Life Simplified: Affordable Gifts From the Heart

Photo: Monika Grabkowska on Unsplash

Shopping for something special for your loved ones can be fun and rewarding. Or not.

If your heart-felt attempts at gift-giving tend to turn into frantic, costly shopping marathons that miss the mark then maybe it’s time to pause and reflect.

“For most people the challenge is definitely time,” says Sebastien Centner, president and director of Toronto-based Eatertainment, a catering and event planning company recognized as ‘Best Caterer in Canada’ by the Canadian Event Industry Association.

“People tend to shop late, shop rushed and they don’t think about things ahead of time. But with a little pre-planning there are some great options.”

Here are some of Sebastien’s ideas for affordable gifts from the heart:

1) Preserves:

“We’re really big fans of gifts you make yourself,” says Sebastien, recommending things like a home-made jam or jelly in a little mason jar along with a recipe for how to use it. Or your own marinated olives, peppers or pickles. “It’s a nice little touch and very personalized. A favourite gift of ours is this pepper sauce we always receive from a friend and we look forward to that every year.”

2) Baked goods from your own kitchen:

Fill a beautiful little vase with your home-made cookies, crackers or something else you like to bake. Friends or family will enjoy an edible gift and think of you whenever they use the vase.

3) Picture this:

“What do you get the father or brother who has everything?” asks Sebastien. Sound familiar? Well, since most people appreciate a gift with sentiment Sebastien also recommends preserving memories. Take photos from the past year and put them into a book. There are lots of online options for self-publishing at affordable prices. As Sebastien points out, you only do the work once but you can get a gift for everyone in the family by simply ordering multiple copies. “Then you can all look back at the great moments you’ve shared and enjoy them for years to come.” A calendar that features a different picture for every month is another personal, affordable option and something many business centres offer.

4) Personalized serving pieces:

“It seems everybody’s always scrambling to find the right serving board or plate,” says Sebastien. “So if somebody’s over at our house and says, ‘oh, I really love that aged wooden planter’ or whatever it happens to be, we always keep that in mind and try to find something similar to give them as a gift.”

5) Parting party gifts:

If you have a big family get-together over the holidays and want everybody to leave with a little something, Sebastien recommends his “hot chocolate lolly pops”. You simply fill ice-cube trays with melted chocolate, adding in tiny bits of candy cane or mint if you like. Mix them up and put the tray in the freezer. Once the chocolate cubes are almost solid, insert lolly pop sticks and return to the freezer until fully frozen. When they’re done, wrap individually in a little acrylic bag tied with ribbon and a note that says, ‘thanks so much for joining our holiday celebration.’ Include instructions, which are to heat a big mug of milk, insert the chocolate lolly pop for a few minutes, then voila, a rich, yummy hot chocolate.

A lot of Eatertainment’s recipes and entertaining ideas are posted on their website. “We absolutely love this business and we love sharing our ideas,” says Sebastien. “If people can take one of our ideas and make it their own to enhance their own entertaining or gift-giving, then we’ve done something right.”