottles I’m giving people for Christmas or strain them out?

  45. I came across this on pinterest. This year, I am doing flavored salts for all my friends. I took the crazy amounts of basil I had at the end of the summer, and instead of making pesto, I threw it in the food processor with kosher salt and then in the oven. I ‘ve also done it with rosemary as well as thyme and oregano.

  46. Thank you so much for this. I had no ideas for end-of-year teacher gifts, and have been improving my granola recipe lately. I’ll give granola! Yay!

  47. I have to tell you again that you are fabulous. I have been “wanting to” get healthy for years and your blog has just made everything click. I started the 10 day challenge just to “See” and here we are 2 months later completely changed 100%. The benefits are overwhelming!

    I was stressing the other day on how I was going to handle Christmas! Usually I do big huge cookie platters all around. Its homemade vanilla this year!

    I am working hard through this year changing all things for birthdays etc. So many opportunities to bump up our good health!

    Thank you SO Much!

  48. Hi Lisa! For your Advent House you could put little decorations in each door and have a small tree nearby to decorate! These could be in addition to your giving ideas. I did this for my daughter at Christmas and each month of the year, I had ornaments for every Holiday, we both loved it!
    Take care!

  49. I am in no way affiliated with this company – just wanted to say the best place I’ve found for vanilla beans is vanilla products USA. They even give away free beans depending on how much you order. I went in with some friends…I advise starting with a pound, split it three ways in quart jars, and cut them into 1/2″ pieces, topping with the vodka. It will work a lot faster and you’ll have rich dark vanilla in no time. Also, start brewing now for next year! The longer it sits, the more amazing it gets. I’ve been using the same beans for several refills already, and it’s still doing well after about 2 years?! Those I gifted to last year raved and wanted more this year! You can’t go wrong having a lot sitting in the pantry and working away. Yum. Thanks for spreading the word! These are some great ideas.

  50. This year my girls are making homemade bath salts, lip balm, bubble bath and body scrub.Each item only takes a few ingredients and are simple enough to make that my first grader has no problem doing it. A bit of googling will bring up numerous ‘recipes’ and directions. The only thing that makes the gifts a bit ‘pricey’ is that we use essential oils from the natural foods store for our scents instead of the scents from a craft store. We collect pretty glass bottles and jars through out the year so that by the time the holidays roll around we have what we need without needing to buy extra. The tiny little glass jars that have pimientos in them are perfect for the lip balms.

  51. Two years ago, I did the homemade vanilla extract. Last year, I gave sea salt that I harvested during our annual summer beach trip. This year, I’m doing Soulemama’s lip gloss and granola. I love giving handmade gifts almost as much as receiving them. This was a fun list!

  52. Can’t wait to try the vanilla extract! I was thinking about giving homemade coffee creamer, but my husband said I was crazy. I might do it anyway. It’s just so yummy :)

  53. I love the vanilla extract idea! When you say “Simply slit two vanilla beans down the middle, drop them into 375ml of vodka” do you mean to put both beans into one jar? I ask because it looks like there is only one bean in each of your jars and I don’t want to mess it up! I am a visual learner, ha!

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      Yes, put both beans in one bottle of vodka…the pictured jars (from Michael’s) are smaller than a 375 ml bottle of vodka so I split it up into a couple glass jars. I have to give you props for paying attention to detail!

      1. So, using the jars from Michael’s did you just fill jar with vodka and then put 1 split bean in it?

      2. 100 Days of Real Food

        I actually made the vanilla extract in a large vodka bottle with several beans then split it up amongst the glass “gift” bottles.

  54. Last year I mixed up a Hot Cocoa dry mix with powdered milk and made homemade marshmallows. I gave them to people in mugs.

  55. Rebecca ~ Sweet Baby Yams

    I am really loving these ideas. I normally give away cookies, but this year I am going to change it up.

    1. SHi! I love this post. I would love to do the Vanilla Extract, but as usual, I didn’t think ahead about Christmas gifts :) I was wondering, if I get started this week, would Vanilla Extract be ready for Christmas eve? Also, I read online some recipes for extract and most say that for good infusion, it takes 6 weeks! Then you can strain and pour into smaller containers. What do you recommend? And where did you get those cute little bottles?

      1. 100 Days of Real Food

        Yes, the vanilla would definitely be ready in time for Christmas and even if the recipient uses a couple teaspoons the first week what is left in the bottle would still continue to get even better/darker. There is still plenty of time for this gift! Also, I got the bottles at Michael’s Craft Store.

  56. These are great ideas.
    I’m planning on trying making my own vanilla extract for myself, so that I can test it out before next year.
    I’ve also done cookie mix in a jar… it looks fabulous and is so easy to make.

  57. Amazing ideas! Thank you for sharing! I’ve been pondering the problem of wanting to give cute, inexpensive Christmas gifts to a few friends, but NOT wanting to add to the plethora of sugary baked goods going around this time of year! I’ll definitely have to try the vanilla extract and seasonings :) Another gift idea to spruce up a loaf of bread is to do a braided yeast loaf. I make my sister’s recipe for squash braid bread, which has a lovely yellow color and a DELICIOUS flavor, and is just about the prettiest bread I’ve ever seen!

  58. Lisa- I started canning beans and chicken, and jams (low sugar variety- I use sucanat) and applesauce this past year. I don’t know why it took me so long- it’s so easy! (Takes time- yes. But also easy- and a lot of “hands off” time.) You will love it!

  59. I am doing something very similar! Although I’m focusing on these gifts for the great grandparents of the family – so I have to tweak my ideas a bit. I’m trying not to give anything cold- but I have to keep in mind they don’t want all these great ideas!
    I thought about vanilla- but most of them don’t cook more than a freezer meal. And at Thanksgiving grandma was giving away some cute jars of jelly – because she had too much. sigh… So what I’ve decided to do is canned jars of applesauce(grandma’s recipe!), dried soup mixes, granola bars, and some local chocolate. Maybe a small loaf of homemade bread.

    I think a homemade gift is perfect for the elderly in your family who you want to bless with a gift, but they don’t need or really want anything.

  60. There is a vanilla bean farm in Hawaii the only one in the US. I think it’s important to support our own goods!!

  61. I LOVE the idea for the Giving House – What a neat idea! I hope I remember that when my child(ren) is/are old enough!

  62. These are all such great ideas! Thank you!! I am very happy to know now how to make vanilla extract. I just discovered that the more affordable store brand at my local grocery has corn syrup in it. I guess that’s how they “water” it down and make it cheaper than the brand name. Boo!

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      Hmmm…I’d have to see the ingredients, but probably not. Those much more salt/sodium than necessary as well. The rest of their idea is good though!

  63. You have some wonderful ideas here. I’m new to your blog but I’ll be back. I really like the food and recipes you share with your readers and I enjoyed the time I spent browsing through your posts. I hope you have a great day. Blessings…Mary

  64. These are great! I love to give granola and bread. It’s not food (well, maybe to my kids it is) but I can’t wait to try a cheap and easy homemade lip balm from a blog I just discovered, The Elliot Homestead.

  65. I am going to make homemade bath salts/srubs this year. I have never done it before, but I just googled (not sure if that is a real word or not :) recipes for the salts/scrubs and was overwhelmed by the amount of options out there. I am going to make 2-3 different “flavors”, put them in little glass jars that I saw at Michaels and give them out with a cute little scoop. The “flavors” I am going to make are Lemon, Pumpkin Spice and Maple Brown Sugar.

  66. I love the vanilla idea as a gift. I have been making my own vanilla for almost a year, due my son’s dietary issues with grains. I use Rum for my base. It makes such a wonderful vanilla, that my family does not want me to ever go back to store bought!

  67. Thank you for these great ideas! Where did you find your Giving House? I have been looking for something like this for a while.

  68. My BBGF and her husband also neighbors share your last name. We have a saying around here. Leake Likin’ Lovin it! Gonna make the vanilla extract as gifts this year. Any suggestions for type of vanilla bean.

  69. Where did you get the labels for the frozen soup?? I have been looking all over and can’t find any that I like and yours are cute!

  70. One year I made my mom frozen dinners. I wrapped the instructions to put under the tree and gave her the frozen, labeled foods in a box to take home to her freezer.

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